Arts In LA

by Julio Martinez, November 21, 2014

The cast of Santasia—A Holiday Comedy


Legendary TV host Dick Cavett (pictured, photo by Barbara Friedman) stars as himself in the West Coast premiere of Hellman v. McCarthy—a fictional The Dick Cavett Show confrontation between literary giants Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman—scripted by Brian Richard Mori, helmed by Howard Storm, opening Feb. 6, 2015, at Theatre 40’s 99-seat Rueben Cordova Theatre in Beverly Hills High School. Longtime Theatre 40 member Flora Plumb portrays Hellman. The role of McCarthy is TBA. Following a four-week run, the production moves to 1,900-seat Saban Theatre, also in Beverly Hills, for a single performance on March 1.

   Theatre 40 has adjusted its previously announced 2014–15 season to accommodate Cavett and company, moving up the US premiere of Blonde Poison, by Gail Louw.

   The play chronicles the life of WWII Jewish prisoner–turned–ruthless Gestapo informant Stella Goldschlog—portrayed by Salome Jens (pictured), helmed by Jules Aaron, now opening Jan. 8, 2015.


Those merry Latino lads of mirth—Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas, and Herbert Siguenza (pictured)—known as Culture Clash, return to CTG’s Mark Taper Forum where they are reviving, revisiting, and reimagining their 2003 staging of Chavez Ravine, once again helmed by Lisa Peterson, underscored by the music of East LA–based Scott and Randy Rodarte, opening Feb. 4, 2015.


The Broad Stage in Santa Monica hosts the US premiere of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey—the romantic adventures and misadventures of naïve young protagonist Catherine Morland—created and performed by UK’s Box Tale Soup (AKA actors-puppeteers Antonia Christophers and Noel Byrne, pictured), performing Dec. 5–14.

   Phillip Russell Newman scripts and stars in the premiere of Our So-Called Loved Ones—“a new dark, twisted, comedic play about murder, sibling rivalry, torture, and musical theater”—helmed by fellow hyphenate Matt Aaron Krinsky, opening Dec. 5 at Dorie Theatre at The Complex in Hollywood.


Elephant Theatre Company in Hollywood revives Hellcab, Will Kern’s collection of scenes from a day in the life of a Chicago cabbie at Christmastime, featuring a 29-member cast, helmed by artistic director David Fofi (pictured), opening Dec. 4.

   Also in Hollywood, Combined Artform’s Matthew Quinn produces a series of four holiday-themed stage offerings at Theatre Asylum in conjunction with an inaugural Holiday Theatre Festival in Theatre Row venues, Dec. 5–24. The bill o’ fare includes The Latina Christmas Special (Dec. 5–21); The Santa Closet (Dec. 18–21); Telenovela Wives of Pancho Villa (Dec. 5–20); and Wonderful Life (Dec. 6–24).

   Whitefire Theatre in Sherman Oaks hosts Santasia—A Holiday Comedy (photo at top), a multimedia holiday special, written and performed by alumni of IO Chicago, Second City, and Comedy Sportz, helmed by Shaun Loeser, running Dec. 5–25.

   Over in NoHo, Whitmore-Lindley Theatre presents The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever! by Joe Marshall, co-helmed by Paul Storiale and Bree Pavey, featuring a cast of 20, chronicling a small gay community’s struggle to pull off its annual holiday festivities, Dec. 5–27.

   For the 10th year, Theatre Banshee in Burbank offers Holiday Fever—inspired by retro TV holiday variety specials—choreographed and helmed by Dabney Kerr, Nov. 28–Dec. 20.

   Pico Playhouse in West LA hosts holiday perennial Bob’s Holiday Office Party!, scripted by Joe Keyes and Rob Elk, staged by Craig Anton, Dec. 6–21.


Gary Grossman of Skylight Theatre, playwright Meryl Cohn, Martha Demson of Open Fist Theatre, and director Susan Morgenstern
Photo by Ed Krieger

“This was actually brought to me by Gary Grossman of Skylight Theatre. He had seen some of my other directorial work around town. I think he thought of me for this because there are a lot of obvious reasons I would be suited for it. The play is about a secular Jewish family from the East Coast, which is also my background. It is also comedic, which is probably my directorial forte. And this work features six women characters and one man, written by a woman. I can certainly identify with this family, especially that fast-talking East Coast thing of overlapping dialogue—being very loving, funny, emotional, and dramatic all at once. This is all very familiar to me in my life. In fact, in the middle of this comedy, there is this really tragic underpinning that is so true to life and I understood it completely. It also occurred in my family. This whole project really appealed to me, right from the beginning. As far as working with the cast to come together to be this family, I kind of like to have the actors discover things inherent in the relationships while working on the play. I believe a lot of what’s there is found in the living of it. I don’t believe in a whole lot of discussions outside of that; although I did walk into rehearsal one day to find the cast in a very interesting discussion they were having about why they felt the family was slightly addicted to therapy.”
Susan Morgenstern, who directs the West Coast premiere of Reasons To Live, by Meryl Cohn, extending through Dec. 14 at Skylight Theatre in Hollywood.


Aquarius Theatre

Anti-establishment, anti–Vietnam War rock tuner Hair—wrought by James Rado and Gerome Ragni (book and lyrics) and Galt MacDermot (music)—opens on Broadway in April 1968. It is a hit. Within six months, Hair productions are running simultaneously in nine cities across the US. Producer Michael Butler declares the musical to be “the strongest antiwar statement ever written” and feels the multiple stagings will influence public opinion against the Vietnam War to end it as soon as possible. For the West Coast, the producers select a facility that has a storied past, beginning as Earl Carroll Theatre in 1938. Located at 6230 Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood, the space segues into Moulin Rouge supper club in December 1953, operated by entrepreneur Frank Sennes.

   Sennes moves his operations to Las Vegas in 1960, closing down Moulin Rouge. In 1964, it becomes a pop rock showcase called Hullabaloo, modeled after the hit TV variety show of the same name. When the Hair production team—which now includes TV star Tommy Smothers—takes over the space in June 1968, it does a complete makeover, redecorating with a psychedelic motif and renaming the space Aquarius Theatre.

   Hair runs for two years, featuring such talent as Rado, Ragni, Robert Rothman, Ben Vereen, Red Shepard, Ted Neeley, Meat Loaf, Gloria Jones, Táta Vega, Jobriath, Jennifer Warnes, and Dobie Gray. On Monday nights during the run of Hair, the facility is utilized for a wide range of musical concerts. Aquarius becomes famous as the place where The Doors perform on July 21, 1969, making live recordings that are later issued commercially. Hair closes at Aquarius in August 1970. Following its conversion into a television theater in 1983, the former Aquarius space is acquired in the late ’90s to be the West Coast headquarters for cable television channel Nickelodeon.

   In 2009, Hair returns to Broadway, garnering a Tony Award for Best Revival. On Aug. 1, 2014, a critically acclaimed concert staging of Hair by Adam Shankman is performed at Hollywood Bowl, starring Kristen Bell, Hunter Parrish, Amber Riley, Jenna Ushkowitz, and Beverly D’Angelo.

Julio Martinez hosts Arts in Review—celebrating the best in live theater and cabaret in Greater Los Angeles—on Fridays, 2–2:30pm, on KPFK (90.7FM).



The following have generously supported
Fitzmaurice Voicework
with Lisa Pelikan
Fountain Theatre
Oct. 4–Nov. 30


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   * Theater reviews of Into the Woods (Wallis), Blithe Spirit, What the Butler Saw, Possum Carcass, Bob's Holiday Office Party, Love Noel, and more

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