A Little House Christmas opens at Sierra Madre Playhouse 11/18

A Little House Christmas, click to embiggen
A Little House Christmas, click to embiggen

Opening  on Friday November 18 and running until December 23rd is Sierra Madre Playhouses production of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “A Little House Christmas”.  I saw the production of A Little House Christmas two years ago and was captivated by the quality of the acting and the sets. Under the direction of Alison Eliel Kalmus this time around I expect the play will be every bit as fun and enchanting as it was two years ago.  This is a play is really beautifully done and suitable for families with elementary age students, especially during weekend matinees.

For those of you who haven’t ventured out to see a production at the Sierra Madre Playhouse this is a must do on your bucket list.  Its a beautiful old theater that has 99 seats and every one is a great seat in the house.  They are a 99 Seat Theater  non-profit organization that produces quality plays based on the American Story and Experience.  I’m always amazed by what they do.

For more information and to buy tickets visit Sierra Madre Playhouse web site.

Deets: November 18-December 22, weekends, time vary so consult the calender.  Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre 91024, 626-355-4318

Sierra Madre Playhouse opens new musical July 8th

flyer for "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" click to embiggen
flyer for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” click to embiggen

25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is hysterically funny with poignant back stories of the contestants woven into a solid musical production.  On the heals of last years rousing success of “Always…Patsy Cline” the Sierra Madre Playhouse isn’t resting on its laurels and promises to be a fun filled interactive evening with the cast as the group take a bunch of spelling champs through their paces spelling in a contest.

Added bonus most nights, but especially opening night you get to meet the cast and crew of the production after the play.  Its scheduled to run July 8 through August 21.  Order tickets HERE.

Sierra Madre Playhouse is a really lovely 99 Seat Theatre located just a west of Baldwin on Sierra Madre Avenue.  Its a short walk to several find eateries and a wonderful dive bar “The Buccaneer”.

Deets: Sierra Madre Playhouse 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre 91024 626-355-4318

 

Glass Menagerie opens at Sierra Madre Playhouse

Glass Menagerie poster, click to embiggen
Glass Menagerie poster, click to embiggen

This  Tennessee Williams play is one of my favorites and I remember it well from my days in school.  Its the tale of a young man torn between duties to family and a sickly sister and yearning to be free and make his own mark in the world.  There’s tension, drama and heartfelt humor.  The production by Sierra Madre Playhouse, directed by Christian Lebano promises to be one of the best seen in the area in ages as the Playhouse has a reputation of bringing magic and plays to life.

If you haven’t been to Sierra Madre Playhouse yet this could well be the play to see and visit this wonderfull 99 seat theatre.  Located in downtown Sierra Madre there are a few dining options and bars to hit before or after and make it a night out on the town.

Tickets start at $17 for students and $30 for adults.  You can order your tickets HERE.

Deets: May 6-June 12, Sierra Madre Playhouse 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre,  MAP HERE

 

Sneak peak blogathon at “A Christmas Memory”

Buddy (Jeff Scott Carey) and Anna Stabler (Theresa Ford) reunite at play opening. click to embiggen
Buddy (Jeff Scott Carey) and Anna Stabler (Theresa Ford) reunite at play opening. click to embiggen

Last night was the sneak preview blogathon at the Sierra Madre Playhouse for “A Christmas Memory” based on a short story by Truman Capote.  This is a musical with live musicians, not canned sound tracks.

I was captured from the get go with this play.  The performances by the cast were engaging and brought the story to life.  To avoid spoilers I’ll not give away too much of the plot or story line. The setting is a man’s boyhood home and sequences between the now and his boyhood spent in rural Alabama raised by cousins in the depression.  The story is about a man returning “home” after being gone a long time for the funeral of a cousin who raised him.  Its an interesting story of familial love and bonding, with adventures and making fruitcake.

The latter is central to the story and the song “Fruitcake Weather” is lively and just adds to the story line. Young Buddy (Ian Branch) and Sook (Diane Kelber) have a bond that is magical and plays out well on stage.

The music gets a big round of applause, but one of the best sequences in the production is when the cast breaks out the ukelele’s and busts out into song.  Fun, well done and did I mention fun?

To read more about the cast and production team visit their website HERE. The Sierra Madre Playhouse has another hit on its hands here.  The play has already sold out for Friday and Saturday night its opening weekend.  You can still get tickets for Sunday and the remaining dates (the play closes December 27) via the Playhouse HERE.

Deets Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre CA

More pics from the blogathon in the a flickr album

Fruitcake tasting at Vroman’s Hastings Ranch 11/20

acm posterFruitcake that ubiquitous bundle of fruit and nuts, sometimes soaked in booze that you either abhor or adore.  I fall into the latter and think this Friday’s Fruitcake tasting party at the  Vroman’s book store in the Hastings Ranch shopping center looks to be a ton of fun.  The tasting is a joint venture with the Sierra Madre Playhouse who is opening its holiday play “A Christmas Memory” based on a short story but Truman Capote next week.  ‘

There are planned to be over a dozen fruit cakes at this event.  They are sourced from bakers all over the country as well as the Los Angeles Area.  A sampling…

  • Sumi Chang and Europane Bakery, Pasadena
  • Karen Hansen and Copenhagen Pastry, Pasadena
  • Mike McLellan and Patticakes Desserts, Altadena,

Deets:  Friday 11/20 6PM Vroman’s  3729 E Foothill Blvd, Pasadena, CA 91107

If you’re interested in seeing A Christmas Memory you can order tickets HERE.  The Sierra Madre Playhouse is located at 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre.

Always…Patsy Cline comes to a close at Sierra Madre Playhouse

Sometimes magic happens on stage.  This time around it hit home at Sierra Madre Playhouse with the production of “Always…Patsy Cline”.   The cast was magical and I was tickeled beyond belief to been on the sidelines watching the cast grow into their characters and bring this production to life.  Some 4000 people from all over the L.A Metro and OC saw the play.  You can scroll through for my review from the soft opening.

Actors Cori Cable Kidder (Patsy Cline) and Nikki D’Amico (Louise Seger) gave heartfelt thanks at the end of the show.  Artistic Director Christian Lebano and Managing Director, Estelle Campbell also chimed in with their thoughts on the play.  Enjoy their closing comments and consider visiting the Sierra Madre Playhouse for their next production opening later this month, A Christmas Memory.

A Christmas Memory, aka Truman Capote Christmas to open 11/27 at Sierra Madre Playhouse

Alison Kalmus...director of A Christmas Memory
Alison Kalmus…director of A Christmas Memory

What…Truman Capote at the center of a story for Christmas?  Yes, in short this is a loosely based story of his childhood in the foster system and the family that contemplated saving him by sending him to a military school for more structure and balance.  There’s your synopsis, the real story lies in the casting and direction of turning this short story in to a musical complete with ukelele.  Starring a former “harlette” from Better Midler’s cast of  talented crazies this play will be directed by Alison Kalmus, a real treasure and supporter of the Sierra Madre Playhouse.

This isn’t her directing debut with the Playhouse, that was 2004 with A Christmas Carol Story, no this will be her 5th play directed for the Playhouse.  She brings a creative vision that ties music and the story line together in what is hoped to be a magical evening.  Alison is a huge supporter of the Sierra Madre Playhouse and helps to bring their mission of American Plays by American authors in historical context.  I can’t wait to see this play.

And I don’t have to wait for the grand opening as I’ll be hosting another soft opening blogathon at the Playhouse for this play the evening of November 25, 2015,  Care to be one of the first to get a sneak peak, a little look see and tweet and instagram it for posterity?  Message me at frazgo@mail.com with your twitter handle and instagram and I’ll get back to you with details. I can promise you a most outstanding theatre experience, booze and of course my famous Browned Butter Brownies to keep you satiated during the intermission and before hand.

Full press release after the jump: Continue reading “A Christmas Memory, aka Truman Capote Christmas to open 11/27 at Sierra Madre Playhouse”

Always…Patsy Cline a run away hit at Sierra Madre Playhouse

It seems like only yesterday I wrote about this amazing play and shared the back story of a blogathon soft opening that opened at Sierra Madre Playhouse.  This play has exceeded everyones wildest expectations.  Between Nikki D’Amico and Cori Cable Kidder, backed up by a live band you get the story of Patsy Cline and her biggest fan in a lively if not outright energetic play.  Always…Patsy Cline has received numerous nominations from the local theatre community.  Cori herself has received phenomenal reviews and nominations for an Ovation Award from the L.A. Stage Alliance.

Always…Patsy Cline has been extended twice due to demand…selling out every weekend since it opened in July.  There are only 10 performances left before the curtains close the final time on October 30, 2015.

Make a night of it.  Dinner out at one of the few restaurants in Sierra Madre or kick back a beer at Lucky Baldwin’s in honor of Louise’s Schlitz she pounds down during the play.  Order your tickets here.  Order fast as they sell out quickly.

Deets: Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre MAP HERE 626-355-4318

Always-Patsy Cline and the blogathon soft open

Cori Cable Kidder as Patsy and Nikki D'Amico as Louise.  click to embiggen
Cora Kidder Cable as Patsy and Nikki D’Amico as Louise. click to embiggen

Always-Patsy Cline the production kicking off the 2015-2016 season at the Sierra Madre Playhouse officially opens this weekend to a sold out crowd.  SOLD OUT.

As a board member I’m involved in a lot of aspects behind the scene’s.  JozJozJoz,  metblogs/blogging.la CEO is an official tweeter for the L.A. Opera and that was the germ of the idea for the blogathon for the soft opening, last rehearsal of Always-Patsy Cline. But more on that a bit later.

This is a wonderful story of an overly zealous fan and the star she adored becoming accidental friends and pen pals. The play itself is about  how Louise Seger, a Houston housewife played by Nikki D’Amico who is best characterized as a spitfire hellcat fun loving divorcee, reminiscing over the night she first heard Pasty Cline on the radio and how she followed her career until they met a club outside Houston.  They became best of friends, Louise and Pasty became penpals and wrote each other until Patsy’s untimely death at the age of 30.  Those letters to Louise ended with the salutation “Always-Patsy Cline”.  That story, and the story of Patsy’s life are intertwined and told through 27 songs by Patsy Cline beautifully recreated by Cori Cable Kidder and backed up by a live band. Continue reading “Always-Patsy Cline and the blogathon soft open”

Thoroughly Modern Milly opens tonight in Monrovia

TMM PosterCommunity theatre is derided but not always deservedly so.   The theatre group associated with Monrovia High School tackles big plays and does them quite nicely.  Most importantly its a community effort supported by MUSD and gives kids and young adults in the area a chance to spread their wings, experiment and grow.

The play plot is well known.   Young girl goes to New York looking for a rich husband instead of love.  The part of Milly is played by Marjory Zuk who not only sings well, but dances well to bring the character to life.  Theres a large pool of local talent to round out the cast and make for a lively evening.

Full Press release after the jump: Continue reading “Thoroughly Modern Milly opens tonight in Monrovia”

The Odd Couple is a rip roaring good time at Sierra Madre Playhouse

The cast...cick to embiggen
The cast…cick to embiggen

Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” opened at the Sierra Madre Playhouse and it was a riotous good time.  The play we know, but Alan Brooks and Artistic Director Christian Lebano twisted it up a notch and made this so much more than the bare words on the script.  I can’t find a fault in the production, and neither could the audience that laughed pretty much non-stop during this examination of interpersonal relationships among friends and differing personalities.

Where to start, by now we all know the story.  Oscar Madison’s wife and kids leave him and move away leaving him to grunge up an 8 room apartment.  Shortly thereafter Felix Unger’s wife boots him and he shows up on Oscar’s doorstep with no place to live.  Jack Sundmacher as Oscar and Brad David Reed as Felix have terrific chemistry and brought their characters to life.  Even in Oscar’s most curmudgeonly moments you felt connected to him and understood him.  Felix is just a nutball basket case and he too wound up capturing your heart.  His sinus-clearing-ear-unplugging bit was hysterical.

As I mentioned in an earlier post the poker table, played by Richard Van Slyke, Joe Langer, Steve Bean and Vince Donvito had chemistry.  It was really as funny as watching a group of guys who’ve been been playing for years, not actors who just recently met.  Funny, caring, wise-cracking and FUNNY.  You couldn’t help but wish you were in their circle at the table playing poker as well.

Jane Lui (l) and Kari Lee (r) as the Pigeon Sisters, click to embiggen
Jane Lui (l) and Kari Lee (r) as the Pigeon Sisters, click to embiggen

The absolute bit of genius was switching up the roles of the “Pigeon Sisters”, the dating interest and neighbors of Oscar and Felix. Played by Kari Lee and Jane Lui was a piece of sheer casting genius.  The chemistry and infectious zest for living they brought to the stage really brought the play to life. Typically the two rolls are just simply cast to a couple of blonde bimbos and let the chips fall where they may, these two brought the characters of Gwendolyn and Ceciy to hyper animated life.  Between the two of them they capture Felix’s heart and convince him he’s going to be ok.  They even twist Oscar around to see Felix for the friend he is.  Quite a task and brilliantly played by Ms Lee and Ms Lui.

Don’t forget the contest for “my worst roommate” that runs until May 31.  Send the Playhouse your worst roommate story and if chosen you get dinner with this incredible cast!  ENTER HERE, or simply mail your story to info@sierramadreplayhouse.org.

The play runs through June 27,  Order tickets HERE.

DEETS: Sierra Madre Playhouse 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd. Sierra Madre CA 91024  MAP HERE  Box Office 626/355-4318

All pics by me.

 

“The Odd Couple” opens Friday at Sierra Madre Playhouse

AND THERES A NIFTY CONTEST TOO…PRIZE IS DINNER WITH THE DIRECTOR AND CAST

Odd Couple Contest poster, click to embiggen, image by Gina Long
Odd Couple Contest poster, click to embiggen, image by Gina Long

The Odd Couple celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year and the Sierra Madre Playhouse production promises NOT to be your grandparents version of the play.  There are some interestsing twists.  This cast has character and chemistry.  The one rehearsal I sat in I was enthralled and had to keep my attention diverted so I didn’t get so wrapped up I spoiled opening night for myself.

Artistic Director Christian Lebano and Director Alan Brooks bring some fun to the table in their interpretation of “The Odd Couple” that won’t go unnnoticed.  To give it some local flavor the Pigeon Sisters are played by actors Kari Lee and Jane Lui.  The little bit I saw they bring a whole new range of interest and humor to the roles of the love interests of accidental bachelors Oscar and Felix.  Worth a see, trust me.

What is really fun is the contest.  Since this is the story of a mismatched roommate situation, the Sierra Madre Playhouse is running a contest for the worst roommate story.  The stories will be read prior to the play start each week and the winner will be announced at the Sunday matinee on June 12.  Story must be entered by midnight May 31, 2015. You can enter by submitting your story on the Sierra Madre Playhouse Facebook page, or emailing them at info@sierramadreplayhouse.org.  As noted in the headline…the best story gets dinner with the director and cast.

Christian Lebano, the Artistic Director at the Playhouse has his own roommate story to share here:

The Odd couple opens May 8 and runs through June 27.  You can order tickets HERE.  Here’s an added surprise and reason to attend opening night…you get to go to the opening night reception and mingle with the cast, directors and board of the Sierra Madre Playhouse.  Location of the reception is announced at the play…so no crashers.

Sierra Madre Playhouse 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd. Sierra Madre CA 91024  MAP HERE  Box Office 626/355-4318

Sweeney Todd opens at Monroe Forum Theatre in NoHo

Sweeney ToddSondheim fans will really enjoy this production.  New to Sondheim, well Kristin Towers-Rowles diection of “Sweeney Todd, the demon barber of Fleet Street” is a great introduction.  She did a pretty terrific if not out right amazing job fitting this production into the small square platform of a theater that is the El Portal.  Meant for the big theatre, this small stage carried the impact in its small footprint.  No mean feat.

The cast is pretty amazing.  Set in Victorian England in the grittier side of town among the poor and barely surviving the story is of a man wrongly accused of a murder and comes back for revenge.  I can’t give much else out without you all calling foul and spoiler.  Its a good story with some interesting twists.  Well worth the time to go see it.

I have to give two specal nods for performances that stole the show.  First was the beggar woman, played by Kendra Munger. She manages to upstage others with her decrepit old hooker  character begging for alms in exchange for “favors”  By far the scene stealer was Alison England who plays Mrs. Lovett the lowly meat pie baker.  Mrs Lovett befriends Todd Sweeney to help him with his plan as well as further her ambition.  A thoroughly enjoyable and wickedly good performance by Ms England.  Loved it.

Sweeney Todd plays at the El Portal in North Hollywood through May 10,2015.  Tickets can be ordered by calling 818-508-4200 or 866-811-4111.  El Portal Web Site HERE.

Press Release after the jump. Continue reading “Sweeney Todd opens at Monroe Forum Theatre in NoHo”

More on the AEA vote and Pro 99 Seat Theatre

Ballots will be arriving in the hands of member actors of the Actors Equity Association.  Its important to keep 99 Seat Theatre alive in Los Angeles.  A “NO” vote will insure that the 99 Seat Agreement remains in place and is not changed.

Sondheim’s “Putting it Together” opened this past weekend

Putting it Together Cast and Pianist...click to embiggen
Putting it Together Cast and Pianist…click to embiggen

I’m not a total rube as I at least knew who Sondheim was before this  past weekend’s opening of “Putting it Together” at the Sierra Madre Playhouse.  I couldn’t have told you what he wrote or even hum a few bars before then.  Now I can.  He’s a bright lively composer who’s lyrics are not only cunning but witty.  Many times the audience broke into laughter during Friday nights performance.

The all star cast is directed and choregraphed by Cate Caplin with Jake Anthony as the music director.  The cast consists of Kurt Andrew Hansen, Kristin Towers-Rowles, Chris Kerrigan, Rachel Hirshee and Mike Irizarry who use a series of 31  Sondheim songs to tell a story of love, marriage, and mistresses during the course of a 1 percenters cocktail party.  Yup, there’s a twist and the bitterness of the woman scorned comes across in a most comical way.

Of all the songs in the play, “Bang” was my favorite.  Didn’t involve guns, but rather was the exclamation point in the digression of young lovers and love making to bitter married folks having dutiful relations in the bedroom.  That’s as delicate as I can put it…but that song alone had us laughing out loud during the performance.  The actions of the cast added hysterical emphasis.

Putting it Together runs through March 28 at the Sierra Madre Playhouse.

Added bonus.  This weekend only 3/20-3/21.  On Web sales only.  Buy one seat, get the second seat free.  Makes for a very and cheap date night!  Order tickets HERE with the promo code BOGO.

Added bonus, if you are interested in Einstein is a Dummy that I reviewed recently, this Sunday, 3/22 Performance is also included in the buy one get one promotion on web sales only.  Order Tickets here with the promo code BOGO.

Deets: Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W Sierra Madre Blvd, Sierra Madre 91024  MAP HERE

Photograph by John Dlugolecki Photography and used with permission.