Category Archives: Musical

Black Suits Boys Seek Garage Band Glory While Iconis Covets Broadway

Will Roland, Coby Getzug, Harrison Chad and Jimmy Brewer in “The Black Suits.” Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Will Roland, Coby Getzug, Harrison Chad and Jimmy Brewer in “The Black Suits.” Photo by Craig Schwartz.

It’s two nights before The Black Suits’ first preview performance at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.  Joe Iconis — who wrote the book, music and lyrics — sits in a room at the top of the stairs of Center Theatre Group’s Culver City venue, speaking passionately about the project he wrote at NYU graduate school. While the band rocks loudly in the background, Iconis says he’s a bit frazzled by the intense process of mounting the premiere of this musical about a Long Island high school garage band, but also extremely pleased. This production, which opens Sunday, has been a long time coming.

“I wrote the first version of the show in 2005,” says Iconis. “I was in the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing program at NYU, and for my thesis I had to write a full-scale musical.”

Iconis just happens to be from Garden City on Long Island, the backdrop for the story. And although he admits there’s a lot of himself in the piece, he was never actually in a garage band. He was “a straight-up theater kid,” he says.

“I got the idea to write the show when I musical directed The Wiz at my old high school when I was in college,” Iconis says. …

Read full article at LA Stage Times.

Stepney Mods Face Wembley Rockers in ModRock at El Portal

The cast of “ModRock.” Photo by Michael Lamont.

The cast of “ModRock.” Photo by Michael Lamont.

“I remember February 9, 1964, like it was yesterday,” says Tom Coleman, producer of ModRock, which opens Sunday at El Portal Theatre. “The Beatles appeared on [The] Ed Sullivan [Show] and the world changed overnight.” Coleman is referring to the British Invasion, when mid-’60s UK music and culture captured the imaginations of young people across America. One of those teenagers was Coleman — who, many years later, decided to write and produce a jukebox musical about the period.

Similar to the stories of the Capulets and the Montagues or the Sharks and the Jets, the show spotlights lovers from rival factions: the Mods and the Rockers. Set in 1965 London, this culture clash of fashion, music and style is the vibrant backdrop of ModRock, which makes 20 classic songs from the era, the trends of the day and even motorcycles and scooters central pieces of the production.

“The backbone is 20 hits,” says Coleman, who uses his pen name Hagan Thomas-Jones as the writer for this project. …

Read full article at LA Stage Times

Arch Focused on the Story Arc in “Sleepless in Seattle”

Tim Martin Gleason, Joe West and Chandra Lee Schwartz in “Sleepless in Seattle.” Photo by Jim Cox.

Tim Martin Gleason, Joe West and Chandra Lee Schwartz in “Sleepless in Seattle.” Photo by Jim Cox.

If things had gone as planned for the musical version of Sleepless in Seattle at the Pasadena Playhouse, writer Jeff Arch would be celebrating the show’s one-year anniversary this month. Instead, the musical, directed by Pasadena Playhouse’s artistic director Sheldon Epps, with music and lyrics by Ben Toth and Sam Forman, opens this Sunday and runs through June 23.

“Had the show we had last year at this time been put up, it wouldn’t have succeeded,” says Arch, who wrote the original story and co-wrote the screenplay with director Nora Ephron and David S. Ward for the 1993 romantic comedy film. “We knew there were problems. There were some not-quite-there moments, and some this-is-just-the-wrong-direction moments. The book and story have stayed true. The musical treatment and direction of the story have changed, but all for the better.”

Arch and his business partner David Shor, the musical’s producer, have been the only two consistent players in the project’s eight-year history.

“No one told me it was going to be eight years,” Arch says. “If they said, eight years, three directors, three music teams, hijacking attempts and rewrites like you can’t believe, I might have said no. Thank God I didn’t know.”

Arch sits in the Makineni Library upstairs from the Pasadena Playhouse. …

Read full article at LA Stage Times

Dang Directs a Multicultural Chess for East West

Ensemble of “Chess.” Photo by Michael Lamont.

Ensemble of “Chess.” Photo by Michael Lamont.

When the musical Chess opens at the David Henry Hwang Theater tomorrow night, it will look a lot different from the original production, which premiered in London’s West End in 1986 and ran for three years. It also will stray from the ill-fated Broadway version, which opened in 1988 and lasted only two months — and from a third version that served as the Los Angeles County premiere, produced by Long Beach Civic Light Opera in 1990.

Director Tim Dang, who is also East West Players’ (EWP) producing artistic director, decided to re-imagine Chess for the 21st century with a multicultural cast. Elijah Rock, who is African American, stars as Russian chess player Anatoly. Joan Almedilla, who is a Filipina immigrant, plays his American love interest. Victor E. Chan, who is of Chinese and Filipino descent, portrays his American competitor Freddy. Four of the 15 Chess cast members are of mixed race.

“As artistic directors, we have a responsibility for what happens on our own stages,” says Dang, who hopes to lead in the campaign for more multicultural casting by example with Chess. …

Read full article at LA Stage Times

Kathleen Marshall Knows Anything Goes

(L to R) Vanessa Sonon, Dionna Thomas Littleton, Rachel York, Courtney Rottenberger and Jacqueline Burtney/Photo by Joan Marcus

Kathleen Marshall had finished directing and choreographing The Pajama Game for New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company in early 2006 when artistic director Todd Haimes approached her about Anything Goes. The company had obtained the rights to the Cole Porter classic, and Haimes had pegged her for the job. It wasn’t a stretch to assume the musical would be another feather (Grease, Wonderful Town, Kiss Me, Kate) in Marshall’s decorated cap.

She grew nervous just thinking about directing and choreographing yet another revival of Anything Goes. She loved the 1934 classic musical, but it had been remade more than a handful of times. “I saw that beautiful production at [the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at] Lincoln Center in 1987,” she says, “and thought, ‘Uh oh, how am I going to make this fresh?’”

The version she directed and choreographed opened at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on April 7, 2011, and scored three Tony Awards, including Leading Actress in a Musical and Choreography (Marshall’s third Tony.). …

Read full article on LA Stage Times

Ain’t Misbehavin’ at International City Theatre

Niketa Calame, Jennifer Shelton and Amber Mercomes/photo by Suzanne Mapes

Most people have heard of Thomas “Fats” Waller, the famous pianist. Fewer folks realize he was a comedian. You don’t have to search high and low for his humorous side. Listen to his songs (or look at his face), with titles like, “Your Feet’s Too Big,” “The Reefer Song” and “Fat and Greasy.” These gigglers and a string of Fats Waller hits make up the playlist for “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” which opened Oct. 12 as the final show of the 2012 season at International City Theatre in Long Beach and runs until Nov. 4.

Fats Waller was a national treasure. Legend has it that he was kidnapped in 1926 on his way out of a Chicago performance. When he was released inside the Hawthorne Inn, he realized he was the surprise guest at Al Capone’s birthday party. They sat him down at the piano, and he didn’t get up for three days. Obviously, he was known as the life of the party. “Ain’t Misbehavin’” honors Waller’s catalogue by letting the good times roll right off his fingertips.

I can’t help but chuckle when leading ladies Jennifer Shelton and Amber Mercomes deliver a Sugar Daddy ditty called “Find Out What They Like.” …

Read full article at Culture Spot LA

“American Idiot” at Ahmanson

Photo by Doug Hamilton

London-based Steven Hoggett is the proud choreographer of two musicals opening this week: American Idiot at LA’s Ahmanson and Once at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre on Broadway. The acclaim is enough to make any artist gloat. But Hoggett keeps his feet on the ground, choosing instead to follow the sage advice of American Idiot and Spring Awakening director Michael Mayer, who told him at the beginning of their production journey, “Nothing is guaranteed.”

This time around, however, continued success for American Idiot is likely. Green Day’s rock opera-turned-musical scored 2010 Tony Awards for sets and lighting and a nomination for Best Musical, and the Los Angeles stop is only one of a string of U.S. dates. This is thrilling for a choreographer who had never worked on a show in America.

“I felt incredibly honored,” says Hoggett, regarding Mayer’s decision to tap the choreographer’s skills for American Idiot. “I did get elevated from Michael’s decision to pluck me from London and throw me into a room full of rowdy, testosterone-driven kids.”

At first, Hoggett felt just personally privileged. After traveling to Manhattan, however, and seeing firsthand how many people Mayer knew and had worked with, and hearing about the scores of people who had asked about his job, he was “absolutely delighted.”

“There were lots of people who were, a) very qualified, b) very exciting choreographers, and c) American — and maybe massive Green Day fans,” says Hoggett. “I was aware of having stepped to the front of what was a very prestigious queue.”

Relatively unknown in America, Hoggett…

Full article on LA Stage Times