Orange County Theatre Reviews

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Interview with the Director & Cast of “Honk!” Estancia High School Drama @ Costa Mesa High School in Costa Mesa 04-2015 – Video

Shot & Edited by Patrick Chavis

Interview with Director Pauline Maranian and cast members Sterling Gates & Jaime Hubbard of Honk! Honk! is a musical based on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Ugly Duckling”. This classic story has singing, comedy, and a good message.

Location 2650 Fairview Rd.  Costa Mesa, CA    

Call for Tickets  (949)515-6537 

Performances run from:  April 30th – May 2nd

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FREE Shakespeare @ UCI – The Shakespeare Short Festival – NEWS

The Schedule and Location are below. 

 

The Tempest, director, Travis Kendrick

The Two Gentlemen of Verona, director, Sarah Butts

Macbeth, director, Paul Cook

 

WHEN:

 

Thursday, April 30
7:00 pm — Macbeth
9:00 pm — The Tempest

 

Friday, May 1
7:00 pm — The Tempest
9:00 pm — The Two Gentlemen of Verona

 

Saturday, May 2
12:00 pm — The Tempest
  1:30 pm — The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  3:00 pm — Macbeth
  7:00 pm — The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  9:00 pm  — Macbeth

 

The show will take place at the Intercollegiate Athletic Building (#625) University of California, Irvine 

Irvine, CA 92697

Link to a printable Campus Map Here 

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It’s “Fluffy” Fun – Anything Goes @ The Gem Theatre in Garden Grove – Review

Written by Scotty Keister 

Cole Porter’s Anything Goes could be called the granddaddy of jukebox musicals, although it didn’t really start out that way. Originally produced on Broadway over eighty years ago. The songs were in large written by Porter for the show and they hung on the flimsiest of premises, the book being completely overhauled several times before it opened. Over the years, the show has seen a dozen major revivals between Broadway and London’s West End, each one adding or subtracting songs from Porter’s broad canon of tunes. Each revival picks up a boatload of awards so it’s no surprise it’s retained its popularity over the decades and still gets produced regularly to this day.

image3

Photo Credit: Lisa Scarsi

One More Productions currently is throwing their top hat into the ring with a sparkling, toe-tapping, old school revival at the beautiful Gem Theatre in Garden Grove, directed by Damien Lorton, and featuring a live band. The Gem’s show uses a libretto based on more recent revivals, including a number I haven’t found listed in any other revival’s repertoire—in fact it’s not even listed in the program: Porter’s classic “Night and Day.” It’s a far more somber tune than any of the upbeat pop tunes in the show, and as such feels a bit out of place, but that’s the nature of the jukebox. The show’s story itself is a bit of fluff, taking place on an ocean cruise and featuring several cross-cutting love stories and cases of mistaken identity, all very broad and vaudevillian. The humor is not always successful, but the performances are endearing and the energy and good nature of the cast carried me right along with them. Plus, a stage full of tap dancing is not something you see every day, and it’s pretty impressive. The Gem has a nice big proscenium stage(the part of a modern stage in front of the curtain;Websters) to fit this cast of thirty or more.

Alex Bodrero, as the smitten Billy Crocker, has a kind of Jimmy Stewart charm to his performance, although his voice in the upper tenor range strains at times. Adriana Sanchez, as the New York showgirl Reno Sweeney, does her best impression of Ethel Merman, who originated the role, and pulls it off with aplomb; her voice reaches the back of the house and then some. Nicole Cassesso as the squeaky-voiced gangster’s moll Erma has an effervescent comic energy. When Cassesso is onstage you can’t take your eyes off of her. Ira Trachter as Moonface Martin the low level gangster, does a good job of aping Art Carney, and Chris Harper as Evelyn Oakleigh the English Lord, has some prime comic moments as well. The rest of the ensemble contributes fine voices and some dazzling dancing. When the stage is filled with the whole cast belting out “Anything Goes” or “I Get a Kick Out of You” you can’t help but get a little charged up, then walk out smiling. It’s fluffy, but fun.

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Photo Credit: Lisa Scarsi

It must be pointed out, the Gem accomplishes a feat I rarely see in stage musicals in OC, and that is they use no headset mikes for the cast. Instead, the band is placed behind the stage, putting all the singers in front with the set between them. This nifty device enables the audience to hear the singers virtually 95% of the time, which is a remarkable and quite welcome departure from what I’m used to. I never like seeing mike wires taped to the sides of actors’ faces; half the time they don’t work, plus the un-miked cast are harder to hear. I salute the Gem for solving this problem so simply. Of course, it helps to have a big enough space to pull this off.

The show runs thru May 3, Thursday through Saturday nights with Sunday matinees. You could do a lot worse than a bubbly Cole Porter musical for a weekend, and this production has all the bubbles.

7/10

 April 9th 2015 – May 3rd

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Kiss Me, Kate – Vanguard University in Costa Mesa – Review

Written by Alina Mae Wilson  

Kiss Me Kate - Lobby Photos 027

photo by Susie Sprinkel Hudson

I went into Vanguard University’s production of Kiss Me, Kate being very familiar with Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew but knowing very little about Kiss Me, Kate, except it had some Shakespeare in it.  Now some of the Bard’s works have aged very well.  Even if you don’t agree with them, a lot of his characters are sympathetic, and their motivations are not as dated as one might think–most high schoolers can see themselves in the classic lovers Romeo and Juliet, even if the pair are now typically viewed as some of the least intelligent characters in works of fiction.  The Taming of the Shrew is not one of those plays. Our ideas and opinions regarding the treatment of women have shifted enough that the viewer/reader recognizes how tasteless and ludicrous the treatment of women in days past was and any laughter stems from that recognition.  The play within a play Kiss Me, Kate provides a backbone for Shakespeare’s story, allowing us to laugh more easily at the show, and it is played well by Vanguard University’s sprightly cast. 

We see the traveling cast of The Taming of the Shrew is preparing for another opening. The lead actors in the play, Lilli Vanessi and Fred Graham play the characters Katherine and Petruchio. This former wife and husband –like their characters in the play –are not getting along.  She’s something of a snob.  He’s…also something of a snob, so they are pretty much made for each other.  Another couple –Lois and Bill, who have the roles of Bianca and Lucentio in the show –are also having some (though not to the same extreme) problems.  Bill signed an IOU to the mob in Fred’s name, and Bianca is a little too flirtatious.  A pair of gangsters arrive on the scene to collect money from Fred and insist on being a part of the play in order to keep a better eye on him.  Insert song and dance numbers as required. 

Kiss Me Kate - Lobby Photos 025

photo by Susie Sprinkel Hudson

The set was nicely put together.  They have a rotating stage, which enables the audience to see the ‘behind-the-scenes’ action and better envision the chaos when it is not happening directly in front of you.  The costumes are bright and colorful.  The props are sufficient.  This is not a dark show in any way, so the brightness and pep coming with a set such as this is perfectly suitable, and the cheery band manages to beautifully play every note without overpowering the singers.

Across the board the acting is pretty solid.  Every now and again an ensemble member stares off into space, but for the most part the actors are engaged in the moment.  Special mention goes to ensemble member Winter Bassett.  She is captivating.  Her quirky, perky energy is infectious, and there are times when you’ll have to work to take your eyes off her.  Kelsi Coleman is also a commanding figure and undeniably worthy of her role as Lilli Vanessi/Katherine. She is snide, cold, aggressive, warm, and doting in all the right ways.  She simply wears the character of Lilli Vanessi very well.   I also would not be able to sleep tonight if I did not mention Mark Austin Nunn, who plays one of the goofy gangsters fabulously.  He is extravagant and ridiculous without crossing the line into sheer stupidity.  In other words, he does it without looking like he is trying too hard. He grimaces, gambols, and blusters, but he does it with such simple sincerity that for the most part one can’t help but grin when he is around.   This thug is clearly an unintelligent fellow, but Nunn manages to play the character without some of the drunkenness that could easily have accompanied this part.

Kiss Me Kate - Lobby Photos 017

photo by Susie Sprinkel Hudson

The weakness of the performance is the vocals.  The lead performers are mostly fine, but the ensemble’s singing gets shaky and out of tune from time to time.  Fortunately, I do not have to say the same thing about the dancing.  The choreography is good, and the actors know it well.  The actual songs can be fun, but some of them are too long and don’t have an actual point, which leads to boredom no matter how well the dance numbers are put together.  I cite “Too Darn Hot” as a reference.  This song is pure filler and has absolutely nothing to do with anything.  There are several numbers like this, and they are a drag.  Meanwhile, the songs moving the plot along are delightful.

Plot Hole – Lois and Bill are presented as relevant people in the story, and then they are casually brushed aside as the ending nears. The useless songs and underdeveloped story issues ultimately prevents this musical from actually being or saying anything relevant. That being said, the occurrences backstage do provide a backbone, and although that backbone sometimes seems feeble and weak, it is strong enough to support the beauty of their fully fleshed out production of The Taming of the Shrew.

Side note :  Spoke to soon, you can throw this show on the list of best shows of the month. 

8/10

April 10-12, 16-18, 23-26

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