Orange County Theatre Reviews

interview, La Mirada Theatre, Musical, podcast, Uncategorized Comments Off on AMB Theatre Podcast #44 presented by OCR : Empire The Musical @ La Mirada Theatre- Podcast |

AMB Theatre Podcast #44 presented by OCR : Empire The Musical @ La Mirada Theatre- Podcast

Empire is an original musical about those who bravely embodied the American spirit during the dark days of the Great Depression by building what was then the tallest structure in the world, the Empire State Building. When the roaring 20’s collapsed into the reeling 30’s, these industrialists, laborers and their families mortgaged all that was safe and reasonable for the dream of leaving their mark on New York City and the world. Taken from the website 

Jan. 22 – Feb. 14, 2016

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La Mirada Theatre, McCoy Rigby Entertainment, Musical, Review, Uncategorized Comments Off on Empire State of Mind : EMPIRE The Musical @ La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts – Review |

Empire State of Mind : EMPIRE The Musical @ La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts – Review

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”

–Henry David Thoreau

Written by Daniella Litvak 

The stock market crashed, and with it came high unemployment rates and uncertain futures for people all over the world. Despite how depressing (yes, dreadful pun intended) this all was, people refused to give up on themselves. They were going to make their dreams come true. For many New Yorkers at the time, that meant having to construct the world’s tallest building.

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Caleb Shaw and Katharine McDonough are featured in the musical “EMPIRE” – directed and choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Photo Courtesy : MICHAEL LAMONT

While the people building the Chrysler Building and 40 Wall Street are also competing in “the race to the sky,” Empire The Musical (“Empire”) is rooting for the all-star team former New York Governor Al Smith and John Raskob have assembled to raise the one hundred story Al Smith Building. First, there is Frankie Petersen. She is Smith’s right hand man, so she solves all the problems. Mike Shaw is the project’s brilliant, young architect. Rounding out the team is the ensemble of construction workers who are going to build the skyscraper. Included among them are crew leader Ethan O’Dowd and newbies Bill Johnson and Bucky. Continue Reading

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Newport Beach, Newport Theatre Arts Center, Review Comments Off on Strong & Tender : Steel Magnolias @ Newport Theatre Arts Center – Review |

Strong & Tender : Steel Magnolias @ Newport Theatre Arts Center – Review

Written by Patrick Chavis 

Steel Magnolias sounds like the perfect name for either a Guns N’ Roses cover band or a post punk, feminist rock group. It turns out to be neither (at least I don’t think so). Steel Magnolias is mostly known for the 1989 film with the all-star cast: Shirley MacLaine, Olympia Dukakis, Sally Field, and more. I could continue, because this movie was pumped with as much talent as Ocean’s 11. Before it hit the big screen, Steel Magnolias was a successful play because of its unique take on women, southern life, and death. Newport Theatre Arts Center’s talented cast gracefully pulls you into their southern Louisiana world. There’s no acting here, just six very unique women baring their souls on stage. On the surface it’s a show about a sad event that changes the lives of these women in a beauty parlor. Once you go deeper, the show really is about a bunch of Chatty Cathys that love to bicker about anything and everything, and having the strength to do it.

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Yara Wilde (Shelby)

The play is set in a shop in Chinquapin, Louisiana, and centers around a lot of different conversations that occur while the women are getting their hair done. The dialogue in this play is funny but not over the top. It’s the kind of everyday humor that kind of pops out at you, and you can’t help but chuckle a little bit.  The things that really make this show enjoyable are the relationships between the characters and how each one of them interacts with one another. This play is truly an actor’s piece. Just fifteen minutes in you already have a good idea where the plot is going, and you know it’s going to be sad.  Still that inevitable sadness takes a backseat to the often funny and whimsical conversations and gossip the characters have.  Continue Reading

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PUTTING THEM IN THE SEATS A THEATRICAL ROADMAP – Excerpt from OCR Magazine Issue #1

Written by Eric Eberwein 
I was recently asked to write about how theatre is adapting to modern times. This is an interesting request when we consider the implication that theatre is struggling or somehow failing to adapt. Perhaps it is struggling – struggling for mindshare and struggling for an audience in the face of Netflix, Facebook, first-person shooters and all the other cheap and quickly accessible diversions ready to occupy our time. How do you make theatre as accessible, as contemporary, and as culturally relevant as all of the above? To put it plainly “How do you get more people into theatre in 2015?” How do you get them to fall in love with it and call it their own? Maybe you have to call for change. 

A Call for the Contemporary 

Why don’t more people go to the theatre? The usual answer is “money” – it costs too much. Well, a night at South Coast Repertory picor Laguna Playhouse might cost too much for many OC residents, but a night at STAGES Theatre in Fullerton or Modjeska Playhouse in Lake Forest is quite affordable. But money is really only half the answer. The other half is the general public’s perception of theatre. That’s right, the general public. Your co-worker, your yoga instructor, your apartment complex manager, and so on – all those people who don’t plunk down $20 or $40 to see the new Amy Herzog play or a rendition of Into the Woods (like you would do) — how do they perceive theatre? I was once one of them, so I’ll tell you how many of them perceive it. Boring. They see “theatre” as boring. When most people think “ theatre”, they think of a stodgy, static art form telling old or innocuous stories – stories that have little or nothing to do with life in 2015. 

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fullerton, Review, Stagestheatre, Theater, Uncategorized Comments Off on Erin vs Scotty : All My Sons @ STAGEStheatre – Double Review |

Erin vs Scotty : All My Sons @ STAGEStheatre – Double Review

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All My Sons, Still Potent and Timely

Written by Scotty Keister 

Arthur Miller’s All My Sons was his first commercial success, first produced on Broadway in 1947 and twice made into films, in ’48 and ’87. It has a slow misleading first act that builds eventually to a powerful climax that unexpectedly becomes a slam against wartime profiteering on the part of American industry. Based on the true story of Wright Aeronautical Corporation that transpired in ’41-’43, it tells the story of All-American good guy, Joe Keller, who has been keeping some deep, dark secrets, and how those secrets ultimately lead to devastating tragedy. It’s pretty much a framework for American drama in the 40s and 50s that Miller was to become a master of with The Crucible, Death of a Salesman and View from the Bridge.

Joe Parrish directs the production at Stages Theatre and also plays the lead role of Joe Keller. It’s another offering in his successful production of classic American theater over the past several years on Fullerton stages. Parrish has a knack for ferreting out the essential heart of the dramas as well as nailing down heartfelt and powerful performances himself in Long Day’s Journey into Night, Twelve Angry Men and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

All My Sons is no exception. His supporting cast here is too young in a few roles, but not to any crucial detriment. Arlyn McDonald is Joe’s wife Kate, who for three years has been holding onto desperate hope that her eldest son Larry, MIA in the South Pacific war zone, is still alive, when all others have given up on him. This includes their younger son Chris, also a veteran, and Larry’s former fiancé, Ann, who is now planning to marry Chris. Of course, this is unacceptable to Kate; Ann is Larry’s girl. McDonald excels as Kate, linking together moments of grief and anger to powerful effect. Ann, a former neighbor, has come back to town to claim Chris’ affection and is astonished that Kate has still not given up on Larry. Christi Pedigo, as the somewhat bewildered Ann, is a strong presence throughout. Nate Ruleaux as Chris comes off as too whiny in the first half of the play, whereas Chris is supposed to be an all-around buoyant nice guy who loves his dad unconditionally. However, Ruleaux builds up to some strong moments by the play’s conclusion, as do the rest of the cast.

There are so many secrets at work here undermining this romantic quagmire that the first half of the show leads one unfamiliar with the story, as I was, to suspect something wholly different is going on. It’s only when we learn about Ann’s father Steve – Joe’s former partner – and their involvement in building faulty aircraft parts, as well as Joe’s and Steve’s incarceration, that the story really starts to take form. When Ann’s brother George (played with controlled fire by Zackary Salene) arrives to spirit Ann away the secrets start to break free and the momentum of the show begins a steady build to what becomes a startling uncovering of a web of lies going back many years.

All this is handled beautifully by a controlled cast, including Phil Brickey, Sara LaFramboise, Dennis Blanchard and Aly Easton as various neighbors, friendly, or decidedly unfriendly, towards the Kellers. The set is a simple framework of a much worn house and porch, and a few pieces of lawn furniture, built for realism by John Gaw. Andrea Birkholm did the subtle period costumes. Highly recommended for a dose of good-old American theatre that still packs a punch, with a timely story that is as potent now as it was 70 years ago, possibly more so.

The show runs through February 21, Fridays-Sundays.

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fullerton, La Habra Theater Guild, Review, Theater, Uncategorized Comments Off on La Habra Theater Guild Presents : The Plummer Project @ Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton – Review |

La Habra Theater Guild Presents : The Plummer Project @ Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton – Review

Written by Mike Martin

It’s never easy to review what is essentially educational theater, but I tip my hat to the La Habra High School Theater Guild for opening themselves to criticism on their latest production, The Plummer Project.

First, let me say that this production is incredibly ambitious. The LHHS company has produced an interactive theater experience inside the grand old Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton and put the hoary old space to as good a use as anything12509045_1114747255226515_671737466202334640_n (1) I’ve seen there in years. They are producing three separate shows running for approximately an hour each. Any given patron can only see two of these tracks on a given night (one before and one after intermission) with the story lines determined by a random distribution of wristbands. Each story winds its way through the interior and grounds of the auditorium and occasionally splits off into even smaller vignettes as audience members are singled out for one on one interactions away from the main group. This makes for a theater experience that can differ wildly from one viewer to the next. Continue Reading

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