Orange County Theatre Reviews

fullerton, Review, Theater, Uncategorized Comments Off on Smash @ CSUF in Fullerton – Review |

Smash @ CSUF in Fullerton – Review

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

It isn’t really a secret that watching or reading a story written in the vernacular of another time or place makes the comprehension of said story more of a challenge.   It’s even possible it might be more difficult for the actors to memorize and improvise their lines when the characters they are portraying think and speak so differently than how we do in the modern day.  It is precisely this difficulty that makes the action of successfully telling such a story to a modern-day audience so praiseworthy.  Cal State Fullerton is to be commended for their well acted, well designed, and well envisioned production of Jeffrey Hatcher’s comedy Smash (adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s novel An Unsocial Socialist).

Photo courtesy: Jordan Kubat

Photo courtesy of Jordan Kubat

The year is 1910.  The setting is Edwardian England.  To quote the show’s program “it is a time of exuberant optimism about changing the world and romance of ideas is in the air.” A young man called Sidney Trefusis is gripped with some of his own ideas of politics and morality, and so he leaves his beloved –hell-bent on taking down the capitalistic evil known as the British government.   His desolate wife Henrietta is left to recover from her abandonment in her own way.  Meanwhile Sidney’s plot causes him to cross paths with a rebellious college student, Agatha Wylie.

From start to finish the show is interesting to watch.  It’s bright lighting and greenery successfully conveys the pleasant feel of a cheery garden exterior, and the visual sense of transportation isn’t hard to find.  This arena theater holds the stage at the center, with the audience sitting in a circle around the performance.  While unable to bear witness from every conceivable angle of the production, I can say that at no point from my seat did I feel separated from the action.  Even if one actor’s face is blocked, the person they are speaking to is definitively providing integral feedback regarding the emotional content of the scene, and the movement between the actors is steady enough to avoid getting overly restless.  

Since so much of the comedy is embedded in fast-paced dialogue between people from Edwardian England, I don’t think this show is suitable for kids or people who don’t have a lot of patience for lots of talk without a lot of physical action.  The speed of the punch lines are so rapid, it might be hard to digest one joke before getting slammed with another. However, the acting is strong here.  With only a few line fumbles, the expressions and energy from the actors is enough to cause some chuckles on their own.  I love the relationships between one person to the next, and the writing is exceptionally good.  While the plot is silly, unrealistic, and intentionally puffing itself up to prove a point, the cracks the characters take at each other carry all the spirit of every winning statement you have ever wanted to make in an argument but probably weren’t fortunate enough to think up at the time.   Even if things don’t always make sense (there is a moment with Miss Wilson  that doesn’t really have clear symbolism or cause so…chalk it up to comedic license?), the feeling of the show is a fun one.


 Feb. 20 – March 15, 2015 

Cal State Fullerton, 800 N. State College Blvd., Hallberg Theatre


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Irvine, Musical, Musical Theatre Village, Review Comments Off on Promised Land @ Musical Theatre Village in Irvine – Review |

Promised Land @ Musical Theatre Village in Irvine – Review

Written by Daniella Litvak

Promised Land is a good-natured children’s theater production retelling of Exodus. The child actors are having fun. The adult actors are having a blast hamming it up. It was truly sweet, seeing

Photo Courtesy : Musical Theatre Village Irvine

Photo Courtesy : Michelle Teeter -Musical Theatre Village Irvine

how right after the curtain call, the actors leaped straight from the stage into the arms of their adoring family and friends.

Criticizing the show feels like I’m kicking a puppy. I could say it’s fine enough for a children’s theater production and leave it at that. However, taking such a dismissive attitude would be an insult to all children’s work that transcends age barrier and to the child actors in the show who deserve better material.

Sound wise the show gets off to a rocky start. The opening number’s vocals are a bit muddled. During the first act there are quite a few times where the music overpowers the singing. The musical numbers are cute and fun, but they’re not really memorable. Also the sound effect for baby Moses is really annoying.

As for the story itself… The Book of Exodus is always a great source of storytelling material. However, the show tries to do the Shrek thing and cram in a bunch of anachronistic jokes. The problem is that most of these jokes lack any sort of bite to really generate the laughs. Especially during the first act, the plot meanders all over the place. Some of the detours are a bit odd –like the scene where teenage Moses is dating two girls at once. These weird detours really make the more dramatic parts of the story feel brushed over.

I think the second act is better than the first. The story is tighter and adds meta jokes, which I have to admit I’m a sucker for.  Aaron dressed in prison stripes while playing a pink, Hello Kitty electric guitar during “Leaving Sand City” (a parody medley of classic rock songs) cracked me up.

The actor playing the lamb and then the cow deserves a shout out for fully committing to the roles and providing some nice physical comedy.

Overall, it’s cute and has some nice moments, but I can’t really recommend it.


Feb 20th – March 15 

Musical Theatre Village in Irvine 

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Costa Mesa Playhouse, Musical, Review, Uncategorized Comments Off on Bonnie & Clyde The Musical @ The Costa Mesa Playhouse in Costa Mesa – Review |

Bonnie & Clyde The Musical @ The Costa Mesa Playhouse in Costa Mesa – Review

BC2-Lance Smith, Ashley Arlene Nelson. Photo by Gigi Greene

Lance Smith, Ashley Arlene Nelson. Photo by Gigi Greene

Written by Patrick Chavis 

Some people aspire to be famous, but when fame is out of reach, some reach for the Infamy card. Few people exemplify this idea more than those Great Depression era bandits Bonnie and Clyde –well at least the recreation of them does in Bonnie & Clyde the Musical playing now at the Costa Mesa Playhouse.

BC8-Lance Smith. Photo by Gigi Greene

Lance Smith. Photo by Gigi Greene

The Musical Bonnie & Clyde follows the two main characters, Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow, as they grow up idolizing different famous historical figures which conveniently shapes the fate of who they will one day become. As a younger girl Bonnie looks up to Clara Bow –a famous actress who grew in popularity during the silent movie era of the 1920s. Bonnie’s love for Clara is made quite apparent in the Song “Picture Show” featuring a young Bonnie played by Maddy Nickless, singing about wanting nothing more then to be just like the film star. In the same song, a young Clyde played by DJ Price speaks about his adoration for Billy the Kid. As Clyde gets older his hero changes to Al Capone, but his love for outlaws remains the same. As the story progresses, Bonnie and Clyde meet. It’s love at first sight, and their criminal hijinks commence.

As with many musicals, the deeper side of the characters are kind of shoved away to make room for the more flashy, widely disputable parts of the characters’ lives. But who cares about historical accuracy? It’s a musical! We get gunfights, high notes, romance and every now and then a few glimpses of reality in-between the music and dancing. The music is live in this production, and you can feel and hear it. Since this is a musical, I was glad to find the music and singing to be the best parts of the production –especially from the main actors Ashley Arlene Nelson and Lance Smith.

Flubs were practically none existent in this production, until the characters stopped singing and started acting. While not everyone was on par acting wise, there were some stand out actors. Elizabeth Suzanne playing Blanche Barrow is one of them.  Elizabeth is phenomenal in this role –singing and acting her character flawlessly throughout the entire production.

BC4-Rebecca Butkivich, Holly Griffin, Gigi Greene. Photo by Mike Brown

Rebecca Butkivich, Holly Griffin, Gigi Greene. Photo by Mike Brown

The story tugs at the heart and moves so fast even the most impatient theatergoer will not be bored.


Feb 6 – Mar 8 2015

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Huntington Beach Library Theater, Musical, Review, Uncategorized Comments Off on Jewish Comedy For Everyone : Gefilte Fish & Chips @ Huntington Beach Library Theater- Review |

Musical, Review, The Chance Theater, Uncategorized Comments Off on LOCH NESS The Musical @ The Chance Theatre in Anaheim – Review |

LOCH NESS The Musical @ The Chance Theatre in Anaheim – Review


photo courtesy : The Chance Theatre in Anaheim DOUG CATILLER , TRUE IMAGE STUDIO

Written by Alina Mae Wilson

Mythic, terrifying legends that may or may not be true…the desire to be believed and believed in…family, love, and finding a way to overcome limitations -even if not in the way you expected.   All of these things are considered, looked at and valued in the Chance Theatre’s original musical Loch Ness.  With a charming cast, sweet songs, and beautiful stage pieces, this show is not worth one viewing, but two. Continue Reading

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Brea, Curtis Theatre, Musical, Review, Uncategorized Comments Off on Into the Woods @ The Curtis Theatre in Brea – Review |

Into the Woods @ The Curtis Theatre in Brea – Review

Written by Alina Mae Wilson 

Because fairy tales take place in delightful lands of magic and whimsy, I can only imagine that people doing productions featuring such fiction think to themselves, “This isn’t actually historical.  It’s flexible.  Now is my ITW logo-webchance to do something innovative and new”.  Hence the strange new introduction the Curtis Theatre added to their production of Into the Woods.  Sometimes attempts such as these are refreshingly innovative, sometimes they fall flat.   In the case of the Curtis Theater’s introduction to the show, it is the latter but everything that happens in between the beginning and end of the show qualifies as a redemption. Continue Reading

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