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Friday, January 07, 2011


The opening night of Hair at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood was like attending the most energetic, love-filed performance in which there was nothing but mutual love between the cast and audience.  The cast led by the charismatic and uber-talented Steel Burkhardt (Berger) and Paris Remillard (Claude) knocked every number out of the park sparking enthusiastic applause and cheers from the audience. 

The Hair “tribe” is energetic, unifying and strong.  The energy they emit whether they are onstage in “Oh Great God of Power” or dancing amongst the audience in “Hair” make the show not only entertaining but interactive as well.  Members of the tribe who make their appearance at the Pantages include original Broadway-revival cast members: Burkhardt, Remillard, Allison Guinn (Mother/Buddhadalirama), Kaitlin Kiyan (Chrissy), Josh Lamon (Margaret Mead/Dad), John Moauro (tribe), Darius Nichols (Hud) and Kacie Sheik (Jeanie).

Despite being a feel-good musical that elicits feelings of hope and love, Hair actually tackles some very serious issues like sexual identity, draft card burning and drug use – issues that were seen more than 40 years ago when it first debuted on Broadway.  The essence of the show continues to be relatable and prevalent in 2011 even though some of the details of the issues of today are slightly different.

Pictured: Hair National Tour Company/Joan Marcus

Visually, Hair was a stunning celebration of bright colors, light and staging seen in the dance, costume and choreography under the direction of Diane Paulus and choreographed by Karole Armitage.  This was only enhanced by the music of Galt MacDermot and book/lyrics by Rames Rado and Gerome Ragni (“Aquarius,” “Let the Sun Shine In” and “Good Morning Starshine”). 

There is nothing but high praise and deep appreciation for the Hair tribe in bringing their love-filled-emotional show to LA audiences.  The Pantages Theatre on opening night of Hair, was nothing short of a captivating two and a half hours of an intoxicating love-filled performance (a musical certainly not to be missed).  You will leave the theatre with a silly grin on your face feeling happy and naturally high, and if you don't...keep going back until you do!

Now Playing through January 23, 2011 at the Pantages Theatre (6233 Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles).  For tickets or more information: Broadway L.A., 1-800-982-ARTS (2787) or Ticketmaster Outlets. ($25-$90)

Gavin Creel (original Broadway revival, Claude)
The touring cast of Hair also continues to support the cause of marriage equality that the Broadway cast supported in the spirit of love and peace.  In virtually every touring city, the tribe stages a fund-raising “be-in” of music and performance and they donate 100% of the proceeds to Broadway Impact to support their efforts in the fight for marriage equality.  The Los Angeles “be-in” will be held Monday, January 10 with shows at 7:30 and 10:30 p.m. at Show at Barre (1714 N. Vermont, Los Angeles). General Admission tickets are $25 ticket and a $50 VIP ticket gets first row seating and a signed poster.  For tickets or more information to this “be-in” check their Facebook event page.

Monday, January 03, 2011


Merriam-Webster defines applause as:
approval publicly expressed (as by clapping the hands)
While applause is a commonly understood and used expression of approval, I was taught at a very early age that a standing ovation is different; the standing ovation is a special distinction to honor a stand-out performance or speaker and indicates a particularly high level of approval and should be used sparingly.  Right?
The sound that says love,
Applause, applause, applause!

~Applause, Applause, Lee Adams (lyricist)

For as long as I can remember, I have taken that sparingly thought to heart and tried to only gave standing ovations if I was blown away by a particular performance.  Sometimes I admit that I give away the standing ovation a little too freely but sometimes I do the whole following-the-heard thing and feel guilty that the entire theatre is standing and I'm not.

So I started thinking about the performers/performances I have recently given standing ovations  (because I thought it was well deserved).  This isn't a list of everything I've seen, but what I thought was particularly well performed in the last year:
Not so long ago, I made the snarky comment that theatre audiences in LA will give anyone a standing ovation as I left a mediocre performance.  I was unsure if audiences were unaware of the concept of what a standing ovation means or if they believe that standing during curtain calls are customary.  I am not talking about the people standing (and then LEAVING) during curtain calls or even during encores during a concert - that is worthy of an entire forthcoming post.  However, not all performances are standing ovation worthy and yet, I see that (particularly with LA crowds) EVERY show, EVERY performance gets one (even those that are really, not so good).  The only time I noticed a lack of a standing ovation was not because the show was bad, but because the average age of the audience (at this professional equity production) was upwards of about 80-years-old, and most had walkers or wheelchairs, so I assume that maybe they couldn't stand up?  Either that or they are old enough to know that not every single performance needs a standing ovation.  I don't want to be a negative nellie here, but I think giving every performance a standing ovation regardless of a performance is a little misleading and unfair.  Its like the audience who cried wolf!

Then...I googled the history of the standing ovation and found this somewhat equally snarky article written by Michael Billington of the UK's The Guardian.  The thing is, I kind of agree with him (not the insulting American theatre-goers as déclassé parts) but here:
The standing ovation is now a meaningless nightly ritual...If you do it for virtually everything, it soon becomes valueless...But a standing-ovation should be a rare and choice event. Currently, however, it is turning into a hollow gesture in which audiences seek to transform perfectly decent plays and musicals into earth-shattering occasions.
This has been my point and I think that Billington says it better above than I do, but for those of you who attend any performing arts or speaking attention and let me know what you think...theaterfan [at] aol [dot] com.

Thursday, December 02, 2010


National Tour of West Side Story/credit: Joan Marcus
Arguably, there is nothing that exudes the essence of musical theatre more than West Side Story. From Lenny's (Bernstein) gorgeous score, Sondheim's unparalleled lyrics (though he sometimes begs to differ...see Finishing the Hat) to Jerry's (Robbins) most amazing choreography and of course Arthur (Laurents) book (and in the case of the Broadway revival, also can claim the title of director).  Really, there is nothing more perfect West Side Story.

Just about everyone knows the storyline and mere mention of the title will elicit some kind of strong response (and really, who didn't grow up with at least knowing about the film?)  Two years ago when the show was revived on Broadway (for the first time since the 1980s production starring Debbie Allen), book-writer Arthur Laurents took the helm and directed the show starring Matt Cavenaugh  (Tony), Josefina Scaglione (Maria) and Karen Olivo (who won her first Tony Award for her role as Anita).  In this production, for the first time ever,  West Side Story  incorporated the use of Spanish language sung/spoken by the Sharks (Lin-Manuel Miranda, of In the Heights fame provided translations) because as Laurents said, thought it wasn't his idea (it was his late partner Tom Hatcher's), he thought the Jets and Sharks should be on equal footing in terms of their turf wars and "it'd be great to think of a way to equalize the two, why not have the Sharks speak Spanish?" This somewhat controversial move got a lot of attention though ultimately much of the Spanish was edited down from the original creation for this Broadway revival.

The national tour of West Side Story (based on the recent Broadway revival) opened at the historic Pantages Theatre in Hollywood for a five-week engagement (through January 2, 2011).  Based on Laurents' masterful direction (executed by David Saint) the production includes the use of the Spanish language sung by the members of the Sharks.  It should be noted that this semi-bilingual approach (I think) works incredibly well.  Though I didn't understand half of what was being said (when in Spanish of course), it didn't really matter because I completely understood its purpose in the show.  In moments of anger and frustration, are the characters (who might not speak perfect English) really going to start singing perfect English vs their native Spanish (or a combination of the two)?

National Tour of West Side Story/credit: Joan Marcus
What worked better than having a semi-bilingual production was the original choreography (by Robbins) beautifully recreated by Joey McKneely for the revival/tour.  Typically, my love for music and the written word far supersedes my interest in dance, but having an opportunity to see Robbins' original choreography reproduced was simply amazing and certainly a highlight of the performance.  It was during these ensemble dance numbers (i.e., "Dance at the Gym," "Rumble") that the cast really shone.  Not to be outdone, the "Gee, Officer Krupke" scene was another example of the strength of the ensemble performers (Action and the Jets); it got some of the biggest applause of the evening.

While the ensemble numbers were some of the most enjoyable, it was the scenes between Tony and Maria that I actually found myself having a harder time believing.  There was somewhat of a lack of chemistry between the two performers, Ali Ewoldt (Maria) and Kyle Harris (Tony) - individually, yet both were more convincing and stronger in their scenes apart than together. 
(l-r) Ali Ewoldt, Kyle Harris/credit:Joan Marcus
It isn't everyday that a full-scale production of a classic show like West Side Story rolls into town - overall, it is a  must-see for fans of the show young and young-at-heart.  West Side Story runs through January 2 Tuesdays-Fridays at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood.  For tickets and holiday schedule information: Broadway L.A.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


next to normal is easily one of the best contemporary musicals to date (and easily one of my personal favorites...ever).   It is everything a musical should be - moving, heartbreaking, haunting, thought provoking (with humorous moments), it has characters and a storyline which are mostly well thought out and  music that stays with you long after you have departed the theatre.  In an era of musical theatre in which the term "groundbreaking" is thrown around an awful lot to describe a show, next to normal just might be one of them.  next to normal challenges its audience to think beyond what you see, who you are and what you believe to be true.

next to normal is a story that mirrors what life can sometimes be like when life is spinning out of control - feeling alone and misunderstood but yet somehow being able to find a way back to the truth.  The show is the way it is now because of director Michael Grief and producer David Stone who took the existing book and music by Brian Yorkey and Tom Kitt (respectively) and tightened the story which was a little bit unclear and long and helped focus it into the Pulitzer Prize winning show that it has become.

It should be known that I have been a very big supporter of next to normal out of the gate, since I first discovered 2005 workshop/demo tracks on YouTube (when it was still called Feeling Electric - take a listen if you are so inclined to compare what it was to what its become).   Even though in its workshopped state, next to normal was a completely different show than it is now, the core of it was still compelling to me.  This contemporary musical about a dysfunctional family coping with loss and mental illness, was (and is even more-so now) deeply emotional, deeply moving and runs the gamut of emotions throughout the performance.  This is made true because in large part to the actors who inhabit the Goodman family (and supporting characters) in the touring cast.

Alice Ripley
Alice Ripley and next to normal have become synonymous with one another.  The show certainly wouldn't be what it is now without her and anyone who will have the pleasure of seeing her perform the role of Diana Goodman will see what a tour de force she is in the show.  Alice Ripley is no stranger to career defining roles.  Though she has had a long career on the Broadway stage and made her mark in the indie rock world, prior to next to normal, theatre audiences will likely first remember her as Violet - one-half of the Hilton conjoined-twins - in Side Show (which earned Ripley her first Tony nomination).   

As Diana Goodman in next to normal, Ripley is a revelation.  Reprising the role that earned her a Tony Award for best actress in a musical, Ripley brings a passionate and complex character to life with such heartbreaking pain and grief.  When she sings, she sings from her soul with such anguish that it is almost entrancing.  Ripley is by far the strongest component in next to normal, but she shares the stage equally with every member of the ensemble who helps to make up Diana in all her glory and her pain.

If Ripley is the strongest member of the cast then Los Angeles native, Emma Hunton (Natalie) is a close second and could not have been a more perfect daughter to Diana.  While the characters of Dan or even Gabe should have been the stronger supporting leads, it was Hunton whose performance really stood out in the cast.  She brought more depth and personality to the character than (I) have seen before with a pretty fantastic voice to boot.  As the child living the in the shadow of her more beloved brother (Superboy and the Invisible Girl), her Natalie was more sassy than angry and vulnerable than hurt.  Hunton as Natalie really fought to be seen in a family overrun by the past with such grace and force.
Curt Hansen, Emma Hunton, Preston Sadlier, Jeremy Kushiner, Alice Ripley, Asa Somers
As Gabe, Curt Hansen was ironically sometimes overshadowed by the vocal powerhouse of his sister Natalie (Hunton) while still very good.  Hansen managed to hit his character's high notes with relative ease and still managed to hold his own as he effortlessly soared through the three-story stage around poles and gliding up and down flights of stairs at a time.

Asa Somers (who played the role of Dr. Madden during the show's off-Broadway engagement at Second Stage Theatre) graduated to the role of Dan Goodman on-tour, Jeremy Kushnier as Dr. Madden/Dr. Fine and Preston K. Sadleir (who played was a very sweet Henry) rounded out the well-cast remaining members of the touring company of next to normal.

next to normal is a very important piece of contemporary musical theatre which in this case  legitimately earns the title of groundbreaking.  Other contemporary shows have brought something new (whether it be stylistic because of the music or staging) to the musical theatre landscape, but next to normal faces real issues like mental illness, suicide, drug addiction (which makes it sound like an episode of Oprah) head on and bares the soul of theses issues and its affect for all to see.

next to normal runs through January 2 at Los Angeles' Ahmanson Theatre.  Click for tickets and more information on the LA run or to find out when the show is coming to a city near you, click for tour info.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


It was a musical theatre-filled week for me.  In addition to seeing Les Misérables: The 25th Anniversary Concert, I also had an opportunity to attend both Daddy Long Legs (music and lyrics by Paul Gordon and book by John Caird) at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts and Randy Newman's Harps and Angels at The Mark Taper Forum.

I don't know about all of you, but the idea of a new musical is as exciting as it is a little unsettling.  When I see a new show, I really want to like it.  I try to go in with an open mind and attitude with the hope of finding joy in new (or experienced) writers and composers and the mark they will make on the American musical theatre landscape.  I mean, if it were not for producers and audiences embracing new writers, there would be no Next to Normal, In the Heights or websites like New Musical Theatre (NMT) (which supports, celebrates and embraces the work of new writers by giving them a place to distribute and promote their music/sheet music).  These two shows have brought me new joy and appreciation for the modern musical and I have discovered countless composers and the most gorgeous of songs because of  NMT.  So it is safe to say that in regard to Daddy Long Legs and Harps and Angels...that I wanted to like them.

(l-r) Marla Schaffel and James Barbour
Back in 1999, Jane Eyre the Musical had its out-of-town tryout at San Diego's La Jolla Playhouse with music and lyrics by Paul Gordon and book by John Caird - the same team that gave Daddy Long Legs its er...feet.  By then, I had long been a fan of both Charlotte Brontë and Jane Eyre (the novel) and the idea of a musical about Jane and Mr. Rochester sounded perfect.  I wish it was.  In short, the show (in my opinion) was slow, dragging and could not hold my interest.  Though it eventually made its way to Broadway and garnered a Tony nomination for best musical, it wasn't my cup of tea because it was literally so dark, the music wasn't the most memorable...etc, etc.  Despite how I felt about Jane Eyre the Musical, I hoped that Daddy Long Legs would be more appealing.

It was.

(l-r) Rob Hancock and Megan McGinnis
...but it wasn't.  I thought the score was beautiful and to hear it sung by Megan McGinnis was a treat for anyone who has the pleasure of attending the show.  Truly, her voice is so beautiful and her energy is so perfectly suited for the role of Jerusha Abbot.  McGinnis as Jerusha is bright, charming, inquisitive, thoughtful and has a light and appeal that draws the audience member into Jerusha's life.  Every letter Jerusha sent to Jervis Pendleton (performed by Rob Hancock) unfolded a new layer into the story being told and as a result brought new insight to the two characters - it was well thought out, but slow and perhaps took up too much time setting the foundation for the story.  Thus, the show was long.  Over two hours long.  24 songs sung by two actors (mostly by McGinnis) spanning a four year period.  I must admit, that after the opening number, I found myself feeling restless and a little bit bored...but by intermission I felt more invested in the life of Jerusha and the intention behind Jervis' lies.

I can't say that I was head over heals in love with Daddy Long Legs, but I did think it was time well spent at the theatre.  The story was an interesting one to tell and makes total sense as a musical.  I hope that at some point, Paul Gordon and John Caird tighten and focus the story just a little bit because while good, it has the potential to be even better.

*     *     *

Randy Newman
As a lifelong Angeleno, I have always known of the song, I Love L.A. and realize that it has become our town's anthem.  That song was my one of my first run-ins with Randy Newman's music. I Think Its Going to Rain Today was my second.  His music always stayed with me because it is so deep and meaningful in a way that I didn't quite understand upon first listen, but the moment I needed it the most, I know exactly where to retrieve it.  I never forgot a single one of Newman's songs that I've heard whose lyrics really touched me and I don't imagine I ever will.

The one comment I hear, read and believe myself is that nothing about Newman's music is simple.  Every lyric is complex and intwined with such emotion that gets to your core and your heart.  Newman's music has definitely been an anthem during various phases of my own life in which I have listened to it over and over and somehow it gave me peace or comfort.  One of my personal favorite songs of Newman's is Real Emotional Girl and through this performance, discovered the song Feels Like Home which I now absolutely love.

(l-r) Katey Segal, Matthew Saldivar
I hesitate to call Harps and Angels a revue, because to me, that suggests a kitschy collection of music, skit and performance and this show is hardly kitschy.  Harps and Angels is more of a Newman song cycle but of music both popular and from film from the 1970s to present day in which the personal and the socio-political entwine creating a compelling, honest and humorous commentary on what it is like to be born, grow up, fall in love, and live and die in America.  The six person cast - Ryder Bach, Storm Large, Adriane Lenox, Michael McKean, Katey Segal, Matthew Saldivar - were a mix of talent with musical theatre, singer/songwriter and popular music backgrounds, all of whom delivered interesting and yet meaningful interpretations of Newman's songs.  In particular though, it was a pleasure seeing Segal perform - not because most people think of her as some iconic 80s sitcom character (its the last thing I think of) - but because she has such a beautiful voice and I have long been a fan of hers from a music perspective.

Its amazing that the Randy Newman lexicon is so diverse yet when the right songs are put together and the right singer performs them, these songs tell a story and sends a message (sometimes subtle, sometimes glaringly obvious) about life and Harps and Angels did just that.

Harps and Angels runs through December 22 at the Mark Taper Forum.

**If you get a hold of the Performances program for (I believe) any of CTGLA's shows (Venice at the Kirk Douglas, Harps and Angels at the Taper and NEXT TO NORMAL at the Ahmanson) in the month of November, check out page 28.  Yes, I am in the unexpected, so grateful!!!**


On October 8, 1985 - 25 years ago - Les Misérables the musical (English version) debuted in London’s Barbicon Theatre before transferring to West End’s Palace Theatre in December of that same year.  The famed musical by Claude-Michel Schöenberg (composer) and Alain Bublil (libretto) has since become a worldwide favorite, translated into 21 different languages and played in 42 countries and 291 cities including Serbia, the Channel Islands and the Philippines.  In 1995, Les Misérables celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a “dream cast” concert at Royal Albert Hall starring Colm Wilkinson (originated the English language role) as Jean Valjean, Lea Salonga as Eponine, Alun Armstrong as Thénardier and Michael Ball as Marius (both of whom originated their English language role).  For the most part, I wouldn’t argue this “dream cast” and often looked at it as my quintessential Les Misérables cast.

The 25th anniversary musical concert was comprised of some unknown talent (to me) like Alfie Boe (Jean Valjean), Ramin Karimloo (Enjorlas), Samantha Barks (Eponine) as well as "known" Broadway talents like Norm Lewis (Javert) and Lea Salonga (Fantine).  Then...there was Nick Jonas as Marius (more on that later). Like many of you, I feel confident in stating that I consider myself well-versed in Les Miz having first seen it (on tour) in the early ‘90s.  Since then, I have seen various productions of it locally, on Broadway, in concert, staged reading and as a result seen some great and not so great productions.  While I will always think of Wilkinson as the quintessential Jean Valejan, I have been highly impressed with the last few actors I’ve seen in the role including J. Mark McVey (Hollywood Bowl) and particularly Boe (25th Anniversary concert).

Alfie Boe (who incidentally has a solo album coming out December 27th) is to put it mildly, an incredible talent.  As a trained operatic singer from Royal Academy of Music in England, Boe's credits include the lead in Baz Luhrman’s La Boheme (Tony Award) as well as appearing with Michael Ball in Kismet in London’s West End.  Though I had never heard of him before, I am sure to follow his career now!  To say that his voice is just phenomenal is an immense understatement.  Really, there’s nothing more to say other than to watch and listen:

Unfortunately, the rest of the 25th anniversary cast didn’t blow me away like Boe did.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t have anything to say about it.  I have long been a supporter of Norm Lewis and have not heard him sound anything but great in everything.  He was probably not the most convincing Javert I’ve ever seen, but he was still good nonetheless.  Samantha Barks as Eponine and Ramin Karimloo as Enjrolas I thought were great finds too as I’ve never heard of either of them before.

Who would've ever thought I'd have a photo of a Jonas on my blog!
Now comes my real issue with this (mostly) terrific 25th anniversary concert of Les MizNick Jonas.  Let me first start by saying that though he is a member of the tween-loving boy band, The Jonas Brothers, I had no expectations of him as Marius.  I have no prior experience with him as a singer and a lot of pop singers can actually be really good singers.  My goal was to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Could he be that bad?  Before I answer, let me start off by saying that the role of Marius is a relatively big one (it is one of the major characters in the story after Valjean, Javert, Fantine, Cosette, Eponine and M. and Mme. Thénardier).  The character is important and the actor cast must be a good singer (naturally) and sound like the strong, revolutionary scholar that he is – without these important qualities, he would be just another ordinary extra cast in Les Miz.  Here are my observations of Jonas throughout Les Miz:

  1. When he was onstage, Jonas looked as if he didn’t know where to look.  As a performer who probably often makes eye contact with his adoring and screaming teenage fans, he looked like he was making a concerted effort to try not to break the 4th wall (it looked forced to me), but where was he looking?  He was looking up, looking down, when he was interacting with Cosette or Eponine and should have been looking at them...he was not.
  2. In addition to not knowing where to look, Jonas' demeanor looked highly uncomfortable on stage – very stiff as if he knew he didn’t belong on that stage with the likes of Boe, Salonga Lewis and the 300 chorus members of various Les Miz casts. 
  3. He was certainly the most timid, wimpy Marius I’ve ever seen.  I’ve never seen a more miscast actor in the role and this really disappointed me. As one who is considered a singer, I don’t think Jonas was strong enough of a singer for this role.  He could barely hit the notes, he sounded flat and just didn’t do the role justice (understatement).
  4. Jonas receded into the background and every actor he sang with (particularly Barks as Eponine and Katie Hall as Cosette) completely overpowered him.  There was no power in Jonas' voice, he looked and sounded as if he were straining to just to complete his songs.  He was completely forgettable.
  5. To be honest, Jonas' performance at best was cringe-worthy.  I literally could go on and on about my disappointment of Jonas as Marius, but these are my top 5 reasons why I was displeased with his performance.  I hate to be so mean, but Jonas’ performance just didn’t work.  
Moral of this list?  Neither Jonas nor his voice were suited for the role of Marius.  My question is really for the casting director (or whoever made the final decision on Jonas).  I know that he has previous experience on Broadway (as the final Gavroche in the original Broadway production of Les Miz) but he simply did not work this time.  Was he having an off-day when this concert was filmed?  What was the  real reason for casting him as Marius?  Was it stunt casting in the hopes of getting the tween contingency to attend Les Miz (we certainly had them screaming in the theatre for this screening).  I just don’t get it.  Someone, send me an email and explain it to me.

All in all though (with the exception of a certain casting faux pas), I thought that the 25th anniversary Les Miz concert was a hit.  It reminded me why I have loved the show for over 15 years and counting.  Ironically, the stand-out moment of the entire concert was Valjean quartet.  Amazing.  Breathtaking:


This was a close second:

Saturday, November 06, 2010


 Some of the most important memories of my childhood were the (many) times I saw Annie (the first time I saw the show at the Shubert Theatre in Los Angeles, Annie was played by the talented Marisa Morell). I was completely entranced (obsessed really) by the score, the music and the little girls singing and dancing (I always thought I should have been one of them) - I wore out several copies of the cassette version of the original cast recording and attempted (in vain) to learn how to play the piano score. Andrea McArdle (who in 1977 was the youngest actress nominated for best actress in a musical for playing the title role) was my first musical theatre hero because it was her voice I first heard as Annie on the Original Cast Recording (OCR). I tried so hard to sing like her when friends and I would perform numbers from Annie in my backyard while wearing our Annie dresses. Needless to say, Annie easily became an extremely important piece of my childhood (and undoubtedly countless other little girls)!

(l-r) Melody Hollis, Andrea McArdle & Mikey
Throughout the years, there have been too many times to count that I have seen various stage productions of Annie. For some reason, each production I have seen never seems to be as good as the one before it. One production in particular I saw not too long ago was such a disappointment that I began to think that maybe my memory of the show was far better than the reality. Then, I saw Musical Theatre West’s production of Annie and that all changed. My inaugural visit to Musical Theatre West (now in its 58th season at the beautiful Richard and Karen Carpenter Performing Arts Center) did not disappoint. To start, my childhood hero, Andrea McArdle returned to the show that made her famous, but this time starring as the villainess, Miss Hannigan. Some 30-plus years after making her Broadway debut as the famous red-headed orphan, it is not difficult or strange to see McArdle return to the show as Annie’s nemesis. Quite the opposite actually – it was easy and refreshing to see McArdle as a more subtle Hannigan (funnier without being too campy). While excellent, McArdle’s performance never outshined that of Melody Hollis (Annie) who was easily one of the best Annies I’ve seen to date. In addition to having a strong, beautifully belt-y voice, there was an effortless spunkiness and nurturing quality to Hollis and an easy chemistry between her and each of her co-stars.

I thought that the chorus numbers were fantastic but never realized how significant the Hooverville number was until the strong performance by this ensemble. The girls who played the orphans – Jena Rosen, Paige Befeler, Alexa Freeman, Maddison Milledge, Danielle Soibelman and Grace Kaufman – were strong and made the ensemble orphan numbers highly enjoyable. As Oliver Warbucks, it was easy to see Jeff Austin as both a gruff corporate billionaire who seemed to naturally soften when in the presence of the talented Melody Hollis.

It is because of McArdle’s performance of Annie on the (OCR) that drew me to the show so many years ago and it is because of her current association with the show that I rediscovered my love for it again. If I were a little girl now, I think Hollis would be the reason I would be drawn to Annie the same way I was drawn to McArdle – her performance was energetic and delightfully sung and is one of the main reasons why this production worked so well.

(l-r) Jeff Austin, Melody Hollis
Annie runs for only 14 performances through November 14 at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 Atherton St., Long Beach, CA. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Call for tickets ($30-$80): (562) 856-1999 or
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