Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter at The Wallis
The ingenious production of Noël Coward’s Brief Encounter is being presented by the UK’s renowned Kneehigh Theatre Company for a limited engagement (through March 23) at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills.
The multi-media stage production was inspired by director David Lean’s beloved movie and switches seamlessly between theater and brief film scenes which drive the waves of passion, as well as the passing trains. The show is cleverly adapted from Noël Coward’s original stage play Still Life and Coward’s screenplay of the 1945 British film. The audience is transported back to a bygone era of romance “that will end in tears,” as we learn early on.
The haunting love story stars Hannah Yelland as the conflicted married Laura, Jim Sturgeon as the amorous Alec, Joe Alessi as the steadfast husband Fred, and a comical supporting cast who sings little dittys that reflect the action. Directed and adapted by Emma Rice, the railway station affair plays out with well-done heartbreaking performances. There are just a few brief interludes of Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto #2,” which provided the memorable score for the classic movie, but it cluminates with that music echoing throughout The Wallis’ Bram Goldsmith Theater. The experience is mesmerizing. Go to www.thewallis.org. #
Also seen at The Wallis, Love, Noël: The Letters and Songs of Noël Coward is a sophisticated night out featuring John Glover (Smallville) as the cheeky Mr. Coward, and Judy Kuhn playing all his chic lady friends. In the style of Love Letters, they read the great playwright’s correspondence and sing songs that span six decades of wit and flamboyance.
Love, Noël only plays until Feb. 23 at The Wallis’ Lovelace Studio Theater, which has been transformed into an intimated cabaret setting, thanks to the spirits and posh nosh served up by the Luxe of Beverly Hills. #
Bunny Bunny at The Falcon Theatre
Grabbing the spotlight at the Falcon Theatre, Bunny Bunny is a funny show about Gilda Radner, one of the most hilarious ladies to come from the Saturday Night Live cast. And the play “Bunny Bunny—Gilda Radner: A Sort of Romantic Comedy” was written by Alan Zweibel, her devoted friend and the award-winning original SNL writer who had Gilda as his muse.
The play focuses on the lifelong and complicated friendship between Radner and Zweibel that takes turns being comical, heartwarming, and ultimately heartbreaking. It starts when the pair “meet cute” behind a potted plant on the set of SNL. Capturing the frustrating chemistry of the life-long buddies are ultra-enthusiastic Erin Pineda as ‘Gilda,’ and steadfast Brendan Hunt as ‘Alan.’ Both squeeze the maximum laughs out of a line.
But it’s the bittersweet moments they share that make the show a fresh emotional piece directed by Dimitri Toscas. Tom Fonss plays “Everyone Else,” transforming himself into whatever is needed to play out a scene—crazy waiter, new boyfriend, Andy Warhol, Gene Wilder, etc. It’s playing at The Falcon Theatre in Toluca Lake through March 2. Go to www.falcontheatre.com. #
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at NoHo’s El Portal
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is playing at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood. The Tony-winning musical captures the wild humor and heart that can be found in watching childhood angst captured in an energetic comedy with fun songs.
The “Bee” is a family show that spotlights the coming-of-age of competitive pubescent kids and the odd grown-ups who oversee the county’s spelling championship. The six “youngsters” are perfectly cast and fulfill every geeky stereotype with gusto. Erik Scott Romney embodies gloomy William Barfee (a running joke name) and his “magic spelling foot.” Giving the greatest nuance to her performance, Kimberly Hessler is heartbreaking as the lonely Olive Ostrovsky; Nicole Santiago-Barredo nails the fierce over-achiever Marcy Park; Travis Dixon excels as eager-beaver scout Chip Tolentino; Craig McEldowney blossoms as awkward flower-child Leaf Coneybear; and Leigh Golden hits all the right notes as liberal crusader Logainne.
The “adults” shine too. Emily King Brown shows off her powerful voice as the moderator and former Bee-champion Rona Lisa Perretti, who relives her past glory as often as possible. Chuck McCollum plays the easily provoked vice-principal Douglas Panch; and John Devereaux is way-cool as Mitch Mahoney, the comfort counselor who sends the losers on their way with a song and a juice box.
Spelling Bee is a triumph for director Kristin Towers-Rowles. Her energetic staging infuses the show with oomph. It runs through March 1 at the El Portal’s Monroe Forum, North Hollywood. Go to www.elportaltheatre.com. This is the first show of Kelrik Production’s 2014 Discover Season. Other shows include Pinkalicious and Disney’s Tarzan. For more info go to www.kelrikproductions.org. #
The kids show White at The Wallis
Introducing youngsters to the joys of the theater is the goal of the new Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. The inaugural season is off to a great start with innovative children’s shows and family entertainment. Next up on the schedule is Scotland’s acclaimed Catherine Wheels Theatre Company performing their original offbeat comedy White. It’s about two friends Cotton and Wrinkle who discover magic when color appears in their all-white world. Playing Feb. 26 to Mar. 23. Go to www.thewallis.org. #