LA Theater Scene December 2015: Cash on Delivery, IF/THEN, Peter Pan, Guys & Dolls, Fritz Coleman, ABBA Mania on LA stages.
CASH ON DELIVERY, December 3 – 20, at The El Portal Theatre
Cash on Delivery, Dec. 3 – 20, May the farce be with you! Yes, Michael Cooney’s riotous British farce is the must-see show for folks who want to get though the holidays laughing their socks off. It is hilarious, akin to the cleverness of a Neil Simon comedy, and has played around the world. What makes Cash On Delivery so ultra-entertaining is the pedigree of the team behind the production. Presenting British humor at its best is London theatrical legend Ray Cooney at the helm directing a stellar international cast in the play written by his son Michael Cooney (acclaimed screenwriter of Identity starring John Cusack).
“My son Michael has written the play, I’m the father and I’ve directed the play, as well as playing the role of Uncle George. At the same time the play is being performed, my wife Linda Cooney has an art exhibition of her paintings in the lobby of the theatre. So that’s one-upmanship over Neil Simon and Shakespeare that I’ve done it,” proudly announced Ray Cooney, who can also boast of having Queen Elizabeth II bestowing an OBE, the Order of the British Empire, on him for his contributions to British Theatre.
Actor-director-producer-playwright, Ray Cooney is best known by Brits for his Run for Your Wife farce that ran for nine years in London’s West End. He’s had dozens of his plays performed there and many more around the world.
Ray is especially enthusiastic about bringing Cash On Delivery to the El Portal and excited to let people know that it’s a jolly good show. “It just enthralls the audience. Within five minutes everyone is totally involved in the story and the laughter lasts the whole evening. To be an actor, as well as the director, for this play is the best feeling in the world.”
The hilarious show is about a likable conman Eric Swan who has managed to fiddle benefits from every department of social services, unemployment, and the rest of the government. Now remorseful he genuinely wants to put an end to the scams– but the government bureaucrats want to keep throwing cash at him. “As the play goes on, all the lies begin to unravel and engulf him. On top of that his wife has been unaware of his deceptive activities, so mayhem follows,” Cooney explained.
Heading the cast is Jim Mahoney as swindler Eric Swan, and Henrietta Meire as his wife Linda Swan; Sam Meader as Norman Mc Donald, Katie Amess as Sally Chessington, Marie-France Arcilla as Miss Dixon, Debra Cardona as Ms. Cowper, Brian Wallace as Mr. Jenkins, Michael Sweeney Hammond as Dr. Chapman, Hap Lawrence as Mr. Forbright, and Ray Cooney as Uncle George. They all lampoon government agencies in the feel-good comedy for the common man. Visit www.ElPortalTheatre.com. #
IF/THEN, Dec. 8–Jan. 3, the Hollywood Pantages Theatre
IF/THEN stars Tony Award-winner and Broadway superstar Idina Menzel (Wicked, Rent, Frozen, Glee) at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre for a limited four-week engagement, Dec. 8 through January 3, 2016. It is a thought provoking contemporary musical that explores the lives we could have led depending on which road we take, and the chances that give us infinite possibilities.
With her signature soaring voice, Menzel returns to her acclaimed performance in the National Tour of IF/THEN. She plays Elizabeth, a woman rebuilding her life in New York City, and we follow her parallel lives based on the choices she makes. Her Broadway costars join her, with James Snyder (Cry-Baby) as the Army doctor who gives Liz the best chance at happiness; Anthony Rapp (RENT) as her college pal and passionate community activist; and Tony Award winner LaChanze (The Color Purple) as the exuberant best friend who makes life exciting for everyone no matter what road you’re on.
It is a complicated musical that is fresh and exciting. Menzel said, “IF/THEN is expecially meaningful for me because I had the opportunity to develop it for several years with the creative team, whom I have come to consider family.” It is directed by Michael Greif, who also directed Menzel and Rapp in Rent. Visit www.hollywoodpantages.com. #
PETER PAN AND TINKER BELL—A Pirates Christmas, Dec. 9 – Jan. 3, at the Pasadena Playhouse
Peter Pan and Tinker Bell—A Pirates Christmas is a holiday treat playing at the Pasadena Playhouse, Dec. 9 through Jan. 3, 2016. Done in the traditional British Panto style the rip-roaring musical from Lythgoe Family Productions is packed with hit songs playing on the radio today and has an awesome cast.
John O’Hurley (Dancing With The Stars, Seinfeld) is the wicked and wacky Captain Hook. Sabrina Carpenter is “Wendy,” and is joined by her Girl Meets World castmates, Corey Fogelmanis as “John” and August Maturo as “Michael.” Kevin Quinn (Bunk’d) is the heroic swashbuckling “Peter Pan,” with Chrissie Fit (Pitch Perfect 2) as Tinker Bell, Nikki SooHoo (The Lovely Bones) as “Tiger Lily,” and Parvesh Cheena as Smee. There’s a great ensemble of singers and So You Think You Can Dance dancers, plus magic and lots of comedy. It features great show-stopping songs like Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” helping families have a wonderful experience at the theater.
Directed by Bonnie Lythgoe (So You Think You Can Dance). This is the sixth year a Panto show has been produced (with Becky Baeling Lythgoe) and written by Kris Lythgoe, who says, “PETER PAN is the best Panto ever because the story and characters are so rich in imagination. Captain Hook is the ultimately baddie that you secretly want to love. And Peter is obviously the child inside us all that we wished never grew up. The plot itself revolves around the Pirates wishing to capture Pan for Hook’s Christmas present, so we manage to meld this fun story to the original J.M. Barrie tale with a few twists and turns.”
Although an experienced recording artist, Sabrina Carpenter says it’s her first time doing live theater. “I’m excited to do a Panto because I’ll get to interact with the audience, and it’s fun for the whole family. The music also makes it special, with classic songs for the adults, and the stuff kids can relate to with songs on the radio today. And it’s all put into a familiar story that everybody loves, but with some fun twists.” Visit www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org. #
GUYS & DOLLS, Dec. 1 – 20, at The Wallis in Beverly Hills
Guys & Dolls has a limited holiday run at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, from Dec. 1 through Dec. 20. The Broadway classic has more than a dozen hit songs by Frank Loesser, including the high-rollers’ anthem Luck Be a Lady. And the exuberant show is full of fabulous Damon Runyon characters– gambling rascals and their lovely dolls.
The Wallis is presenting the acclaimed Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) production of Guys & Dolls, and director Mary Zimmerman wisely stays true to the timeless 1951 musical, but adds some unique staging, sets, and casting to enhance the winning show.
The cast fills the stage with an exhilarating atmosphere created by the pure talent of the performers. And that is where the spotlight belongs—on the performers who bring the characters to life. Hitting the high notes in their roles are high-energy show-stopping Rodney Gardiner as Nathan Detroit, purveyor of everyone’s favorite floating crap game in New York; and his doll Robin Goodrin Nordli, a smash as the ailing Adelaide. The smooth Jeremy Peter Johnson is perfect as Sky Masterson, and Kate Hurster is the mission doll Sarah Brown out to save his soul and loose her heart. Daniel T. Parker’s role as Nicely-Nicely was another big treat with Sit Down You’re Rockin’ the Boat, along with an ensemble that soars with Doug Peck’s Music Direction and Daniel Pelzig’s choreography. Visit www.theWallis.org. #
FRITZ COLEMAN’S DEFYING GRAVITY, Dec. 13, 20, & 27 at 2 pm, at The El Portal
Fritz Coleman’s Defying Gravity features Southern California’s beloved NBC4 weatherman Fritz Coleman giving his hysterical take on growing up and growing old. His one-man show/baby boomer support group has three matinee performances in the El Portal’s intimate Monroe Forum Theatre, Dec. 13, 20 and 27 at 2 p.m. The show’s theme is “Getting old isn’t pretty…but it sure is funny,” and Coleman gives every aspect of aging his own outrageously funny insight. “Old is good,” he says. “If you made it to ‘old,’ you made it!” It’s 90 minutes of belly laughs–and laughter is always the best medicine. Visit www.ElPortalTheatre.com. #
ABBA MANIA, Dec. 29 – Jan. 2, at The El Portal Theatre
Abba Mania for the Holidays, Dec. 29 – Jan. 2, is a show direct from London’s West End that lets audiences relive the chart-topping dance hits of one of the world’s biggest musical acts, ABBA. All their favorite songs from Mama Mia are in this concert including “Knowing Me, Knowing You,” “SOS,” “Mama Mia,” “The Winner Takes It All,” and, of course, “Dancing Queen!” This British company has played all over the world and returns to Los Angeles for the El Portal’s end of year holiday performances and celebrations. Join the fun with the biggest New Year’s Eve Party with the show, food, champagne and special surprise. Visit www.ElPortalTheatre.com. #