There’s a new old fashion musical, I Only Have Eyes For You, and old fashion politics, The City of Conversation, and more shows turning LA into a theater town.
Review: I Only Have Eyes For You—The Life and Lyrics of Al Dubin is presented at the Montalban Theatre in the heart of Hollywood (playing from May 10 to June 12). It’s a dandy new musical that has a vintage aura since it’s about the renowned 1930s lyricist Al Dubin, who wrote the most popular songs of the era. What makes the show a joy is hearing 21 of his classic tunes, including “42nd Street,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off to Buffalo,” “About a Quarter to Nine,” and “We’re in the Money.” Dubin’s songs were immortalized by the top performers of the day including Al Jolson, Ruby Keeler, Cab Calloway, and the legendary Busby Berkeley’s extravagant motion picture production numbers packed with beautiful showgirls.
The show follows Al Dubin as his songwriter career is launched just as he meets the girl of his dreams and is shipped off to fight in World War I. The songwriter is played magnificently by Jared Gertner, who gives the role many layers of emotion. Despite success on Broadway and in Hollywood, Dubin’s inner demons are revealed over the years. Nikki Bohne plays his showgirl/wife Helen Dubin, and she subtly captures the pain of loving someone who is self-destructive. She is also a captivating singer who really shines with the title song “I Only Have Eyes For You.”
Every detail of this show hits all the right notes, from the casting of the leads, the supporting players, chorus girls and guys, energetic tap dancing, costumes, scenery, etc. It brings to light the era of the Golden Age of Hollywood and Broadway, and thanks should go to the legendary musician Corky Hale who produced this show. She certainly knows talent and a good story to tell through classic songs. The book of I Only Have Eyes For You is by Jerry Leichtling and Arlene Sarner, musical direction by Gerald Sternbach and the production is directed and choreographed by Kay Cole. Go to www.themontalban.com. #
Review: City of Conversation is at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills (playing May 17 to June 4). It is a relevant and riveting story from playwright Anthony Giardina who takes a look at old fashion politics through the lens of an activist/hostess who tries to sway opinion via Washington, D.C.’s social scene.
The brilliant Christine Lahti plays Hester Ferris, the grand dame of Georgetown, who gets the conversations going at her dinner parties, which serve to mend fences of political rivals and get agendas moving along in a civil manner. But that’s the backstory to the tale that begins in the late ’70s when that house of cards starts to fold. The story covers 30 years from Carter to the Obama administration, and focuses on the new conservative perspective emerging as Reagan rises. And Hester’s life is never the same.
The play is filled with unexpected plot twists for all the actors. Jason Ritter gives an inspired performance playing Hester’s son Colin, and that relationship serves to illuminate the devastating clash of viewpoints. Georgia King portrays Colin’s fiancée Anna; Deborah Offner as Hester’s sister Jean; Steven Culp as Hester’s mate Chandler; David Selby and Michael Learned as Senator Mallonee and his wife Carolyn; plus Nicholas Oteri and Johnny Ramey complete the stellar cast.
The City of Conversation was skillfully directed by Michael Wilson and runs through June 4 at the Bram Goldsmith Theater at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Go to www.thewallis.org. #
For the kids at The Wallis is Children’s Theatre Company’s Seedfolks, adapted from the book by Paul Fleischman. The show features Sonja Parks in a raw, inspiring story you’ll never forget. Thirteen very different voices—old, young, Haitian, Hispanic, tough, haunted and hopeful—tell one amazing story about a garden that transforms a neighborhood. Directed by Peter C. Brosius in the intimate Lovelace Studio Theater at The Wallis, the performances on June 4 and 5 last a kid-friendly 60 minutes, no intermission. Go to www.thewallis.org/seedfolks. #
At the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood is the production of IN & OF ITSELF by master storyteller and award-winning magician Derek DelGaudio. The unique theatrical experience has been extended for a second time for an additional two week run, now through July 10, 2016 in the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse.
Directed by four-time Emmy winner Frank Oz, featuring original music by Mark Mothersbaugh, the show is produced by Glenn Kaino, and presented in association with Tom Werner.
The radically new show, redefines magic as it invites audiences to explore themes of identity and truth. Filled with allegorical illusions, IN & OF ITSELF is said to be constructed as a metaphoric labyrinth that transcends the physical and temporal limits of the performance itself. Wow! Go to www.geffenplayhouse.org. #
Another show at The Geffen Playhouse is Big Sky (playing from June 7 to July 17). Making its World Premiere the play is described as a funny and poignant cautionary tale about the perils of pretense and the fragility of family, written by Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros and directed by John Rando. Big Sky features Arnie Burton, Emily Robinson, Jon Tenney, and Jennifer Westfeldt. Go to www.geffenplayhouse.org. #
42nd STREET is at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood (from May 31 to June 19). It’s a song and dance fable of Broadway with an American Dream story and some of the greatest songs ever written (by Al Dubin), including “We’re In The Money,” “Lullaby of Broadway,” “Shuffle Off To Buffalo,” “I Only Have Eyes For You” and of course “42nd Street.” 42nd STREET is directed by co-author Mark Bramble and choreographed by Randy Skinner, the Broadway team who staged the 2001 Tony Award winning Best Revival of a Musical. Go to www.hollywoodpantages.com. #