LA Theater Scene April shows & reviews

Los Angeles area theaters have fabulous shows in full bloom this Spring.

An American in Paris (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Review: AN AMERICAN IN PARIS is a musical so “‘S Wonderful and ‘S Marvelous,” playing at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood through April 9. The show takes its title from the MGM classic but it offers an engaging new story for the main characters in the City of Light. Jerry Mulligan (Garen Scribner superb in the iconic Gene Kelly role) is the American G.I. who decides to stay in Paris to become an artist after the war. He makes friends with budding composer Adam (charming Etai Benson), and wannabe cabaret singer Henri (debonair Nick Spangler). And you can’t blame the trio for being amorous with the la belle femme Lise (the mesmerizing Sara Esty), a shop girl who transforms into the prima ballerina who holds the audience spellbound for the “An American in Paris” ballet finale. Modern art serves as a backdrop to that masterpiece of dance.

The production is a showcase for the timeless tunes of George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin (“I Got Rhythm,” “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” “The Man I Love,” “But Not for Me,” “Shall We Dance,” etc.), and playwright Craig Lucas deserves credit for weaving the songs into the show. But it’s the direction and choreography by Christopher Wheeldon that creates the magic with the lead performers elevating the production numbers to a new classic status. An American in Paris is at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre for a short run March 22 through April 9, 2017. Go to www.hollywoodpantages.com.

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Preview: Mark your calendars– coming in May the Pantages Theater is presenting THE BODYGUARD, Musical, another stage musical that has been adapted from a blockbuster movie. The story follows former Secret Service agent turned bodyguard, Frank Farmer, who is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron from an unknown stalker. Each expects to be in charge – what they don’t expect is to fall in love. Following in the footsteps of the film’s star Whitney Houston, playing the diva is Grammy Award-nominated and multi-platinum recording artist Deborah Cox, with Judson Mills in the hunky bodyguard role. The score features Houston’s hit songs including “One Moment in Time,” “I Wanna Dance with Somebody,” and “I Will Always Love You.” The Bodyguard plays at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre from May 2 to 21, 2017. Go to www.hollywoodpantages.com.

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Alice in Wonderland’s Jillina

Preview: BELLYDANCE EVOLUTION PRESENTS: ALICE IN WONDERLAND at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, April 1 & 2. Bellydance Evolution invites the audience to step into the world of Alice in Wonderland, as the classic tale comes to life through world fusion and Middle Eastern dance. Under the artistic direction of international bellydance sensation Jillina, the cast creates an exotic tapestry of Middle Eastern dance and music, break dance, theatrical hip hop, contemporary dance, fusion and tribal dance for a journey into wonderland. The storyline unfolds to the sounds of an original score composed by Paul Dinletir and the live beats of Ozzy Ashkenazi. A must-see for everyone captivated by Bellydancing, the show is at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, April 1 & 2. Go to www.ElPortalTheatre.com.

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Preview: THE SECRET GARDEN is another great dance show at the El Portal Theatre, playing April 28, 29 & 30. Director/choreographer Josie Walsh promises to turn the classic tale upside down presenting a full length contemporary ballet set to an original cinematic score by composer Jealous Angel. Aerialists, multi-media digital set design, and shapeshifting costumes are interwoven in the cutting edge production with a variety of performances with distinctive artistry. Josie Walsh’s BalletRED presents The Secret Garden on the Main Stage at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, April 28, 29 & 30. Go to www.ElPortalTheatre.com.

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Preview: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF COMEDY (ABRIDGED), at the Falcon Theatre from March 22 through April 23, is a showcase of wonderful comedy. There’s a whole lot of funny stuff going on, from the high-brow to the low, bawdy burlesque and more modern sophisticated humor. Director Jerry Kernion creates a fast-paced ride that covers comedy through the ages, from Aristophanes to Shakespeare, Moliere to Vaudeville, Charlie Chaplin, event up to date with The Daily Show. Written by Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor, audiences will discover the answers to the age-old questions, “Who’s on first?” and “Why did the chicken cross the road?” The Complete History of Comedy (Abridged) is at The Falcon Theatre (4252 Riverside Dr., Toluca Lake) through April 23. Go to www.falcontheatre.com.

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Characters in “Elevator” (photo by Michele Young)

Preview: ELEVATOR is back in LA by popular demand for a limited run at the Coast Playhouse in West Hollywood from March 25 through April 30. It is Michael Leoni’s celebrated play about seven strangers who get stuck in an elevator. It is an eclectic bunch stuff into the elevator– a female CEO, Business Man, Office Temp, Hot Girl, Musician, Maintenance Man and Goth Girl. And it’s only a matter of time before their real selves are exposed. When forced together, given nothing but four walls and each other, these archetypes prove to be anything but typical. Their preconceived notions, stereotypes and judgments are challenged at every turn, as one by one, they shed their masks and reveal their truths.

The cast features Devon Werkheiser (Nickelodeon’s Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide) William Stanford Davis (Showtime’s Ray Donovan), Deborah Vancelette (FX Terriers), David Abed (Blue Man Group), Karsen Rigby, Erica Katzin, Kristina St. Peter and Tyler Tanner. Laced with musical sequences and cinematic style, Elevator is a comedic and emotional ride into the human psyche and asks the fundamental question: Who are you behind closed doors? For tickets go to www.Plays411.com/ELEVATOR.

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Simon McBurney in The Encounter

Preview: THE ENCOUNTER at The Wallis Theatre in Beverly Hills, April 6 through 16, is a one-of-a-kind immersive theater experience. The dazzling show played on Broadway to overwhelming critical acclaim. This is a truly original and astonishing night of theater must be experienced to be believed. Once you take your seat, your senses are engaged in breathtaking ways. Through the use of cutting-edge aural technology and virtuosic storytelling, director and star Simon McBurney leads you on an epic journey from the intimacy of his home in London to deep into the Amazon rainforest.

The Encounter tells the true story of National Geographic photographer Loren McIntyre lost in a remote area of Brazil in 1969, which leads to a startling encounter that will change his life. But the experience simultaneously plunges you into a visceral inner voyage. As McIntyre’s tale reaches its climax, the extraordinary performance asks some of the most urgent questions of today: about how we live and what we believe to be true. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to encounter true theatrical magic for 12 performances only, April 6 through 16, at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, in the Bram Goldsmith Theater, located at 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills. Go to www.TheWallis.org.

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Preview: THE ORIGINALIST at the Pasadena Playhouse, April 11 through May 7, tells the story of a bright, liberal law school graduate who embarks on a nerve-wracking clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and discovers him to be both an infuriating sparring partner and an unexpected mentor. Written by John Strand and directed by Molly Smith the show stars four-time Helen Hayes Award-winner Edward Gero as Antonin Scalia, Jade Wheeler as Cat, and Brett Mack as Brad. The Originalist is playing at The Pasadena Playhouse (39 S. El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101) on April 11 through May 7. Go to www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org.

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Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to be half of the husband and wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who have written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 30 years.

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