LA theater reviews & previews, musicals big & small–Miss Saigon, Spitfire Grill, Firebringer, & Friends!

 Musicals in Los Angeles continue to offer something for everyone in theaters big and small, from the powerful production of Miss Saigon, to the inspiring Spitfire Grill the Musical about embracing love and second chances, plus the new stone-age adult musical comedy FIREBRINGER, and the super-fun FRIENDS! The Musical Parody.

Miss Saigon stars Anthony Festa, Emily Bautista (photo by Matthew Murphy)

Review: MISS SAIGON, at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre is presented from July 16 through August 11.

 Miss Saigon, currently playing at the Pantages, is a heart-wrenching, jaw-dropping spectacle that touches your soul. And it’s the most emotional production that has ever been presented of this musical.

 The story focuses on the journey of a sweet young Vietnamese woman Kim (performed by Broadway’s Emily Bautista with extraordinary power and pain). She meets and falls in love with another tormented soul, American G.I. Chris (the outstanding Anthony Festa) just before the fall of Saigon. That encounter changes their lives forever. It is an epic tragedy inspired by Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly.

 It is filled with soaring music—by Claude-Michel Schönberg, lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil, additional lyrics by Michael Mahler— and great production numbers for the cast of 42. Among the highlights are the songs “The Heat is On in Saigon,” “Last Night of the World,” “I Still Believe,” and “Bui Doi,” which means “dust of life,” referring to the kids fathered by G.I.s and the Vietnamese women, abandoned at the end of the war. The song is a mighty moment for J. Daughtry who plays John, an ex-soldier who tries to help them.

 The entertaining showstopper called “American Dream” is sung by the smarmy pimp character called The Engineer, who is played with gusto by Red Concepcion. He runs the Saigon bar/brothel Dreamland, and engineers the connection between the G.I.s and the hopeless girls in war-torn Vietnam. The direction by Laurence Connor is uncompromisingly loud and gritty with a frantic atmosphere, especially for the Saigon airlift helicopter scene, presenting a thunderous show audiences will never forget.

 MISS SAIGON plays through August 11 at the Hollywood Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood & Vine in Hollywood. For tickets go to the box office, phone 800-982-2787, or go to

The Spitfire Grill stars Erich Schroeder, Rachel Sarah Mount, Linda Kerns, Ashley Argota, Joey Ruggiero (photo by Aaron Batzdorff)

Review: THE SPITFIRE GRILL, An American Musical, at the Garry Marshall Theatre, through August 11.

 The Spitfire Grill isn’t just about life, it’s about how life gets better when you reach out and help someone. Filled with heart-felt songs that capture the “love and second chances” theme, this musical serves up characters that we can embrace and call friends.

 The setting is the only diner in Gilead, a tiny town that saw better times when the quarry was open. That’s where just-out-of-prison Percy (compelling Rachel Sarah Mount, whose voice is as powerful as her performance) gets a job. Sheriff Joe (Erich Schroeder, playing his role stoic yet sweet) introduces her to Hannah (Sarah Saviano, so strong and convincing), the grumpy owner of the Spitfire Grill.

 The suspicious town folk sing about “Something’s Cooking at the Spitfire Grill,” then Percy, belts out “Into the Frying Pan,” and the musical is off and running.

 A fall temporarily sidelines Hannah, so Percy gets kitchen duty, even though she “can’t tell a skillet from a garbage pail.” That’s when an doleful local wife Shelby (Ashley Argota, an awesome songbird who dazzles) helps her out, despite the hostility of her depressed husband Caleb (Joey Ruggiero playing the role well with clear self-loathing). And Nicu Brouillette as the Visitor is a mysterious presence in town, and adds to the healing heart of the show. Add to the mix the local busybody/postmistress Effy (Linda Kerns outstanding in the delightfully comedic role).

 Percy gets a brainstorm idea to raffle off the diner because Hannah can’t sell it. So she places an ad describing the grill and the town as “a piece of heaven where the hummingbirds still hum and the colors of paradise come.” Letters come from all over the country from folks wanting a piece of that paradise, and the folks in Gilead begin to realize what they have is very special.

 The simple story is well told and the cast not only sings the songs, but they play musical instruments throughout adding a unique approach to director Dimitri Toscas’ great staging. And the imaginative woodsy Scenic Design by Tanya Orellana is awesome.

 “The Spitfire Grill, An American Musical,” music and book by James Valcq, lyrics and book by Fred Alley, based on the 1996 film by Lee David Zlotoff, plays through Sunday, August 11 at Garry Marshall Theatre located at 4252 W Riverside Dr. in Burbank. For information and tickets call (818) 955-8101 or visit

New stone-age adult musical comedy ‘Firebringer’ presented by Foothill Performing Arts Council

Preview: FIREBRINGER, presented by the Foothill Performing Arts Council, July 19 to August 25 at the Theatre Unlimited Studios in NoHo.

 A relevant prehistoric-themed production, FIREBRINGER is a new stone-age musical is presented by The Foothill Performing Arts Council (FPAC). “It is outrageous and fun, and builds on FPAC’s reputation of mounting great musical productions that have rarely been seen, but critically praised,” says Timothy J Borquez, FPAC’s Artistic Director.

 “FIREBRINGER focuses on a stone-age tribe at the dawn of civilization dealing with the consequences new inventions and discoveries have on their culture and the world. It’s tremendously relevant and filled with irreverent humor and musicality,” Borquez explains. “It was originally produced by the theatre troupe STARKID Productions, famous for their hilarious A Very (Harry) Potter Musical. All of us at FPAC are big fans of what STARKID has been doing, so after the viral following FIREBRINGER captured, it was a no-brainer to do it and give the show its Southern California, Los Angeles area premiere.”

 The talented members of the “Firebringer tribe” are Sarah Cottier, Tiffany Oliver, Hope English, Corrine Glazer, Luke Martinez, Sabrina Velasquez, Dave Carter, Brian Felker, Cade Stedman, Beth Redwood, Kasey Furginson, Grace Gaither, Justin Taylor, Perla Rodriguez, and Jaiden Oliver

 It is presented with permission by STARKID Productions, music and lyrics by Meredith Stepien and Mark Swiderski; book by Matt Lang, Nick Lang, and Brian Holden; with additional writing by Meredith Stepien. FPAC’s production is directed by Timothy J Borquez, with vocal direction by Matthew Park; choreography by Anne Marie Osgood; and music production by Alex Borquez.

 Following on the heals of FPAC’s acclaimed debut in the NoHo Theatre District with The Theory of Relativity last season (winning two 2019 Valley Theatre Awards), FIREBRINGER runs for six weekends, July 19 through August 25, at the Theatre Unlimited Studios, located at 10943 Camarillo St., North Hollywood, CA 91602. Tickets can be purchased at but seating is limited. Senior and Student Discounts are available. Use the code FPACFIRE for a $5 discount on Premium & Mid-Level tickets. Note: “Firebringer” is Rated PG-16, for adult language and content, and is not recommended for audiences younger than age 16.

The cast of “FRIENDS! The Musical Parody” (photo by Benjamin Skigen).

Preview: FRIENDS! The Musical Parody a musical comedy celebration of the beloved sitcom at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, July 16—August 4

 “It’s an entertaining show about friendship. Bring your friends, and your friends of friends and to go see FRIENDS! The Musical Parody,” invites Bob and Tobly McSmith, the writers/best friends who are the clever creators of the musical comedy celebration.

 FRIENDS! The Musical Parody pokes fun at the beloved NBC sitcom Friends. It follows the adventures of a group of 20-something friends as they navigate the pitfalls of work, life and love in 1990s Manhattan, offering a nostalgic good time. It also features great songs that lampoon everything we love about “Friends.”

 “Our Friends is a much heightened version of the show. These are characters people know and love, so we turn that on its head and point out a lot of things from the show that just don’t reflect reality,” Bob explained.

 Tobly added, “We both grew up watching Friends and moved to New York when we were in our 20s. But we didn’t have that coffee shop where our friends hung out, or get a big apartment like Monica had. So we make fun of that and more. We recreate our favorite moments from all 10 years of Friends with an uncensored send-up, music-filled romp that starts as a typical day at New York’s only coffee shop, Central Perk, until an unexpected runaway bride enters.”

 Bob said, “There’s a great cast of Broadway caliber performers.” Sami Griffith as Rachel, Maggie McMeans as Monica, Madison Fuller as Phoebe, Aaron C. Rutherford as Chandler, Tyler Fromson as Ross, and Donenic Servidio as Joey, singing and dancing to show stopping numbers such as “Oh. My. God. It’s Janice!” and “I am Marcel, the Monkey!” “Also ‘Will They or Wont They,’ the song between Ross and Rachel is very sweet and comments on how they never make up their minds,” Tobly noted.

 Bob said, “This is a great night out for friends, bring your girlfriends and boyfriends. It’s a fun date night with lots of laughs and nostalgia.” Tobly said, “We wanted to create theater for people who don’t usually go to theater. We try to keep it fast-paced and the comedy over the top.”

 A show for multigenerational people with a great sense of humor, Bob and Tobly McSmith (who have done Saved by the Bell, Full House, and The Office parodies) wrote the book and lyrics, with music and orchestrations by Assaf Gleizner, directed by Tim Drucker.

 Right Angle Entertainment presents the Los Angeles premiere of FRIENDS! The Musical Parody, from Tuesday, July 16 through Sunday, August 4 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre located at 9820 Washington Blvd. in Culver City. Three-hour free parking available at Culver City City Hall with validation (enter on Duquesne Ave). For tickets go to or call 213.628.2772.

 Life’s a stage, go enjoy!

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 have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.