Registered Critic: Ed Rampell - Hollywood Progressive

Ed Rampell is an L.A.-based film historian/reviewer and co-author of “The Hawaii Movie and Television Book”.
May

Bronco Billy - The Musical

Well, the musical mounted at the Skylight Theatre does indeed have a motion picture pedigree and tie-in - but to a completely different Bronco Billy: the 1980 movie of the same name, starring and directed by Clint Eastwood. However, for once, my recurring error of not completing reading releases paid off, because even if the silent cinema’s first great Western hero isn’t part of the play, Bronco Billy, The Musical is indeed, good fun and worth seeing, especially by aficionados of musical comedies.

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May

Wild Son: The Testimony of Christian Brando

This well-acted, well-written one-hander tells Christian's side of the story, and it is quite a remarkable, tortured tale...

And like his father, what a story Christian had to tell, which Mese convincingly, movingly unravels in about an hour.

Wild Son is a must see for fans of Marlon and those fascinated by his legendary life. I don't know how interesting it will be for those not entranced by the Brando lore, but theatergoers who enjoy the one-man show format, powerful acting and storytelling will probably get much out of it, too.

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Apr

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN

I not only thoroughly enjoyed this almost two hour, 40 minute two-acter, but fell in love with this entrancing, enchanting live stage version of a classic movie. We live in dark days that can get downright depressing, and during periods like ours theatre can serve several functions, such as plumbing the depths of the human condition and exploring society's ills. But works such as Rain take another tack, illumining the innate goodness of people and instilling a sense of sheer exuberance in joie de vivre: The act - and art - of the joy of living.

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Apr

THE ELEPHANT MAN

The Thursday Night Theatre Club's production of Bernard Pomerance's Tony Award winner for Best Play The Elephant Man is simply an exquisitely poetically, philosophically rendered poignant work all about the art of being human...

Overall, this exquisite Elephant Man is among the most moving meditations I've ever seen staged about the beauty within the beast and the human spirit. As Merrick pithily put it: “I am NOT a dog walking on his hind legs!” Here, here! This stellar production is rated “DMI” for: “Don't Miss it!” Kudos!

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Apr

ROTTERDAM

Overall, I ended up enjoying Rotterdam and its not-so-innocents-abroad fable. It is well-acted and helmed by the venerable Michael A. Shepperd. As an exploration of the emerging, evolving Trans phenomenon it is trendsetting, but some may view the ending as a trite, Tammy Wynette, “Stand By Your Man” denouement of a very complicated issue, as the conventional subsumes the unconventional.

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Apr

Argonautika

Overall, although it goes over the top and misses the boat at times, Argonautika is still well worth embarking on a voyage of discovery over the Pasadena classical theatre company to see its iteration of Apollonius' odyssey and find out why A Noise Within just won the coveted Ovation Award for Best Season.

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Mar

FRIENDS WITH GUNS

We'll be keeping our eye out for future work by this creepily insightful playwright—that is to say, it's creepy how you just don't see how sneakily some possible new ways of looking at reality all of a sudden start staring you in the face...

Despite my own reaction to the play—perhaps because of it—I believe this is a highly important play for our time. It almost demands an audience talkback after each performance to process what we have witnessed. In the meantime, I'll be upping my donations to gun control groups in the “hope against hope” that somehow, sometime it may do some good.

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Mar

The Joy Wheel

If The Joy Wheel is ultimately a comedy, viewers pay a price for their pleasure. How is there any reconciliation possible with the fascist-mindedness of Stew's Storm Trooper-like buddies, whose real-life counterparts are out there in frightening force—in the woods, in bivouac encampments, in Charlottesville, and in hoods? Frank asks Stella in genuine wonderment, “How did you get so strong and I got so weak?” Realignment of gender assumptions is happening, and it's transforming society from top to bottom as we either grow more human or descend ever deeper into fear.

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Mar

FOR THE LOVE OF (OR, THE ROLLER DERBY PLAY)

Do the actresses portraying the Brooklyn Scallywags and their competitors actually wheel around onstage? Come watch Tania Verafield and her teammates reap the wild whirlwind onstage at the Kirk Douglas in the thrilling Derby and find out how they do it! Helmets and kneepads optional for audience members. Go Scallywags!

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Feb

Othello

Fresh from that championship season, A Noise Within's Spring 2019 season blasts off with a must-see modern dress Othello that demonstrates why the Pasadena classical repertory theatre company just won the coveted Ovation Award for Best Season

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Feb

An Inspector Calls

Nevertheless, I relished this excursion into socialism via a supernatural pathway and highly recommend that theatergoers pay a call on and inspect this play. And hopefully soon our very own Inspector Goole will likewise call on Trump, Stone and company and their house of cards will end up like the home in this highly inventive play about class, consciousness and conscience.

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Feb

An Evening with John Wilkes Booth

Spiegel compellingly acts the shooting, the escape, the manhunt, et al, all out in his convincing performance and Evening's second act is really quiet engrossing and gripping.

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Jan

1776 THE MUSICAL

Watch for the spectacularly beautiful way this stirring, must-see production of 1776 ends - literally, poetry in motion.

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Jan

Desert Rats

Angie Scott's direction is taut where it needs to be, although her ensemble also provides moments of dark comedy. Extended from last year, theatergoers have until Jan. 20 to enjoy this rollicking ride that rocks and is choreographed inside of LATC's most intimate space. Desert Rats was the first live play of the New Year I saw and is a kick ass way to kick off 2019.

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Dec

Sisters Three

Almost two thirds into this dialogue-driven dramedy the stage suddenly erupts. Without revealing and ruining exactly what happens, let's just say that oral dueling gives way to some, shall we say, Errol Flynn-Basil Rathbone type of action, which is actually rather skillfully executed.

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Nov

Finks

Michael Pressman, whose father David was also blacklisted, adeptly directs his ensemble in eliciting laughs and gripping, tense performances. Richard Levinson's tickling of the ivories also enhances a wonderful night at the theatre for the Left Coast premiere of a play which was nommed for a NY Drama Desk award and deserves to nab numerous Ovations.

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Nov

HANSEL AND GRETEL

LA Opera's bewitching Hansel and Gretel may be the most enchanting, optically opulent opera this reviewer has ever seen at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. With its stellar stagecraft , stagemanship and eye- popping, jaw-dropping scenery designed by director Doug Fitch with lighting by Duane Schuler, the audience is transported into a spellbinding, haunted forest full of spirits, including a Dew Fairy (Georgia soprano Sarah Vautour), a Sandman (North Carolina mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven), plus a spooky witch (mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, who's quite the ham).

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Nov

Johnny Got His Gun

The Gang's Johnny is radical in form and content. Robbins adroitly directs the ensemble with his usual aplomb.

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Nov

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts' crowd pleasing production of Agatha Christie's beloved 1934 Murder on the Orient Express is a highly entertaining combination of murder, mystery, mirth and morality... Sheldon Epps, until recently Pasadena Playhouse's artistic director, oversees and ably directs his ensemble. Costume designer Shon LeBlanc garbs the characters in convincing 1930s era period dress, down to the gents' spats.

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Oct

Turn of the Screw

Novelist Henry James' 1898 Gothic novella The Turn of the Screw has oft been adapted for the big and little screen, opera and in its latest incarnation by playwright Jeffrey Hatcher, it's currently scaring the bejesus out of ticket buyers at The Harold Clurman Lab Theater - just in time for Halloween.

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