Writer: Travis Michael Holder

TRAVIS MICHAEL HOLDER is Opinionatedasswipe-in-Chief for the new handydandy arts-oriented website TicketHoldersLA.com. He has been a LA theatre critic since 1987 and has taught acting at the New York Film Academy’s west coast campus since 2010. He was Theatre Editor for Entertainment Today for 21 years, reviewed for BackStage for 12 years, and is also currently a contributor to ArtsInLA.com. As a writer, five of his plays have been produced in LA and his first, "Surprise Surprise," became a feature film in 2010, for which Travis wrote the screenplay and appeared in a leading role. An actor since childhood who originally came to LA under contract to Paramount Pictures, he has appeared in six Broadway productions and has traveled extensively in everything from "Bye Bye Birdie," "Hair," and throughout Europe and Asia in "Hello Dolly" to touring as Amos (Mr. Cellophane) Hart in "Chicago." Locally, Travis received the LA Drama Critics’ Circle Award as Kenneth Halliwell in the west coast premiere of "Nasty Little Secrets," a Drama-Logue Award as Lennie in "Of Mice and Men," and he has also received six acting nominations from LA Weekly; a Sage Award; Ovation, GLAAD, NAACP, and five Garland Award nominations. Regionally, he was given the Inland Theatre League Award as Ken Talley in "Fifth of July," three awards for direction and performance as Dr. Dysart in "Equus," and he was up for Washington, DC’s Helen Hayes honors as Oscar Wilde in the premiere of "Oscar & Speranza." His first novel "Waiting for Walk," a memoir of growing up as a child actor, has been sitting in a desk drawer since its completion in 2005, proving there is often a deep divide between talent and functionality. www.travismichaelholder.coms
Mar

ALLEGIANCE

The message is vital and clear: Why were these loyal Americans asked to fight for their country while they and their families were subject to intolerable conditions in near-secret homegrown concentration camps? It's a question that could not be more timely as our own nation is dragged into a dictatorship by a bigoted madman edging toward his own Third Reich with the help of his shockingly soulless minions. It's a great reason to support this brave and heartfelt musical which, despite its flaws, will leave you with a new appreciation for what it is we need to battle against with every fiber of decency left in us so nothing like this can ever, ever again happen in our country.

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Mar

A Streetcar Named Desire

For lovers of Williams, Michael Michetti's contemporary multi-racial updating of the best play of the 20th century can absolutely not be missed. Since the great master was never satisfied with his work and never during his lifetime stopped rewriting even his most well-known plays, I'm quite sure if he were still with us today, he would be hoisting a Sazerac or three in honor of this jarringly fresh and captivating new take—and Michetti's singular perception of what Tenn was trying to communicate to audiences some 70 years ago.

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Feb

THE NEW COLOSSUS

In a workshop which began two years ago led by the troupe's fiercely committed artistic director Tim Robbins, members of the Actors' Gang, all descendants of former refugees from all over the world, attempt to explore their own individual familial roots. These are the proud stories we've all heard told sometime in our own lives, the kind of courageous personal tales that once made us proud to be called Americans. The point here is not what these people say; the point is that they all have experienced the same painful experience of being uprooted from their comfortable existence and forced to run for their lives through horrifying and dehumanizing conditions.It is a moving, humbling, indelible experience which hopefully will make everyone in attendance return home with a new intensity to fight the indignities of our time and work tirelessly to stop the soulless and greedy monsters currently trying to tell us what to do and how to live.

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Feb

WATER BY THE SPOONFUL

The first wonder of Hudes' script is how it weaves back and forth as all these diverse people, some connected by genetics, some merely by need of human contact, struggle to hang onto their humanity despite the odds. This is anchored by the playwright's evocative storytelling and uncanny ability to turn descriptions of the ugliness overpowering the world to which Elliot has returned into lyrically poetic Williams-esque dialogue. Unfortunately, under the direction of Lilena Blain-Cruz, it's somehow hard to care about Hudes' characters as passionately as she intended and that her play demands.

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Feb

The Chosen

Under the passionate leadership of director Simon Levy, this resurrection of Chaim Potok's great classic is welcome indeed. Nothing is lost from the beauty and simple truths revealed as two observant Brooklyn teenage boys navigate their future and their faith in the shadow of the Second World War, as Europe is being lit by massive firebombs and six million Jews are systematically being eliminated.

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Jan

ALADDIN

Granted, the best way to see Disney's outrageously grand live stage recreation of their popular animated 1992 feature film is to bring along a 12-year-old as your plus-one. Seeing it unfold through the eyes of a kid must be the ultimate thrill, although for adults, there's a lot here to offer as well. Everything thrown upon the also visually-stunning Pantages stage by Disney's imagineers is most welcome, quickly transcending expectations.

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Nov

The Secret in the Wings

No producing entity in El Lay could be a better choice to present Mary Zimmerman's newest fantasy than the unstoppably courageous folks at the Coeurage Theatre Company, as the Lookingglass stalwart cleverly links together obscure fairy tales with the help of innovative director Joseph V. Calarco and his gifted and highly committed cast--especially Leon Russom, who induces his share of delightfully creepy goosebumps as a bony-tailed ogre. Though perhaps the grisly nature of some of these folk tales is anything but kid-friendly in our contemporary society's narrow view, let's face it: Bambi's mother dies and Tinkerbell almost O.D.s too, right?

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Nov

SOMETHING ROTTEN

Casey Nicholaw directs with tongue firmly in cheek at every moment on Scott Pask's Pee-Wee's Playhouse of a Renaissance set, while Gregg Barnes elaborately oversized and clunky Elizabethan costuming is so hilarious that one purple-hued ostrich-plumed outfit gets a huge laugh just by having the actor wearing it walk onstage. But hey, as Shylock advises struggling playwright Nick Bottom, “Don't listen to critics—they're ferkakta.” That may be true but boy, I hope to enjoy this wonderfully outrageous and incredibly clever musical many more times before it takes up permanent residence in some grand Las Vegas hotel in the future. And no, that's not gossip, just a far better prediction than Nostradamus' vision of that future Shakespearean hit "Omelette—the Musical.”

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Nov

Rotterdam

Jon Brittain has written an urgently important play, intelligently exploring territory which other writers haven't yet really touched with such understanding, humor, and an overwhelmingly sense of humanity. Under director Michael A. Shepperd's impeccable care, his incredible cast pays unique homage to the courageous lives of people willing to eschew society's ridiculously constrictive rules and honoring the struggles of all those brave cultural warriors who shuck the religiously-based dogma that limits our lives.

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Nov

King Charles III

Utilizing his dynamic cast of 16, director Michael Michetti, along with an amazing design team dominated by the incredibly detailed 100-plus costumes crafted by Alex Jaeger, manages to create a whole empire before us, filling the cavernous Pasadena Playhouse stage with constant movement and brilliantly conjured tricks in staging that keep the implausibility of the storyline from getting in the way of the vision.

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Nov

BRIGHT STAR

Steve Martin and Edie Brickell's plot is about as predictable as Dotard Donnie's reaction to criticism (“Sad!”), but still their bluegrass-tinged music is gloriously infectious, while Walter Bobbie's direction is extraordinarily fluid and the simple but effective design elements in the production could not be more impressive. Add to this a wonderful ensemble cast and a worldclass band and even the script's most predictable and improbable themes can be forgiven.

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Oct

Resolving Hedda

Now noted playwright Jon Klein, first brought to the attention of west coast audiences championed by Maria Gobetti and Tom Ormeny at their long-prolific Victory Theatre Center, returns home to world premiere his latest comedy--which immediately adds him to the ranks of the brilliant wordsmiths before him determined to turn great literary works of dramatic art on their proverbial ear.

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Oct

Stupid Kid

Quickly emerging playwright Sharr White gets even more respect from me with this knockout world premiere which, under the masterful leadership of director Cameron Watson, is simply the best production so far opening in LA this season in a year overflowing with incredible new plays. There are a few holes in White's script which could easily be filled with a little dab of theatrical Spackle, but quite simply, it could never soar to these heights without Watson and his amazing cast of six brilliant actors at the top of their game.

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Oct

BILLY BOY

As with so many of his previous plays, the world premiere of Nick Salamone's newest provides another quantum leap into an arrestingly brave, unflinchingly honest, and unapologetically sentimental bout of personal soul-searching.

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Oct

HEAD OF PASSES

Phylicia Rashad is certainly a force of nature, although the only uncluttered place left for her to explore is littered with Terrell Alvin McCraney's continuous clichés. His newest play is chockfull of good god-fearin' born-again eye-flutterin' and the lifting of palms to the heavens while constantly telling others how to live their lives. Director Tina Landau, however, leads her startlingly gifted ensemble and the no-holds-barred performance of Rashad with amazing grace.

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Oct

Runaway Home

At a critical time when massive storms have devastated Texas, Florida, and now Puerto Rico while that monstrous destroyer of the free world Dotard Donnie assures us his soulless administration's efforts for recovery are going “really, really well,” the world premiere of Jeremy J. Kamps' arresting new play could not possibly be more urgently important.

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Oct

Walking to Buchenwald

Long ago, the term Ugly American was coined to describe rude and entitled American tourists trampling the world in their Bermuda shorts with ankle socks, loud Hawaiian camp shirts, and ever-present fannypacks, leaving a cultureless footprint behind wherever they traveled. But today, the stakes are infinitely higher. Suddenly, Tom Jacobson's newest narratively-challenged play takes on a new national dilemma: what it means to be an American in a time when we are no longer admired in the world but reviled—and sadly but appropriately feared.

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Sep

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City,

Some people will obviously be deeply offended by Halley Feiffer's twisted sense of inherited humor, but anyone who has ever faced a long hospital stay or dealt with catastrophic illness personally or caring for a loved one—or if you've worked in a hospital where gallows humor runs rampant to erase the tensions and potential heartache—will enjoy her hilariously dark play with an appreciation and understanding others cannot. And as the civilized world crumples and burns around us, a little bit of Feiffer's off-kilter and wacky yet sophisticated Duck Soupian humor could not be more welcome.

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Sep

THE RED SHOES

The omnipresent raison d'être for this production to have blossomed to fruition is the staging and choreography gifted us by its genius creator, a man who I swear must be part Michel Fokine, part Bob Fosse, a little Mandy Moore, and a lotta just plain Sir Matthew Bourne. No one before him has ever taken the perfection and rigidity of classic ballet and morphed it so successfully with a haunting art deco-angular sensibility and, above all, his signature sense of humor that infuses everything he touches. It's as though sometime in another life, Bourne was movement coach for Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy—that is when not coaching Vaslav Nijinsky himself.

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Sep

Grey Nomad

What makes Dan Lee's painfully old-fashioned sitcom-y script palpable, besides his sharply quirky dialogue and insight into the process of growing older despite ourselves, are these veteran performers able to make it work. This is especially true of Ros Gentle, with whom we fall in love as the curious, frustrated, ever-patient Helen in the first minutes. Every subtly pained expression, every moment of closing her fluttering eyelids to regain her composure, is golden, something that proves even more endearing when Val's more outrageously free behavior begins to rub off on her more infinitely more conservative protégée.

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