Non-Registered Critics: Daryl H. Miller

Sep

Handjob

the show plunges into enough hot-button social issues to fuel a week’s worth of TV news round tables: consent, harassment, privilege, visibility, racial and sexual stereotyping, and more. In all of this, the show ably succeeds, supported by terrific acting, directing (by the Echo’s artistic director, Chris Fields) and production elements.

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Aug

The Skin of Our Teeth

Director Ellen Geer and a company of 20 have a grand time with all of this — perhaps too grand, as their exaggerated hilarity sometimes undercuts the gravity of what’s going on. Still, the material delivers chills of recognition as it wraps in environmental calamity, a refugee crisis, mass violence, political and social division, arrogant exceptionalism, smear politics, a presidential sex scandal and more.

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Jul

The Producers

The big problem, though, is that Matthews and his actors have little aptitude for the Brooks style of comedy. Instead of full-body, explosive-emotion gags, we get merely a wide-eyed Bloom and a loud Bialystock, both racing through the funny business (although Jones does deliver some effectively bull-charging Bialystock moments).

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Jul

Ragtime

The Chance’s “Ragtime” is a roaring success...

Even when circumstances are at their bleakest, hopeful citizens try to dream America forward, finding unity in diversity and leaving us with a final image of what the nation could and should be. This is powerfully inspiring stuff.

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Jun

Moby Dick - Rehearsed

Ellen Geer artfully directs a cast of 19 in this rarely encountered script, which honors the power of imagination.

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Jun

Bronco Billy - The Musical

Director Hunter Bird and a cast of 14 keep the tone playfully artificial, but the material, cotton-candyish as it is, manages to tug at the heartstrings with its notions about dreamers intent on making their lives — and, possibly, the world — a little bit better.

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May

Happy Days

This is one of theater’s most difficult roles: an hour and 40 minutes of text spoken by one person, with little input from the other actor — or reference points of any kind. And there’s not just spoken text. Beckett inserted extensive stage directions indicating Winnie’s movements, her pauses, how the lines should be delivered.

Wiest handles it all with poise, precision and empathy.

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May

JULIUS WEEZER

“Julius Weezer” is more serious than most Troubie shows, but not to worry: You'll laugh plenty...

Company leader Matt Walker adapted and directed the piece, in which Shakespeare's immortal lines get name-checked amid one-liners, topical references and lots of clown-like comedy...

Think: togas, pancake makeup, amusingly bad, bowl-cut wigs — and a cast of 13 creating brainy mayhem.

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May

THE SECRET GARDEN

Rich in big voices, this production is especially powerful whenever Nicandros, as Uncle Archibald, lets his soaring baritone go husky with emotion or Jeanette Dawson, as Archibald's ghostly wife, calls out to the living in her glittering soprano.

Parts of this production really blossom; too bad so much else gets lost in the weeds.

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Apr

FALSETTOS

The show itself, though, can be a challenge. It's a series of songs with no connecting dialogue, so the storytelling is elliptical. Your ears must be on high alert at all times. Add to that melodies that, in capturing the characters' neuroses, are often jumpy and frenetic. Plus: All these sharp-edged personalities put some people off.

I've seen “Falsettos” with friends who've laughed and sniffled through it and with others who've been restlessly, audibly frustrated. Either response is understandable.

But when the agitated melodies relax into lyricism — oh, my. The music and words reach deep inside and trigger all sorts of emotions.

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Apr

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN

Ably handling the Lockwood role is Michael Starr, a rising talent who's been popping up everywhere, including Reprise's “The World Goes ‘Round” and La Mirada's “1776.” As Selden, Kimberly Immanuel contributes a winning soprano and a fun-loving spirit. Sara King, playing Lamont, keeps the audience giggling with her piercing voice (“and I caaan't stan 'im”) but also makes clear that she's no dim-bulb pushover. Portraying Brown, Brandon Burks handles the jokey face-making, pose-striking duties well, and ever-reliable Peter Van Norden amiably smooths the sharp edges of studio chief R.F. Simpson. A 16-musician orchestra is led by Keith Harrison.

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Apr

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

Despite the production's fumbles, the source material — and memories of it in other versions — seem to keep much of the audience happy, and lots of theatergoers bring kids.

Maybe the sight of all those sweets is bliss enough. The show's truest line is Wonka's declaration that chocolate is “quite simply, the greatest invention in the entire history of the world.”

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Apr

Argonautika

Even the grandest stories, full of epic adventures, are built of everyday experiences. Mary Zimmerman creates theater magic in much the same way, bringing the world's foundational tales alive with little more than the evocative power of the human voice and simple but imaginative stage tricks.

The Chicago writer-director is not on hand to stage her “Argonautika” — the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts — at A Noise Within in Pasadena. But as envisioned by the theater's co-artistic director Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, the show generates the eye-widening, gasp-inducing excitement that is characteristic of Zimmerman's work.

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Mar

Othello

Kubzansky is a wonderfully insightful director, as she's demonstrated time and again in such projects as the Shakespearean riff “Everything That Never Happened,” presented last fall at what is now called Boston Court Pasadena, where she is co-artistic director. She has thought richly and deeply about “Othello,” spelling out her ideas in a persuasive director's note printed in the program. Much of that is also expressed onstage, but frustratingly, not all.

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Feb

Hir

Humor tips into horror and back again, a seesaw experience fearlessly propelled by director Bart DeLorenzo and his actors.

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Jan

1776 THE MUSICAL

Some of L.A.'s most dependable actors have been assembled here, including Peter Van Norden, Teri Bibb and Michael Rothhaar. Jeff Rizzo leads an orchestra of eight.

Directed by Glenn Casale, the staging is solid, although it's merely diligent and studious where it should be urgent and inspired. The material's erudition makes it a bit stodgy; acceleration is required to keep things moving.

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Dec

Jane Austen's EMMA

Despite its concision, the musical effectively captures a key strength of the novel: an understanding that love cannot be predicted or channeled; it goes where it will.

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Dec

ELF the Musical

Fortunately, the Musical Theatre West team knows how to keep an audience happy, glossing over structural problems by sustaining the spirit of irrepressible optimism that has always been this story's chief stock in trade.

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Nov

Cleo, Theo & Wu

She and the 12 other cast members draw laughs, though more for their delivery than the lines themselves, and the piece does arrive, toward the end, at a moment of powerful insight.

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Nov

Señor Plummer's Final Fiesta

All routes culminate in the title's promised fiesta, by which point you won't want the adventure to end.

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