Non-Registered Critics: Marc Wheeler

Dec

MATTHEW BOURNE'S SWAN LAKE

While dance is the visionary director-choreographer’s weapon of choice, it’s a means of expressing a grander narrative. Bourne’s genius is in his ability to lure audiences to said medium and make wordless stories leap from the stage. In Swan Lake he not only updates the overall aesthetic with brazen eroticism, he revamps the story to heightened emotional impact.

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Dec

DISNEY'S FROZEN

...when it comes to sheer entertainment and spectacle, it delivers, even with the high bar set for it. Not only is the show feel-good, when “sisters” Bowman and Innerbichler unite for their curtain-call bows, it’s incredibly inspiring.

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Dec

punkplay

... in order for us to make sense of its world, it needs to offer more than vague concepts with no clear reasons to care – or what’s the meaning of it all?

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Nov

Eight Nights

Eight Nights does work in one aspect: its power as a ghost story. Not only does it deal with the ghosts that haunt victims’ minds, it literalizes ghosts of those who’ve passed...

...Despite setting itself up for easy wins through atrocities and shared humanity, it’s surprisingly lacking in its ability to genuinely move us. While its ending packs the most punch, the play’s distracted focus leaves us wondering what the point is beyond a “Rebecca Blum, This Is Your Life” retrospective filled with a forced cast of characters.

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Nov

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET: A Live Musical Radio Show

If you’re in need of a miracle, look no further than the Los Angeles premiere of Lance Arthur Smith‘s new adaptation of Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Musical Radio Play presented by Actors Co-op at the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood. Based on the Lux Radio Theatre broadcast and the beloved 1947 film starring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, and Natalie Wood, this refashion of the holiday classic, commissioned in 2016 by San Diego Musical Theatre, honors the original story as much as it reimagines it; this modern Miracle is sure to make believers out of anyone.

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Nov

THE NEW ONE

The delivery here is perfectly wholesome, commercially safe comedy. It’s cautious in its confessions: asking scary questions but bubble-wrapping the answers. It neither challenges nor entertains too much. It doesn’t allow the relentlessness of parenting to overshadow its beauty. It’s as satisfying and forgettable as vanilla ice cream. An evening that evokes smiles even as it short-changes. It’s audacious in its premise but hesitant in its follow-through. The New One is ultimately a risk untaken.

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Oct

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS

As Little Shop of Horrors teaches us: sometimes you just need fresh blood. In that vein, the Pasadena Playhouse more than delivers. Their audacious revival of the quirky cult classic – directed with exemplary vision by Mike Donahue – offers audiences something they may not have realized they craved. In this ground-up reimagining, complete with ingenious casting, we’re treated to a more representative sampling of the American story.

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May

Daniel's Husband

Where Daniel's Husband falters in a post-Obergefell v. Hodges world is in creating a dynamic that — instead of pitting a modern gay couple against the world (which, thanks to that ruling, was no longer as relevant) — pits them against each other in a way that feels overblown and contrived for dramatic impact. While differing views on the institution of marriage are perfectly understandable (especially from gays of older generations who've come to enjoy the lives they were forced to lead outside the confines of social expectations), Mitchell's objections are nonsensically severe.

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Apr

CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY

This isn't great entertainment. It's run-of-the-factory, relying more on nostalgia than originality. For a story imploring us to live in a world of pure imagination, we should expect what's baked to be more satisfying and delicious.

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