Non-Registered Critics: Michael Quintos

Feb

HELLO DOLLY

Every inch and every corner of this new production—directed with a nostalgic, old-fashioned nod to classic Broadway showy-ness by Zaks—is bursting at the seams with pure, dazzling joy and incredible, top-notch production values. To borrow a song from this very show, HELLO, DOLLY!’s got elegance.

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Feb

SWEENEY TODD – THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

Quite possibly the most exciting production I’ve ever seen of this Sondheim curiosity, SCR’s production of SWEENEY TODD is exactly how one would picture this musical to be done: as an intimately-staged dark comedy with operatic aspirations, a deep seriousness, and a surprising presence of heart, even as the main character hacks away one unsuspecting victim at a time. Does laughing at these horrific scenes mean we as a society are much too numb to react in any other way? Perhaps. But because we know that the inevitable comeuppance is coming, it is, maybe, okay to laugh temporarily… even at such horrors.

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Feb

1776 THE MUSICAL

In this engaging period piece, every word of dialogue and every lyric sung—everything that casual audiences might think would make for a disastrously boring theater piece because of its, well, scholastic subject matter—actually makes for an exciting and exuberant stage experience, that also illuminates an important moment in our nation’s past that we can look back on with knowing, modern sensibilities…

…It’s worth repeating just how excellent this production’s huge ensemble is, led by the exceptional trio of Umberger, Van Norden, and Shaw as three main instigators for independency. Each actor gets a moment to shine and they take that responsibility to heart and we as the audience reap the rewards. They all have a palpable chemistry with each other, which relates well to their characters…

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Nov

Kings

Interesting, intriguing, but slightly too tame and a bit of a promising work-in progress, the play basically presents what most of us already know about the lobby-friendly political arena: even if you’re a political outsider with a spotless record, actual positive convictions for the greater good, and even a moral line you’re unwilling to cross, if you’re someone resistant to play the Washington “game,” then it’s going to be decidedly harder to get yourself elected.

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Nov

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS

Directed by Sheldon Epps, this opulent-looking, comfortably-paced production certainly captures the essence of Christie’s famous novel, compacting it enough for the stage in an acceptably truncated way that hits most of the story’s expected peak points. All told, the changes Ludwig enacted in this admirable, if slightly straightforward iteration should still satisfy those very familiar with the novel and will also, in turn, entertain the others with an easily-deducible mystery that presents enough intrigue and curiosity to keep one invested… Overall, La Mirada’s slick, lavish stage production of a literary classic is a visual wonder that will have you feeling slightly sophisticated for having chosen to see the show as your evening’s entertainment.

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Nov

BRIGHT STAR

Endearing and emotionally sweeping, “Bright Star” is a no-frills, narrative-driven musical that’s less about flash and more about its human-connective qualities, the very ones that will likely touch audience members in a much more cerebral, satisfying way.

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Oct

The Other Place

For its stirring Orange County Premiere production currently on stage at Chance Theater in Anaheim through October 21, Juliana is played with powerful, intense ferocity by Jacqueline Wright, in what will surely be noted as one of the season’s most memorable dramatic performances you will long remember this year… An intimate drama with enormous punch, “THE OTHER PLACE”—under the caring and sensitive direction of Matthew McCray—satisfies its audience by keeping us emotionally invested and constantly surprised, even as we watch a seemingly stable woman slowly spiral into what may (or may not) be the initial stages of dementia.

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Sep

SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

In tone, pacing, and casting, SCR’s fresh if still lengthy adaptation of the 1811 novel is lovingly fluffy and buoyant, yet achingly relatable and grounded—just the sort of expectation one gets from a reverent adaptation of a work from one of literature’s most revered female voices… The color-blind casting will make you sit up and applaud, and Austen’s wit (via Swale’s keystrokes) will keep you smiling and chuckling and wishing we could all have a happy romantic ending, too.

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Jul

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Though, sure, much of it feels a bit dated—as if its been forever frozen in its portrayed era—both in general tone, its aww-shucks quality, and antiquated affectations. But at the end of the day, the hokey charm of “YANKEE DOODLE DANDY” is admirable in its unapologetic embrace of its old-fashioned qualities, which never wavers into modernist sensibilities at any time during the show (well, okay, it did contain one political joke that rings funnier than it should have when you think about where our world is today).

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Jul

Big Fish

I’m glad to report that none of the show’s whimsy or fantasy fades much, mostly because of several factors that compensate for its smaller footprint. First, the delightfully animated projection designs by Nick Santiago—paired alongside Bradley Kaye’s functional scenic design and Masako Tobaru’s lighting designs—all came together to fill that smaller stage with the story’s fantastical moments without the need for larger imposing sets or huge special effects. I am continuously impressed by how much this black-box theater could employ (and, wow, afford) such high-end digital projections so masterfully.

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Jun

Newsies

Keeping much of the original stage show’s inescapable excitement and joyfulness intact, …NEWSIES… is a wonderfully caffeinated jolt of a stage show, highlighted by a remarkably talented and athletically-blessed ensemble that leaps and belts one show stopping number after another. That’s no exaggeration—the show had so many moments when the show had to pause for enthusiastic applause.

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Feb

Violet

Aided immensely by the superb four-person live band producing its Southern music soundtrack led by musical director Robyn Manion, this production of VIOLET sings like a big musical downscaled for an intimate private party that you’ll feel special for being an attendee.

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Jan

Cabaret

Seeing this updated La Mirada iteration—presented less like a revue but more like an honest-to-goodness book musical, where the musical numbers don’t feel too much like interruptive interludes—pushes this risqué show into a more mainstream follow-through that I feel most audiences will enjoy more.

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Oct

Tribes

The ability for a play to create a safe space for an audience member to imagine oneself in someone else’s shoes and see their lives from their perspective is the illuminative power of live theater and TRIBES is exactly the kind of play you shouldn’t miss for this very reason. Perhaps the ultimate takeaway from seeing the play, especially now in such volatile times in the world, is that the loudest voice in the room isn’t necessarily the sanest. It is often the ones whose voices are silenced or ignored that we must strive harder every day to seek out, hear, and welcome with outstretched arms into our “tribe.”

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Oct

Ain’t Misbehavin’

In a new, incredibly enjoyable regional revival of this 1978 Tony Award-winning show, La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts is presenting as its first show of its 40th anniversary season one of the most rousing, rip-roaring iterations of this musical treat, under the informed direction of one of the show’s original cast members, Ken Page. In his hands, along with strong assists from musical director/principal accompanist Lanny Hartley, choreographer Jeffrey Polk, and a supremely talented cast, this McCoy-Rigby Entertainment production is energized by a consistent barrage of spectacular musical performances that are exuberantly performed and are wonderfully appealing.

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Jul

Hairspray

What the Laguna Playhouse production of HAIRSPRAY lacks in high-caliber sheen and polish, it makes up for it in undeniable charm and cheeriness. To be fair, it’s a show prebuilt to be fun and frothy and this production doesn’t really skimp on it.

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Jul

PARADE

Emotionally resonant from start to finish, Chance Theater’s admirably ambitious production of PARADE creates grandness in a smaller scale, yet its impact is still palpable.

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