Registered Critic: Tin Pan L.A.

Ryan Luévano is a professional music director, composer, musicologist and music educator. Ryan is an experienced music director and conductor for musical theater, opera, film and concert music. Past productions include: Experience Magic!, Annie, The Sound of Music, Into the Woods, Chess, The Pajama Game, Bells Are Ringing, and Funny Girl. Additionally, he works as a professor of music at Woodbury University and Santa Ana College. When he’s not producing shows he pens as a theater critic for his blog Tin Pan L.A. where you can read all about the L.A. theater scene.
Jun

INDECENT

Upon watching Indecent I can help but draw parallel to Fiddler on the Roof, yet another show (even though it’s a musical) that’s about challenging traditions—however, with Indecent, the roof is on fire and the fiddler must sacrifice themselves for the good of all. Nevertheless, within the content, structure, and storytelling, Indecent provides a glimpse into Vogel’s brilliant mind, ultimately giving audiences a stirring theatrical experience, they will remember and cherish always.

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Apr

Peter and the Starcatcher

Opening the 2019 season for Domino One Productions is the swashbuckling play with music Peter and the Starcatcher adapted for the stage by Rick Elice. This play tells the story of how an unnamed orphan boy becomes the beloved Peter Pan we all know and love. Starcatcher also provides the backstories of other well-known characters such as Mrs. Darling, Tinker Bell, Captain Hook, and the lost boys—it's fascinating to discover origin of these characters.

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Apr

ROALD DAHL'S MATILDA THE MUSICAL

This British import plays like a delicious British cake—it's chock full of hilarious physical comedy, witty and charming songs, and storytelling that so perfectly from the across the pond. What's surprising about the musical is how much of the film and novel the stage version is actually able to accomplish on stage. You get all the iconic moments from the film with added songs and dancing that only heighten all the action.

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Mar

The Glass Menagerie

For Tennessee Williams, his 1944 autobiographical play, The Glass Menagerie changed his life forever. Upon its premiere in Chicago, then its transfer to Broadway, William's went on to become one of America's most beloved playwrights. The motto “write what you know” comes to mind when discussing Menagerie—there are glimpses of the writer and his family all over the play, especially in the character Tom. It's a play that is a look at the strength, and simultaneous fragility that exist in any family unit, thus its themes still resonate even today. This classic play is brought to life by director Geoff Elliott and the rest of the players at A Noise Within Theatre company in a poignant revival that eloquently takes us back to simpler times to reacquaint audiences with this American classic.

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Mar

RAGTIME: THE MUSICAL

The Pasadena Playhouse's first offering in 2019 is the American musical Ragtime: The Musical with a book by Terrence McNally, lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and music by Stephen Flaherty—and what an offering. Ragtime is a big show on so many levels, thematically it deals with immigration, racism, white privilege, women's rights among other weighty themes, and logistically, it boasts a 21-person cast with a 16-piece orchestra. It's an ambitious project for any theatre company and the Pasadena Playhouse has risen to the occasion with this sumptuous production.

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Dec

COME FROM AWAY

The musical Come from Away is a love letter to humanity, a reminder that when times are tough you can always count on people to help you weather the storm—especially Canadians. The “9/12” musical by Irene Sankoff and David Hein tells the story of what transpired when 38 planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

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Nov

VALLEY OF THE HEART

Proclaimed by president Barack Obama for “bringing Chicano culture to American drama”, playwright Luis Valdez's(most notably known for Zoot Suit) latest play Valley of the Heart brings both Chicano and Japanese culture to the stage. Based on Valdez's life experiences as a child growing up on farms in the Central Valley, the play tells what happened when the Japanese American farmers were sent to internment camps during WWII, then consequently forced to leave their land in the care of their Mexican American workers.

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Oct

DEAR EVAN HANSEN

‘DEAR EVAN HANSEN' A BEACON OF HOPE FOR A WORLD THAT NEEDS IT

I remember when the now, six Tony-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen, first appeared on my radar when it inconspicuously opened Off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre in 2016. Within a short time, the musical started creating a profound buzz followed by a winning a profusion of theatre awards. Then just the next year the musical was on Broadway and the rest is history. As a native of the West Coast this musical was experienced in a second-hand fashion from watching clips on YouTube, listening to the soundtrack and even reading the playscript once it was released, but this did not do the musical justice.

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Sep

Native Gardens

REVIEW: NATIVE GARDENS

BY RYAN M. LUÉVANO

Karen Zacarías' new comedy Native Gardens, now playing at the Pasadena Playhouse, is the perfect fit for this city's perfectly tailored green lawns and gardening lifestyle that includes the celebrated Tournament of Roses Parade. The play directed by Jason Alexander proves that just how challenging it can be to share a property line, and the what it truly means to be a good neighbor. Zacarías adeptly infuses issues of ageism, taste, race, and class into this brisk comedy that can't help but remind us of an elevated episode of I Love Lucy.

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Jul

Mutt House

Singing and dancing canines are taking stage at the Kirk Douglass Theatre this month in the original musical Mutt House. This world premiere musical about dogs is created and written by Tony Cookson with music and lyrics by John Daniel, Tony Cookson, Robb Curtis Brown, and David O. The show features 18 original songs and a cast of ten (four human characters and six dog characters). The idea of people dressed like dogs (although tastefully done here) singing and dancing is problematic because taking these characters seriously requires a combination of compelling writing and stellar acting; and in the case of Mutt House these two elements are widely unbalanced favoring the acting.

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Jun

SOFT POWER

To commemorate Center Theatre Group's 50th anniversary season, Artistic Director Michael Ritchie commissioned playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly) to write a piece of theatre, that piece is Soft Power [soft pow·er (noun)a persuasive approach to international relations, typically involving the use of cultural influence]. What originally began as a play has morphed into what it is now a “play with a musical”, complete with a 22-piece orchestra and music by Tony Award winning composer Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home).

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Jun

Cabaret

To say Cabaret is a well-known musical is an understatement—its tuneful score and chilling story are iconic earning itself a rightful place in the musical theater canon. What is also true is that it's only produced by theatre companies that have both the means and aptitude to fully realize the force that the show requires. Earlier this year La Mirada Theatre presented a dazzling version of Cabaret on the big stage, and now Celebration Theatre presents this show as the final offering of its 2017-2018 season—and what an offering it is for LA audiences. Simply put, whereas La Mirada's version allows audiences to sit back to watch the show from afar, Celebration Theatre's version encourages you to lean in close to become part of the drama at hand.

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Jun

Stand Down The March

In the profusion of the over 100 works in the “ensemble theatre” category at this year's Hollywood Fringe Festival, Naomi Brodkin's play Stand Down the March is a diamond in the rough. The play was commissioned by Next Theatre of Evanston in 2011 and went on to win the “New Voices: Emerging Talent” award from the Chicago Jewish Historical Society in 2012. Now the play is making its LA premiere in a political climate that makes this work even more timely.

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Jun

White People Drinking - The Controversial Comedy

Joining the ranks of the over 100 ensemble theater pieces in this year's Hollywood Fringe Festival the new play White People Drinking by Daniel Sugimoto is one you should add to your must-see list. The premise of the play is simple: a billionaire and his wife have a dinner party and they've invited two millennial couples who have no idea what they're doing there, or what to expect. . .and it's not what you'd expect either. With such a simple premise White People Drinking packs a big punch—it's a 90-minute roller coaster ride whose destination is to be determined until the very end.

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May

VIOLET

Unless you're a musical theatre aficionado or follow the work of composer the brilliant composer Jeanine Tesori, you may have never heard of the 2014 musical Violet. But just because show's name isn't familiar, doesn't mean that Violet should be overlooked. Violet may not have the sparkle of a commercial musical that can sustain on the Great White Way, but its story, means of storytelling and country, blues, gospel, honky-tonk score make for a captivating night at the theatre.

The musical tells the story of a young woman with a scar on her face who endeavors to travel by bus to Tulsa, Oklahoma in order to be healed by a TV evangelist. What's more the production by the Actors Co-Op Theatre Company, under the direction of Richard Israel, draws out all the richness of this musical gem for a L.A. revival that is stirring from beginning to end.

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Apr

Native Son

In high school Richard Wright's 1940 novel Native Son was required reading, the book about a young African American man living in poverty in 1930s Chicago who kills, rapes, and then is sentenced to death. Everything that happens in this book is heavy and dark, truth be told I wasn't entirely sure what to make of this disquieting tale back then. Now years later this book takes stage at Antaeus Theatre Company in Nambi E. Kelley's 2014 adaption, and even now this stage version still conjures up these same unsettling emotions but now with resounding clarity because the unfortunately many of the scenarios from this story resemble issues that riddle our society even today.

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Mar

ALLEGIANCE

The musical Allegiance, which had a short run on Broadway from October 2015 to February 2016, is experiencing it's Los Angeles premiere by the East West Players and the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center featuring George Takei reprising his original role from the Broadway run. Also reprising their Broadway roles are Elena Wang as Kei Kimura, Greg Watanabe as Mike Masaoka, Scott Watanabe as Tatsuo Kimura, and Janelle Dote as Executor.

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Mar

A Raisin in the Sun

A Noise Within continues its 2018 season on the theme of ‘Entertaining Courage' with a production of Lorraine Hanberry's play A Raisin in the Sun. The 1959 play denotes a courage of its own as it marked as the first play on Broadway to be written by a black woman and first to be directed by a black director, Lloyd Richards. Now fifty-nine years later the play's themes of a minority's struggle to attain the American dream in a world of racial inequality still ring true today, though the toil is no longer limited solely to African-Americans.

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Mar

A Streetcar Named Desire

Since its first performance in 1947, A Streetcar Named Desire remains among the finest plays of the 20th century and one of Tennessee Williams' most beloved works. Of the original production, New York Times critic Brooks Atkinson wrote: “Like ‘The Glass Menagerie' the new play is a quietly woven study of intangibles. But to this observer it shows a great step toward clarity. And it reveals Mr. Williams as a genuinely poetic playwright whose knowledge of people is honest and thorough and whose sympathy is profoundly human”. Now over seventy years later, the Theatre at Boston Court presents this masterwork with contemporary and multicultural transformations bringing a new kind of clarity for modern audiences to experience.

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Jan

Cabaret

With just a drum roll and a cymbal crash, the iconic 1966 musical Cabaret, music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, and book by Joe Masteroff, begins, luring audiences into the dingy cabaret, the Kit Kat Klub, in 1930s Berlin. Since its opening on Broadway, this eight Tony Award winning musical has celebrated numerous revivals and a film in 1972. It's the dark musical that audiences simply can't get enough of and offers a myriad of possibilities for presentation for theatre companies. La Mirada Theatre delves into the world of Cabaret with a presentation on the big stage that embraces the inherent grit of the show while never letting audiences forget that: “life is a cabaret”.

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