Registered Critic: Shari Barrett

Shari Barrett, a Los Angeles native, has been active in the theater world since the age of six - acting, singing, and dancing her way across the boards all over town. After teaching in local secondary schools, working in marketing for several studios, writing, directing, producing, and performing in productions for several non-profit theaters, Shari now dedicates her time and focuses her skills as an independent publicist to "get the word out" about smaller theaters throughout the Los Angeles area. As a founding member of the LA Stage Alliance Leadership Council Task Force, she and reps from theaters throughout the city worked together to articulate a vision for the theatre community of Greater Los Angeles. Shari has received recognition from the City of Los Angeles for her dedication of heart and hand to the needs of friends, neighbors and fellow members of society for her devotion of service to the people of Los Angeles, and is honored to serve the theatre world in her hometown.
Feb

RAGTIME: THE MUSICAL

As the musical’s stories unfold and the ensembles intertwine, you will be blown away by the quality of all performers, fast pace of the direction, the intricate, multi-level scenic design by Tom Buderwitz which resembles a warehouse full of crates, the range of class appropriate costumes by Kate Bergh, effective and attention-grabbing lighting design by Jared A. Sayeg, with sound and projection designs by Philip G. Allen and Hana Sooyeon Kim. Each element enhances this tragic yet ultimately uplifting American classic whose themes are unfortunately still all too familiar. Director David Lee said, “The themes of the show are more relevant than ever. Set in the first years of the 20th Century, it deals with immigration, racism, white privilege, women’s’ rights, workers’ rights, violence in the name of justice, media’s outsize influence on our democracy, inter-sectional politics and even the clash between fact and fiction in reporting our history.”

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Feb

Matthew Bourne’s ‘Cinderella’

Adding in a heartwarming touch, Cinderella’s father Robert (Alan Vincent) is wheelchair bound and lovingly cared for by his daughter while ignored by Sybil (Madelaine Brennan), her evil Stepmother and self-centered Stepsisters Irene (Sophia Hurdley), Vivien (Anjali Mehra) and Stepbrothers Malcolm (Jackson Fisch), Vernon (Dan Wright) and Elliott (Stephen Murray). Their total disregard for Cinderella is always apparent, especially during Act 1 when the invitations arrive for the event at Café de Paris and they all mock her as the only one in the family not receiving one. Of course, in a marvelous modern updating, her Angel arrives on a white motorcycle with Cinderella in his sidecar waving an invitation to the party which opens Act 2.

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Feb

SMART LOVE

As the play ended, I could not help but wonder just how far human beings will be willing to go as our technology expands in order to be reunited with a lost loved one, just to have the chance to do or say the things left undone or unspoken the first time around. Perhaps that longing for emotional closure is the reason why SMART LOVE will ring true with every audience member in their own deeply personal ways, acknowledging that perhaps love is all about failing and forgiving over and over again.

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Feb

It Is Done

As time passes, alliances are challenged and changed, nightmares and truths are revealed, and one of these lonely folks is on a mission to fulfill a bargain made with the devil. The fun is in trying to figure it out by noticing clues when they are revealed. But this mystery is so well written, you will be kept guessing until near the end when the truth is revealed and IT IS DONE.

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Feb

1776 THE MUSICAL

Having seen the musical HAMILTON when it was in Los Angeles, like many others I learned more important details about the founding fathers while watching it than I felt I had ever learned in school. Lin-Manuel Miranda who created that uber-successful musical in 2015, has said that 1776 THE MUSICAL, written in 1969 during another time of political and social unrest in the United States, has “one of the best books-if not the best-ever written for musical theatre.” And now I can say I certainly agree with him. The perfect way to prove the arts can teach valuable history lessons to its audiences is by encouraging everyone to see 1776 THE MUSICAL.

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Feb

The Manor: Murder and Madness at Greystone

Every January I look forward to attending THE MANOR where the story upon which it is based actually took place. Now celebrating its 17th year, the annual production has become a Los Angeles/Beverly Hills institution with several performances selling out even before tickets go on sale to the public. Its popularity, no doubt, is due to the scandalous true story as told by the talented actors, costumed to time-period perfection, as well as the chance to be inside the grand and glorious architectural landmark in which the events of 90 years ago actually took place, performed in two acts taking place 10 years apart. The names of all characters in the Doheny saga have been changed, of course, “to protect the guilty” as we are told before the play begins by the mansion’s loyal butler, James (Daniel Lench who has masterfully played the part for 6 years).

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Feb

Jocasta: A Motherf**king Tragedy

The Ghost Road Company is one of Los Angeles’ premiere theatre ensembles dedicated to the creation of new work for the stage. The company is unique in its approach, having developed its own methods of collaborative development over many years. So when I heard they were re-imagining the story of Oedipus, calling it JOCASTA: A MOTHERF**ING TRAGEDY conceived and directed by Brian Weir, I was intrigued to say the least. But after seeing the show, I am not quite sure how to write about it other than to say it was visually stunning to watch but confusing to the point of distraction.

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Feb

LINDA VISTA

Loved the set. Hated the lead character and his comments about women. And the Steely Dan music was blasted way too loud.

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Feb

An Inspector Calls

AN INSPECTOR CALLS has been described in the Washington Post as “an episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’ wrapped in an Agatha Christie mystery,” and after seeing the show at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, I must say that about sums up the play for me too. Running at almost two hours without an intermission, at first it seemed to be just a bunch of talking heads yelling loudly with strong British accents – that is until the end when a Rod Serling-like phone call delivers a twist that sets the whole thing into the realm of “what just really happened?”

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Jan

Rod Serling’s Stories from the Zone

The cast of Rod Serling’S STORIES FROM THE ZONE includes Mark Bate, John W. Combs, Yancey Dunham, Henry Herman, Richard Large, Meghan Lloyd, Brianna Parcel, Brian Pope, Jeff G. Rack, Philip Sokoloff, Toni Trenton and Jeffrey Winner, all of whom deliver great character performances in both episodes, beautifully dressed to period perfection by Shon LeBlanc, owner of The Costume House in NoHo. Two episodes are presented: “Mr. Garrity and the Graves” originally aired on 5/8/64 near the end of the show’s run, set in the Old West circa 1890. “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” first aired on 5/26/61 during the show’s second season and remains one of the series most popular episodes due to its premise that aliens from other planets were in fact living among us, disguised as humans while planning their invasion. Special kudos go to Jeffrey Winner and Philip Sokoloff for keeping us guessing who is the alien as they blame each other, while we wait for the truth to be revealed.

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Dec

LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE

LOVE ACTUALLY, a 2003 film written and directed by Richard Curtis, follows the lives of eight very different couples dealing with their love lives in various loosely interrelated tales, all set during the frantic month before Christmas in London, England. Its message that love is all you really need begins with a voiceover in which Hugh Grant as David comments that whenever he gets gloomy about the state of the world, he remembers the pure uncomplicated love he has witnessed at the arrival terminal at Heathrow as friends and families welcome their loved ones. From there, the film goes on to tell the “love stories” all eight of which wind up intertwining by the end.

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Dec

Wink

Playwright Neil Koenigsberg spent time volunteering at a New York LGBTQ center for homeless youth, and that transformative experience inspired him to write WINK, a play about a non-binary kid and the unexpected connections that happen in life and forever change us. I encourage everyone from all belief systems to see it, not only for its brilliant commentary on why unconditional acceptance of all people is how our lives should be lived, but also for the perfectly cast lead actor, Andrik Ochoa, whose own life mirrors the title character, adding incredible realism to his portrayal.

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Dec

SANDEMONIUM

While Sandra Bernhard may not be the greatest singer to ever take the stage, her raw enthusiasm and oversized personality enveloped each of her songs, especially her opening revival-style meeting rendition of Neil Diamond’s “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” in which she celebrated spiritual freedom with each clang of her tambourine. Her own brand of Self Love is apparent in everything she does, accepting her differences with such aplomb you cannot help but love her exactly as she is.

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Dec

DIXIE’S TUPPERWARE PARTY

Grab one of Dixie’s special elixirs in a Tupperware sippy cup from the lobby bar and don a name tag provided at a table close by before the show as many audience members, especially four very lucky ones selected to sit on the stage and participate during the party, are often called upon to answer questions and share their thoughts about life and, of course, personal stories about Tupperware memories from your own childhood.

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Dec

Finks

FINKS centers on Mickey Dobbs (French Stewart), Review: FINKS Centers on a Terrifying Time and No-Win Situation for Artists in Americaa comic on the verge of TV stardom who meets Natalie Meltzer (Vanessa Claire Stewart), a left-wing actress/activist who gathers friends in support of changing the way democracy was splitting America based on wealth. And if you think about it, even to this day many of their arguments for socialized medicine and equal rights still make media headlines and split public opinion. But in the 1950s, those who spoke out for such things were seen a subversive to our government and labelled communists, with Senator Joe McCarthy convinced movies were being made to promote those beliefs and needed to be halted before undermining our democracy. Intense production that teaches a lesson we all need to remember or we are doomed to repeat it.

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Dec

Special

Laughs abound from start to finish as we witness how the ridiculous nature of the script, backstage politics and out-of-control spending doomed The Stars Wars Holiday Special in 1978 to go down in history as being the most horrible TV special that nobody talks about, notoriously known for its extremely negative reception by Star Wars fans, the general public, and critics.

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Dec

The Mouse Trap

Any stage manager can tell you their worst nightmare occurs when an actor fails to show up for a performance with no way to reach that person via phone or email. Basically you have two choices: cancel the performance or have someone else go on in the role, usually reading lines from the script book and often not in costume. But the old theater adage that “the show must go on” almost always rings true, and such was the case at the Sunday, December 2 matinee of Agatha Christie’s THE MOUSETRAP at Crown City Theatre when an actor scheduled to be in that performance was a not show and could not be reached. After a 10-minute delay, it was announced one of the group’s Artistic Directors, William A. Reilly, would be going on in a role, on book and dressed in shorts and sneakers. And to top that off, actor and the show’s costumer Michael Mullen, would be taking on the role of Mrs. Doyle in Act 1 and then switching over to playing Mr. Paravicini in Act 2. And live theater being what it is, the show did go on and it was a wonderful few hours of entertainment generated with dedication to the story and characters, with an air of real excitement living moment-to-moment onstage!

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Dec

SHE LOVES ME

This production is the best of the best thanks to director Cate Caplin’s cleverly entertaining choreography and quick-pace direction which has cut 45 minutes from the long run time, along with the multi-talented cast of triple-threat actors. You see, Stephen Gifford’s one-set scenic design easily morphs into locations other than Maraczek’s Perfumerie where the characters are employed with just small set pieces rolled in or lowered out of cabinets. Several doors are used as either the front door to the shop, ways into and out of its office and break room, apartments, a hospital room, and the wonderfully entertaining Café International where the Head Waiter assures us his greatest desire is to create “A Romantic Atmosphere” for lovers who interchange couples during this sexy rumba ensemble number which Caplin has made a real highlight of the show.

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Nov

Hughie & Krapp’s Last Tape

Both one-acts in this masterful and memorable double-billing, directed by Steven Robman, are reflective and confessional in nature, BWW Review: Brian Dennehy Inhabits Lives Remembered in HUGHIE and KRAPP’S LAST TAPE at the Geffen Playhousewith each of the main characters portrayed by masterful actor Brian Dennehy sharing tales of their lives in an attempt to make sense of the way it has turned out for them, especially since the present does not seem to have lived up to the excitement of the past. Perhaps that universal truth is what united these two one acts, with O’Neill and Beckett asking audiences to take a look back at our own lives and realize that even when things seem hopeless and/or meaningless, memories of times past may be the thing to break your downward spiral.

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Nov

VIETGONE

Over its remarkable 53-year history, East West Players has become the longest-running professional theater of color and the largest producing organization of Asian American artistic work. Their 2018-2019 season, entitled Culture Shock, explores what it means to be an immigrant in this country and an American abroad. To that end, the first play of the season, flawlessly directed by Jennifer Chang, is the Los Angeles premiere of VIETGONE. The play is written by Qui Nguyen, inspired by how his parents met and fell in love in a refugee camp, weaving in personal history with a powerful narrative about immigration, war, and forced relocation. Just as the topic of illegal immigration is in the news now, “Vietgone” addresses just how difficult it was for so many refugees at the end of the Vietnam War when so many were forced to leave their country and family members behind while fleeing for their lives with just the clothes on their backs.

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