Spotlight Series: Meet Composer, Conductor, Lyricist, and Producer Christopher Raymond


This Spotlight focuses on composer, conductor, lyricist, and producer Christopher Raymond who has won an NAACP, Stage Raw, and Broadway World Awards for his work in theatre. Chris has also music directed several Los Angeles area awards shows as well as 14 productions with DOMA Theatre Company in Hollywood, among many others. And in December 2018, he became Music Director for Valley Outreach Synagogue in Calabasas where Passover and Shabbat services are being LiveStreamed from home.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your professional background?

Christopher Raymond (Chris): I started my career at the age of 15 by playing in the band for Jason Robert Brown's 13 The Musical at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, Mark Taper Forum and on Broadway.

(SB): I saw 13 The Musical at both the Kirk Douglas Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum and really loved the energy in the show. And all the teenage emotions bursting at the seams reminded me of many challenging days I experienced as a middle and high school teacher.

(Chris): I then went on to study music at CalArts, and am now a composer, lyricist and music director, and have won an NAACP, Stage Raw, and Broadway World Award for my work in theatre.

I co-wrote the theme song for the show, Troy (which opened at the 80,000-seat Beijing National Stadium in July, 2017), and music directed and orchestrated the Ovation Awards twice (at The Ahmanson Theatre and at the Theatre at Ace Hotel). I also music directed / arranged the LA Drama Critics Circle Awards twice.

I music directed, conducted and played piano for 14 productions with DOMA Theatre Company in Hollywood, including prominent revivals of Avenue Q, American Idiot, and Dreamgirls (which was awarded "Best Musical" by the LA Drama Critics Circle Awards and the LA Times Awards.)

I recently wrote the book, music and lyrics for Scarlet Letter: The Musical, which had a workshop production at Greenway Court Theatre. A highlights reel for the musical is available on YouTube here:

In December 2018, I became Music Director for Valley Outreach Synagogue in Calabasas. Working with Rabbi Ron Li-Paz, Cantor Michael Li-Paz, Chaplain Jennifer Eaves Nye and the rest of the VOS team is a continually inspiring experience.

(SB): How has COVID-19 affected your work at your Synagogue?

(Chris): The quarantine orders began in Los Angeles shortly before Passover. Due to this, we at VOS held two virtual Seders on our website. The Rabbi, Cantor, Chaplain, and myself LiveStreamed our Seders from our respective homes as our congregation joined us from their homes. It was a beautiful way to create joy and unity during a challenging time for the world.

We are currently LiveStreaming our Shabbat Services on Friday nights and all of our classes are being held online. We are grateful to live in a time when technology allows us to continue functioning and providing help as a Synagogue while our leadership and membership remain safely isolated at home.

(SB): How are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

(Chris): I have been recording / composing music in my home studio and I have also been making musical videos for Valley Outreach Synagogue's website. I have also had an opportunity to watch and support many friends' musical and arts-related projects online, which has been a joy.

(SB): What thoughts would you like to share with the rest of the L.A. Theatre community while we are all leaving the Ghostlight on and promising to return back to the stage soon?

(Chris): As a community, we are all going through uncharted waters, but I believe that at the end of the day we will be stronger and hopefully a bit wiser from the lessons we've learned during this pandemic. May we all stay safe and do our best to keep up our spirits/morale by continuing to learn, grow and create / appreciate art.


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



Spotlight Series: Meet Michael Mullen, An Award-Winning Costume Designer and Actor


This Spotlight focuses on Michael Mullen, an award-winning and always busy costume designer, writer and actor who often steps onstage in a variety of roles, both male and female.


Shari Barrett (SB): What would you like readers to know about your theatrical background?

Michael Mullen (MM): I’m a costume designer, actor, and writer who lives in Hollywood with my dog Choo Choo. I’ve worked in the L.A. theatre scene for many years now, and have received several awards and nominations for my work both onstage and off from such organizations as Ovation, L.A. Drama Critics Circle, L.A. Weekly, N.A.A.C.P., Scenie, Stage Raw, Robby, Broadway World, Ticket Holder, Eddon, and Desert Theatre League. I hope to keep working and doing what I love for many years to come, and I’m very happy to be a part of L.A.’s wonderful theatre community.

(SB): I know you are always busy costuming shows around town, so what production(s) were you involved with when word went out that those shows had to be closed or postponed?  

(MM): I was involved with a few shows when this whole Coronavirus pandemic started directly affecting theatre.  I costume designed Andrew Lippa’s The Wild Party at Morgan-Wixson Theatre (directed by my good friend Kristin Towers-Rowles) which was slated to open March 14th. I was at the theatre for final dress rehearsal on March 12th and the show was in great shape and ready for an audience. After the performance was over, Michael Heimos, the President of Morgan-Wixson’s board, came onto the stage to address the audience, cast, and crew to announce the run of the show was being postponed until later when it would be deemed safe to do theatre again. Everyone involved with the show was very sad over this news, but we all knew that this was the necessary and safe decision to make.

That night, the cast and crew stayed in the theatre and had an impromptu pizza Karaoke party to console each other that went on until the wee hours of the morning. Kristin (our director) organized a nice dinner for all the cast and crew at a restaurant called The Upper West for Friday, March 13th - which would’ve been our first and only preview performance. It was a lovely night of yummy food, drinks, and bonding. And now everything is on hold.

Michael Mullen in “The Importance of Being Earnest” at Crown City Theatre

Across town, I had a production of Romeo and Juliet (directed by Dana Martin) and All’s Well That End’s Well (directed by Nike Doukas) at a school called Art of Acting that had both just opened on March 11th. These two productions (which I costume designed) were both great, but unfortunately had to close early due to the Coronavirus situation as well. Everyone involved was sad of course, but understood why that decision had to be made.

That same weekend, I had In My Mind’s Eye (which I costume designed) close at Group Rep Theatre, but the production was scheduled to close that particular weekend anyway as it had come to the end of its scheduled run. The show was directed by Bruce Kimmel and written by Group Rep’s Artistic Director, Doug Haverty. It was sad to see the show end, but at least it was able to complete its full run before everything started shutting down.

(SB): You mentioned about the way in which The Wild Party cast and crew found out about the postponement. But what about the other productions at Art of Acting?

Michael Mullen in “The Legend of Georgia McBride” at Secret Rose. Photo credit: Chris Greenwell

(MM): As I recall, the cast of the two shows at Art of Acting were notified by email from the School Director, Johnny Yoder. I personally learned that the Art of Acting shows were closing early when I went to the school on March 12th during the afternoon to deal with some costume repairs for both productions. It was sad to receive all of this news about all three shows which I had costumed that were opening in mid-March. My heart broke, especially for all of the actors.

(SB):  Are plans in place to present the productions at a future date, or is the cancellation permanent? 

(MM): The plan for The Wild Party is for it to open and have a run later this year when it is safe to do so. Everyone involved is very happy about that and I think audiences will love the show since it’s fun, sexy, and very entertaining.  It’s weird to think that the set, props, costumes, wigs, and lights are all just sitting there in the theatre like a ghost light waiting to be used, but they will all get their glory and chance to shine eventually!

Romeo And Juliet and All’s Well That Ends Well at Art of Acting are sadly done for good. They were truly deserving of much longer runs.

(SB):  What future productions on your schedule are also affected by the shutdown?

(MM): I was costume designing several other productions that were supposed to open over the next few months, but unfortunately all have been cancelled and/or postponed until later (yet to be decided) dates when it is safe to do theatre again. Among these projects are A Little Night Music with Knot Free Productions, Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner with Ruskin Group, Imogene at Parson’s Nose, Art Of Acting’s productions of Distracted, Our Lady Of 121st Street, and Landscape Of The Body, and Love’s Labour’s Lost with Shakespeare By The Sea, as well as a few Hollywood Fringe shows. It has been announced that The Hollywood Fringe Festival (which was scheduled to happen in June 2020) is tentatively postponed until the month of October this fall. My 19-week-long costume design class at A Place Called Home has also been cancelled due to the building closing down until further notice.

(SB): That was quite a packed schedule!  I don’t know how you manage to work on so many shows at the same time and do them all so well. So for now, how are you keeping the Arts alive while at home by using social media or other online sites?

Michael Mullen and Choo Choo

(MM): I’m teaching acting/improv classes for kids on Zoom now, reading plays, following the news, Facebooking, talking with family and friends on the phone, watching a lot of T.V. and film, hanging out with my dog Choo Choo, and eating A LOT! And since the Hollywood Fringe Festival is now postponed until the fall, I’ve decided to try and write a play or at least find one to produce and act in myself. I mean, why not, right?! And masks! I should be making masks for people to wear! Bedazzled themed masks would be fun, huh?

(SB): Absolutely!

(MM): It’s tough to be alone and not see people because I’m a social person, but I’ll be okay. We’ll all get through this tough time, and I can’t wait to hug everyone when this Coronavirus nightmare is over.

I just want to remind all my fellow theatre folk that we are all in this together and that we will all be making theatre again when it is safe to do so. In the meantime, it’s important for all of us to stay healthy and safe, practice social distancing, get plenty of rest, and wash our damn hands!  It’s also important for us all to connect with each other and reach out if we get lonely. I’m here for anyone who wants to talk.  And I guess people are starting to do play readings on Zoom! I think that’s great! I encourage doing that for sure! Zoom Zoom, baby!

What I’m looking forward to the most, after this Coronavirus nightmare is over, is the resurgence of theatre across the world and especially here in Los Angeles. Theatre makes the world a better place. ❤️ Much love, everyone.

(SB) I am on the same page with you and can’t wait to get back to reviewing shows. #TheatreInspires


This article first appeared on Broadway World.



THE BETTER LEMONS "THEATRE HOUND" CRITIC AWARD FOR 2019 GOES TO...

SHARI BARRETT - Broadway World

The "Theatre Hound" Award goes to the critic most likely to review the hidden gems, off the beaten path, those with short runs and small budgets.

Congratulations to Shari from all of us!

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.

To view all of Shari's review excerpts, visit her Better Lemons page HERE.

To view all the Registered Critics on Better Lemons who post their own review excerpts and give each show a LemonMeter rating, go to Better-Lemons.com/Registered-Critics.

All Registered Critics write theater and art reviews for their own publications and then rate registered shows on our website and add their LemonMeter rating. Please contact them through their own website to congratulate them and to get them to review your production.

Tomorrow we will announce the winner of the "I Love LA" Award - the critic who did the most to promote LA Theatre in 2019.

THE BETTER LEMONS "FOMENTER OF REVOLUTION" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Ed Rampell from Hollywood Progressive.

THE BETTER LEMONS "NAME DROPPER" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Jill Weinlein from Onstage Blog.

THE BETTER LEMONS "SAY WHAT" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Lorenzo Marchessi from The Geek Authority.

THE BETTER LEMONS "SILVER TONGUE" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Vanessa Cate from Stage Raw.

THE BETTER LEMONS "DIRECTOR" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Ernest Kearney from TheTVolution.

THE BETTER LEMONS "UP LATE" CRITIC AWARD for 2019 went to Eric Gordon from People's World.


"Meet the Critics" Panel Podcast

On Saturday, June 2, Better Lemons and Theatre West hosted “Meet the Critics!” featuring several of LA's premier critics for a panel discussion of theatre criticism.

The following critics attended:

Shari Barrett from Broadway World
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. Shari now dedicates her time and focuses her skills as a theater reviewer, entertainment columnist, and publicist to ""get the word out"" about theaters of all sizes throughout the Los Angeles area.
Dale Reynolds from Edge Media Network
Dale Reynolds, a SoCal native, has been a critic for theatre, film and DVD since 1970, for a wide variety of outlets in NYC and L.A., including StageAndCinema.com, StageHappenings.com, EDGELosAngeles.com, and for Frontiers Magazine for many years, in addition to being West Coast Editor of A&U Magazine for four years.
Monique LeBleu from Los Angeles Beat
Monique A. LeBleu is a reviewer, writer, photographer, videographer, shameless foodie and wineaux. She has won multi JACC Journalism awards for her feature writing, critical journalism, and social media statewide competitions.
Patrick Chavis from LA Theatre Bites
Patrick Chavis is the creator, designer, podcast writer, and head editor of LA Theatre Bites. Because of the massive size of the Los Angeles area and its theatre presence, Patrick decided his reviews should take the form of podcasts en lieu of more traditionally written articles. He is also one of the creators of the Orange County based theatre review site, the Orange Curtain Review.
Bill Raden from LA Weekly
Since Bill wrote his first review for LA Weekly over 30 years ago, he has covered theater on both coasts, won multiple awards for his political journalism, and today continues to focus on Los Angeles' experimental and intimate stage scenes for LA Weekly as well as for the online stage journal, Stage Raw.
Leigh Kennicott from ShowMag
Leigh Kennicott has an extensive background in theatre, film and television and a Ph.D. degree in Theatre, awarded in 2002. A writer, director and actor, Leigh Kennicott began theatrical reviewing at Backstage, followed by Pasadena Weekly and Stage Happenings blog before joining showmag.com in 2018.
Katie Buenneke from Stage Raw
Katie has been a theater critic for over a decade, and has been reviewing Los Angeles theater for 7 years. She ran Neon Tommy's theater section for three years before freelancing for LA Weekly for another three years. She joined the LA Drama Critics Circle in 2015, and she's currently a regular contributor to Stage Raw. She earned her BA in theater and MFA in film producing from USC.
Jordan Riefe from The Hollywood Reporter
Currently serves as West Coast theatre critic for The Hollywood Reporter, while also covering art and culture for The Guardian, Cultured Magazine, and KCET Artbound. Cover theater for OC Register/Coast Magazine in Orange County and theatre and film for LA Weekly. Assigned beat for THR focuses on touring productions of Broadway shows.
Ernest Kearney from The TVolution
He is presently the cultural critic for The TVolution.com.
Michael Van Duzer from This Stage LA
Michael Van Duzer has reviewed opera performances, both locally and nationally, for over 30 years in a variety of print and online media outlets. After leaving his job in 2014, he was finally able to add theatre to his reviewing schedule.
Ryan M Luevano from Tin Pan LA
Ryan Luévano is a professor of music at Woodbury University and Santa Ana College. During the summers he is a regular teaching artist at A Noise Within Theatre Company in Pasadena. When he's not making music he pens as a theater critic for his blog Tin Pan L.A. where you can read all about the L.A. theater scene.
 


Drama League Awards, CTG Playwrights Initiative and more - This Week's Must Read

HERE ARE THIS WEEK'S BEST ARTICLES ABOUT THE PERFORMING ARTS AND CULTURE

  • Center Theatre Group partners with NY Second Stage in commissioning new work (New York Times)
  • Center Theatre Group Launches New Playwrights Initiative (American Theatre)
  • 11 of the funniest Shakespearean insults (What's On Stage)
  • Sam Gold on Trump and theatre: 'We have a place to put our anger and fear' (Guardian)
  • Participatory Performance, Activism, and the Limits of Change (Howlround)
  • The George Takei musical 'Allegiance' is coming to L.A. (LA Times)
  • This Is a Journey Into Sound: Simon McBurney on ‘The Encounter' (American Theatre)
  • Emma Rice: Shakespeare's Globe board ‘did not respect me' (The Stage)
  • Drama League Awards Nominees- What It All Means for the 2017 Tony Awards (Broadway World)
  • Steve Martin on Teaching You (and Himself) How to Be a Comedian (NY Times)
  • What Role Can Art Play In Politics? (Theatre Times)

What "must read" stories in the arts did you encounter this week?