THE BEST OF SHOWS ON BETTER LEMONS IN 2019

Better Lemons had a fantastic year and we couldn't have done it without the fantastic critics, publicists, and audience members who share their love of Los Angeles theater, by posting on Better Lemons and sharing their favorite shows and their reviews on social media.

We are especially grateful for all the Registered Critics who took their time this past year to rate shows they have reviewed to be included in our LemonMeter.

There were 1200 productions registered on Better Lemons in 2019! Out of those registered shows, over 600 received at least one review from a Critic and 201 were reviewed by Audience members. Out of these shows, we selected the winners that were most favored by Critics and/or Audiences.

Here is a list with all the Better Lemons SWEET productions of 2019:

The Better Lemons DoubleSWEET #LemonMeter Choice Awards for 2019
are going to the following productions:

(33 shows out of 1200 productions received
a DoubleSWEET #LemonMeter rating
from audience and critics)

TALES FROM THE POWDER ROOM at the Whitefire Theatre
41 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
3 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

IF WE RUN at the Lounge Theatre
32 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
3 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

RAISED BY WOLVES at the Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre
32 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
3 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

TO DAD WITH LOVE: A TRIBUTE TO BUDDY EBSEN at Theatre West
30 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
14 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

FERTILE: A CONVERSATION ABOUT THE EXPECTATION OF PROCREATION currently at the Whitefire Theatre
27 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
8 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

HOLLYWOODN'T at the Santa Monica Playhouse
20 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
3 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

THE BULLY PROBLEM at the Arena Theatre - Theatre of Arts
17 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
9 Critics reviews - 94% Sweet

THE NARCISSIST NEXT DOOR at the Complex Theatre
15 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
4 Critics reviews - 75% Sweet

THE ELEPHANT MAN at the El Portal Theatre
14 Audience reviews - 96% Sweet
7 Critics reviews - 93% Sweet

MONO/POLY at the Odyssey Theatre
14 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
5 Critics reviews - 90% Sweet

MASTERS OF THE DARK REALM at the Actors Workout Studio
14 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
4 Critics reviews - 88% Sweet

BUNNY THE ELF LIVE! currently at the Stages in Fullerton
14 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
3 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

CRACK WHORE, BULIMIC, GIRL-NEXT-DOOR at the Complex Theatre
14 Audience reviews - 96% Sweet
3 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

A BIT MUCH at the Lounge Theatre
12 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
3 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

(IM)PERFEKT at the Santa Monica Playhouse
11 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
5 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

BLACKBOXING at the Complex Theatre
10 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
5 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

MIL GRUS at the McCadden Place Theatre
10 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
5 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

TRANSFERENCE at The Broadwater
9 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
6 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

SCRAPS at the Matrix Theatre
8 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
15 Critics reviews - 87% Sweet

SUPPORTIVE WHITE PARENTS at The Broadwater
8 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
4 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

NEIL SIMON'S MUSICAL FOOLS by the Open Fist Theatre Company
7 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
13 Critics reviews - 92% Sweet

ROMEO AND JULIET IN HELL at the Actors Workout Studio
7 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
8 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

FALLEN SAINTS: SALEM at the Actors Workout Studio
7 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
7 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

SAVING CAIN at the Hudson Theatres
6 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
5 Critics reviews - 90% Sweet

THE LAST CROISSANT at The Broadwater
5 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
6 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

TREYA'S LAST DANCE at the Hudson Theatres
4 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
10 Critics reviews - 95% Sweet

OLIVIA WILDE DOES NOT SURVIVE THE APOCALYPSE at the Complex Theatre
4 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
6 Critics reviews - 92% Sweet

CLARISSANT at the Atwater Village Theatre
4 Audience reviews - 88% Sweet
4 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

CIRQUE DU GISELLE at the Assistance League Theater
4 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
4 Critics reviews - 88% Sweet

BATTER UP: MY BRAIN ON BASEBALL at studio/stage
4 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
4 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

JOAN AND WHAT DID THEY SAY - AN EVENING OF ONE ACTS at Theatre Unlimited (T.U. Studios)
4 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
3 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

TREASON at the Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre
4 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
3 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

45 MILLIGRAMS at The Broadwater
3 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet
3 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

The Better Lemons Audience #LemonMeter Choice Awards for 2019
are going to the following productions:

(32 shows out of 1200 productions received
a minimum of 10 audience reviews
and have received a SWEET #LemonMeter rating by the Audience)

TALES FROM THE POWDER ROOM at the Whitefire Theatre
41 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

IF WE RUN at the Lounge Theatre
32 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

RAISED BY WOLVES at the Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre
32 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

TO DAD WITH LOVE: A TRIBUTE TO BUDDY EBSEN at Theatre West
30 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

FERTILE: A CONVERSATION ABOUT THE EXPECTATION OF PROCREATION currently at the Whitefire Theatre
27 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

AN EXCUSE TO BEHAVE BADLY at the Lounge Theatre
22 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

HOLLYWOODN'T at the Santa Monica Playhouse
20 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

THE BULLY PROBLEM at the Arena Theatre - Theatre of Arts
17 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

TELENOVELA at the Actors Workout Studio
16 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

AMERICAN STRANGER THE MUSICAL at Studio C
16 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

THE NARCISSIST NEXT DOOR at the Complex Theatre
15 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

MONO/POLY at the Odyssey Theatre
14 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

MASTERS OF THE DARK REALM at the Actors Workout Studio
14 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

BUNNY THE ELF LIVE! currently at the Stages in Fullerton
14 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

CRACK WHORE, BULIMIC, GIRL-NEXT-DOOR Complex Theatre
14 Audience reviews - 96% Sweet

THE ELEPHANT MAN at the El Portal Theatre
14 Audience reviews - 96% Sweet

MANDY PICKS A HUSBAND at the Actors Company
13 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

A BIT MUCH at the Lounge Theatre
12 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

ASK A BLACK WOMAN at Studio C
12 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

THANK YOU FOR LOVING ME at the Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre
12 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

BIRTHDAY at the Actors Company
12 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

(IM)PERFEKT at the Santa Monica Playhouse
11 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

LEAVING PRINCE CHARMING at the Lounge Theatre
11 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

ENERJOYCE...EVOLUTION OF A PISCES BABY BOOMER at the Santa Monica Playhouse
11 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

YES. NO. MAYBE. at the Complex Theatre
11 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

BECOMING PEACE: A ONE WOMAN DRAMEDY ABOUT POWER, CULTURE, VIOLENCE AND NONVIOLENCE at the Lounge Theatre
10 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

CAT SH!T CRAZY...FROM HOT MESS TO HOT MAMA IN FOUR SIMPLE CATS at the Whitefire Theatre
10 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

OCTOPI WALL STREET at the New American Theatre
10 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

EMBRACE LOVE FREE at the Santa Monica Playhouse
10 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

BLACKBOXING at the Santa Monica Playhouse
10 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

MIL GRUS at the McCadden Place Theatre
10 Audience reviews - 100% Sweet

The Better Lemons Critics #LemonMeter Choice Awards for 2019
are going to the following productions:

(92 shows out of 1200 productions received
a minimum of 10 critic reviews
and have received a SWEET #LemonMeter rating by the Critics)

DANIEL'S HUSBAND at The Fountain Theatre
26 Critics reviews - 96% Sweet

WITCH at the Geffen Playhouse
21 Critics reviews - 93% Sweet

HANDJOB by the Echo Theater Company
21 Critics reviews - 79% Sweet

THE PLAY THAT GOES WRONG at the Ahmanson Theatre
21 Critics reviews - 76% Sweet

THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN by the Antaeus Theatre Company
20 Critics reviews - 90% Sweet

SKINTIGHT at the Geffen Playhouse
19 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE by the Antaeus Theatre Company
19 Critics reviews - 97% Sweet

BETWEEN RIVERSIDE AND CRAZY at The Fountain Theatre
19 Critics reviews - 79% Sweet

LATIN HISTORY FOR MORONS at the Ahmanson Theatre
18 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

MATTHEW BOURNE'S SWAN LAKE at the Ahmanson Theatre
18 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

1776 THE MUSICAL at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
18 Critics reviews - 94% Sweet

BRONCO BILLY - THE MUSICAL at the Skylight Theatre Company
18 Critics reviews - 92% Sweet

AN INSPECTOR CALLS at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
18 Critics reviews - 81% Sweet

DEADLY at the Sacred Fools Theater Company
18 Critics reviews - 75% Sweet

ON BECKETT at the Kirk Douglas Theatre
17 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

HELLO DOLLY at the Pantages Theatre
17 Critics reviews - 97% Sweet

READY STEADY YETI GO at the Rogue Machine Theatre
17 Critics reviews - 82% Sweet

TOO MUCH SUN at the Odyssey Theatre
17 Critics reviews - 82% Sweet

SALVAGE at the Lounge Theatre
16 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

LOOT at the Odyssey Theatre
16 Critics reviews - 91% Sweet

ANNE, A NEW PLAY at the Museum of Tolerance
16 Critics reviews - 88% Sweet

MYSTERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES at the Geffen Playhouse
16 Critics reviews - 84% Sweet

NICK DEAR'S FRANKENSTEIN at A Noise Within
16 Critics reviews - 78% Sweet

RAGTIME: THE MUSICAL at the Pasadena Playhouse
15 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

INDECENT at the Ahmanson Theatre
15 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
15 Critics reviews - 97% Sweet

DANA H. at the Kirk Douglas Theatre
15 Critics reviews - 97% Sweet

EIGHT NIGHTS by the Antaeus Theatre Company
15 Critics reviews - 93% Sweet

FALSETTOS at the Ahmanson Theatre
15 Critics reviews - 90% Sweet

A KID LIKE JAKE by the IAMA Theatre Company
15 Critics reviews - 90% Sweet

LACKAWANNA BLUES at the Mark Taper Forum
15 Critics reviews - 90% Sweet

HYPE MAN at The Fountain Theatre
15 Critics reviews - 90% Sweet

SCRAPS at the Matrix Theatre
15 critics reviews - 87% Sweet

OTHELLO at A Noise Within
15 Critics reviews - 80% Sweet

PARADISE at the Matrix Theatre
15 Critics reviews - 77% Sweet

LINDA VISTA at the Mark Taper Forum
15 Critics reviews - 77% Sweet

AUGUST WILSON'S JITNEY at the Mark Taper Forum
14 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

TO DAD WITH LOVE: A TRIBUTE TO BUDDY EBSEN at Theatre West
14 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

THE SKIN OF OUR TEETH at Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum
14 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

DIANA OF DOBSON'S by the Antaeus Theatre Company
14 Critics reviews - 93% Sweet

MOBY DICK - REHEARSED at Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum
14 Critics reviews - 89% Sweet

THE SOLID LIFE OF SUGAR WATER by Deaf West Theatre
14 Critics reviews - 89% Sweet

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS at the Pasadena Playhouse
14 Critics reviews - 75% Sweet

TWO TRAINS RUNNING AT MATRIX at the Matrix Theatre
13 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

IN CIRCLES at the Odyssey Theatre
13 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

TWELFTH NIGHT at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
13 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

RAGTIME at the Chance Theater
13 Critics reviews - 96% Sweet

NEIL SIMON'S MUSICAL FOOLS by the Open Fist Theatre Company
13 Critics reviews - 92% Sweet

WITNESS UGANDA at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
13 Critics reviews - 92% Sweet

THE JOY WHEEL at the Ruskin Group Theatre
13 Critics reviews - 88% Sweet

THE WOLVES by the Echo Theater Company
13 Critics reviews - 88% Sweet

FAITH HEALER at the Odyssey Theatre
13 Critics reviews - 88% Sweet

THE NICETIES at the Geffen Playhouse
13 Critics reviews - 88% Sweet

ARGONAUTIKA at A Noise Within
13 Critics reviews - 88% Sweet

THE PRODUCERS at the Celebration Theatre @ The Lex
13 Critics reviews - 88% Sweet

FEFU AND HER FRIENDS at the Odyssey Theatre
13 Critics reviews - 88% Sweet

LIGHTS OUT: NAT "KING" COLE at the Geffen Playhouse
13 Critics reviews - 85% Sweet

GRUMPY OLD MEN: THE MUSICAL at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
13 Critics reviews - 77% Sweet

HAPPY DAYS at the Mark Taper Forum
12 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

CANYON at theLos Angeles Theatre Center
12 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

THE VANDAL at the Chance Theater
12 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

DEATH OF A SALESMAN at the Ruskin Group Theatre
12 Critics reviews - 96% Sweet

NANCY F***ING REAGAN at the Secret Rose Theatre
12 Critics reviews - 88% Sweet

AMERICA ADJACENT at theSkylight Theatre Company
12 Critics reviews - 83% Sweet

DEFENDERS at The Broadwater
12 Critics reviews - 79% Sweet

ANASTASIA at the Pantages Theatre
12 Critics reviews - 75% Sweet

JULIUS WEEZER at the El Portal Theatre
11 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

ANDY WARHOL’S TOMATO at the Pacific Resident Theatre
11 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

BURIED CHILD at A Noise Within
11 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts
11 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

HERSHEY FELDER: A PARIS LOVE STORY at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
11 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

ANNA IN THE TROPICS by the Open Fist Theatre Company
11 Critics reviews - 95% Sweet

THE GLASS MENAGERIE at A Noise Within
11 Critics reviews - 95% Sweet

AT THE TABLE at The Road Theatre Company
11 Critics reviews - 91% Sweet

MISS LILLY GETS BONED at the Rogue Machine Theatre
11 Critics reviews - 91% Sweet

SISTERS IN LAW at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
11 Critics reviews - 91% Sweet

THE GREAT LEAP at the Pasadena Playhouse
11 Critics reviews - 91% Sweet

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE at the Odyssey Theatre
11 Critics reviews - 86% Sweet

M. BUTTERFLY at the South Coast Repertory
11 Critics reviews - 77% Sweet

THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER by The Group Rep/Lonny Chapman Theatre
10 Critics reviews - 100% Sweet

TREYA'S LAST DANCE at the Hudson Theatres
10 Critics reviews - 95% Sweet

DAMES AT SEA by the Sierra Madre Playhouse
10 Critics reviews - 95% Sweet

NEVER IS NOW at the Skylight Theatre Company
10 Critics reviews - 95% Sweet

THE NEW ONE at the Ahmanson Theatre
10 Critics reviews - 95% Sweet

FRIENDS WITH GUNS at The Road Theatre Company
10 Critics reviews - 90% Sweet

ROALD DAHL'S MATILDA THE MUSICAL by 5 Star Theatricals
10 Critics reviews - 90% Sweet

DISNEY'S FROZEN at the Pantages Theatre
10 Critics reviews - 90% Sweet

THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE by the 24th STreet Theatre
10 Critics reviews - 85% Sweet

SPECIAL at the Theatre of Note
10 Critics reviews - 85% Sweet

SWEENEY TODD - THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET at the South Coast Repertory
10 Critics reviews - 85% Sweet

FIFTEEN MEN IN A SMOKE-FILLED ROOM at Theatre 40
10 Critics reviews - 85% Sweet

LOOSE KNIT by The Group Rep/Lonny Chapman Theatre
10 Critics reviews - 80% Sweet


2020 Sherwood Award now accepting applications!

Center Theatre Group's $10,000 Dorothy and Richard E. Sherwood Award for theatre artists is given annually to nurture innovative and adventurous theatre artists working in Los Angeles. Two additional finalists will each receive a $1,000 honorarium.

The Sherwood Award nurtures selected artists and invites them to engage in a professional relationship with Center Theatre Group. Competitive candidates demonstrate leadership qualities, push existing boundaries, and are dedicated to improving the future of their respective artistic fields. Artists are not limited by title, role, or genre, but they must have a relationship to contemporary performance rooted in theatre.

The deadline for the initial application consisting of an artist's statement and resume is June 10, 2019 at 11:59 PM.

Apply here!

After the first round, select candidates will be invited to submit full applications. Full applications, along with letters of recommendation and work sample material will be due no later than July 19, 2019 at 11:59 PM. The winner will be announced at the LA STAGE Alliance Ovation Awards.

The application and more information about the Sherwood Award can be found here.

If you have any additional questions about the Sherwood Award, please contact [email protected]


The Winners at the 50th Annual 'LA Drama Critics Circle' Awards Ceremony Held at the Pasadena Playhouse

The 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards at the Pasadena Playhouse, Monday, April 8, 2019. (Photo by Better Lemons)

The LA Drama Critics Circle (LADCC) held their 50th Annual Awards ceremony at the landmark Pasadena Playhouse where Better Lemons was in attendance to live tweet the evening's festivities and entertainment, Monday, April 8, 2019.

Wenzel Jones presided over the festivities, and Christopher Raymond served as music director with musical performances by Kristin Towers Rowles, Constance Jewell Lopez, and Zachary Ford.

There were four recipients of the 2018 Production award: Cambodian Rock Band (South Coast Repertory), Come From Away (Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre), Cry It Out (Echo Theater Company), and Sell/Buy/Date (Geffen Playhouse / Los Angeles LGBT Center).

Better Lemons' Chief Operating Officer Stephen Box (Left,) Publisher Enci Box, and Playwright & Screenwriter Steven Vlasak at the 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards at the Pasadena Playhouse, Monday, April 8, 2019.

The Antaeus Theatre Company received the most awards, with three of its productions winning a combined seven trophies. Celebration Theatre's Cabaret took home six awards, the most awards for a single production, including one for Revival. Tom Hanks received a lead actor award for his performance as Falstaff in The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles production of Henry IV in a competitive category. 17 awards were presented in other categories with 17 productions taking home the honors.

In its inaugural this year, the Theater Angel award was presented to Yvonne Bell in recognition of her "long career devoted to fostering theater in Los Angeles ... [and] successful fundraising campaigns" to help open several cultural institutions, such as The Museum of Contemporary Art and the California Science Center.

Eight previously announced special awards were presented, including the Margaret Harford Award for sustained excellence in theater to Sacred Fools Theater Company and the Ted Schmitt Award for the world premiere of an outstanding new play to Lauren Yee for Cambodian Rock Band.

The LADCC was established in 1969  “to foster and reward merit in the American Theater and encourage theater in Los Angeles,” the LADCC site quotes from an announcement in the L.A. Times of that year.

Here is the list of award recipients as announced during Better Lemons' live coverage on Twitter:

Featured photo by Enci Box - Theatre patrons in the courtyard of the Pasadena Playhouse for the 50th Annual LA Drama Critics Circle Awards, Pasadena, California, Monday, April 8, 2019. Enci Box contributed to this story and photos.


LA STAGE: A Royal Dilemma and Lots of (Crazy) Comedy Tonite!

Quote of the week: "Trump said that Latinos are rapists and criminals.  So when I meet him, I plan to rob him and fuck him." - George Lopez

I saw something last night at a performance of Something Rotten at the Ahmanson Theatre that I'd never seen before in my 21 years in Los Angeles.   In the middle of the First Act, after the killer musical number, "A Musical," the crowd went wild - wild - and clapped wildly for a full five minutes, then a man spontaneously stood up and gave the show a standing ovation!  A mid-Act Standing-O!  Unheard of!

Anyway, the point is that actors on LA stages are crushing it this holiday season!  Crushing it!  And it's not too late to get in on the fun.

Caitlyn Conin, Kendra Chell and Dylan Jones. Photo by Justin Szebe

Before I get to it, though, I want to wish Theatre Movement Bazaar a great week in Beijing, China!  A full  house at the Bootleg were fortunate enough to catch their parting performance of TRACK 3, their brilliant interpretation of Chekhov's Three Sisters.  Better, funnier, fuller, more precise than I recall from the time I saw it before.  Why not run it here again for a few weeks?  If the audience at the Bootleg was any indication, there is a lot more happiness to be had with this show about the search for happiness.

CLOSING THIS WEEKEND:  KING CHARLES III by Mike Bartlett, Directed by Michael Michetti

Jim Abele as King Charles III. Photo: Jenny Graham.

I have to start with this caveat, that whatever the opposite of a Royal Family watcher is, that's what I am.   I know who Kate is, but the name of her kids? Have no clue.  Prince Harry and the Markle sparkle?  No thanks, I'll pass. So I'm not the ideal audience for this "future history play" about what could happen after Queen Elizabeth dies and Prince Charles finally becomes king.  Now I do know who the Prince of Wales is, and he's always seemed to me like a comedic figure with his rubber face and big ears.  But not here.  As played with great earnestness and dignity by Jim Abele, Charles is a learned man, deeply versed in the ways of monarchy, who intends to make the most of the royal position that he has waited so long to assume.  I must admit that the First Act seemed overly long and self-serious to me, but most of that paid off in the Second Act, which succeeded in making King Charles III into a memorably tragic figure.  Given all the current hubbub about another Royal Wedding (yawn) and the fact that this 16-actor play needs to be done on a majestic level, you'd better rush down to the Pasadena Playhouse this weekend if you have any hopes of catching this play.  Michael Michetti directed with great assurance, and Abele and Laura Gardner (as wife Camilla Bowles) stand out.

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, Book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim - Directed by Joseph Leo Bwarie 

Nicole Kaplan, Michael Thomas Grant and Paul C. Vogt

This musical, based on the plays of the Roman satiric playwright Plautus, premiered in 1962.  It has the distinction of being the first musical to feature both music and lyrics by musical theater god Stephen Sondheim, along with a book co-written by Larry Gelbart, a comedy genius.  With such an illustrious heritage, I suppose it's no surprise that this is a rollicking laugh machine, featuring three wonderful Sondheim songs that have been imitated in hundreds of lesser musicals: "Comedy Tonite," "Lovely" and "Everybody Ought To Have A Maid."  This production, directed by Joseph Leo Bwarie, co-artistic director of the Garry Marshall Theatre, is highly entertaining, using a nicely-spacious Roman Square set that is beautifully-lit by Francois-Pierre Couture.  The show was well ahead of its time in the tongue-in-cheek way it plays to the audience, and Paul C. Vogt leads an agile and talented cast in bringing this farcical concoction to vivid life.  (Joey McIntyre replaces Vogt until Dec. 10, when Vogt returns to the show.)

SPAMILTON: An American Parody, Created, Written and Directed by Gerald Alessandrini, at the Kirk Douglas

Zakiya Young, Wilkie Ferguson III, William Cooper Howell, John Deveraux and Dedrick A. Bonner

Like everything connected to the phenomenon of Hamilton, this parody is selling out the Kirk Douglas Theatre like no other production before it.  While Spamilton is funny and barbed, it does not re-invent the parody form the way that Hamilton has apparently done with the musical.  (That's right, I haven't been able to get a ticket either.)  As long as it sticks to spoofing Lin-Manuel Miranda, his show and its now-famous performers like Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr, this evening is on solid comedic ground.  When it strays into parodies of other current Broadway shows, the energy level definitely takes a dip.  But the performers are absolutely first-rate, especially John Deveraux and Zakiya Young (whether she's spoofing Renee Elise Goldsberry, Audra McDonald or J-Lo).  The choreography by Gerry McIntyre is straight-up brilliant, with some of the wittiest and most unexpected comedy movements I've seen.  I have to commend CTG also for the post-show Broadway karaoke in the theatre lobby, which is a wonderful idea, and really carried over the fun from the show.  It was inspiring to hear all the talented young performers belting out not only the score of Hamilton, but of many other Broadway shows.  But like I said, good luck getting tickets.

SOMETHING ROTTEN!, Conceived by Karey Kirkpatrick & Wayne Kirkpatrick, Book by Karey Kirkpatrick & John O'Farrell, Music and Lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick & Karey Kirkpatrick. Directed/Choreographed by Casey Nicholaw

Blake Hammond and Rob McClure

Hopefully it was clear in my opening paragraph to this article that I think Something Rotten! is anything but rotten. The truth is, I didn't see the Broadway production, and I'd heard so many mixed and unenthusiastic things about it that I set my expectations fairly low.  And, my word, I was simply blown away by the inventiveness and exhilirating lunacy of this musical!  Yes, it owes a large debt to Mel Brooks - not just The Producers, but also the musical number at the end of Blazing Saddles, where the characters from the movie all go spilling into each other on a Hollywood soundstage.  But this show has its own brand of historical and parodic zaniness, it does a masterful job of keeping a sense of real stakes while continuing to move the story and characters forward.  To my mind, every element of this production is brilliant, top-tier, and yet they all come together to form something that is greater than the sum of its wonderful parts.  This is so rarely achieved, and I am in awe of the many talents at work at such a high level here.  The cast is all strong, but Blake Hammond as the soothsayer and Scott Cote as a Puritan leader are simply off the charts in their musical comedy mojo.  This show is around for the entire month of December - you owe it to yourself not to miss this. It left me feeling positively giddy.

 

 


Center Theatre Group's 2018 Richard E. Sherwood Award Application deadline has been extended!

Center Theatre Group annually awards $10,000 to one innovative and adventurous Los Angeles-based theatre artist. A grace period has been extended to all applications that have been started by June 5. All submissions and materials (including the letter of recommendation) for Center Theatre Group's Sherwood Award must be received by Friday June 9, 2017 at 11:59 pm.
The application, eligibility guidelines, and information for the 2018 Sherwood Award are now available at CenterTheatreGroup.org/Sherwood.
Since 1996, nineteen artists have received the $10,000 Sherwood Award, which was established in memory of Richard E. Sherwood as an endowed fund to support innovative, adventurous theatre artists working in Los Angeles.
This past January, lighting designer, Pablo Santiago, was presented with the 2017 Sherwood Award at the annual Ovation Awards ceremony, which recognizes excellence in theatrical performance, production and design in the Greater Los Angeles Area and are produced by LA STAGE Alliance.
Three finalists are announced prior to the Ovation Awards and all three Finalists are celebrated leading up to the Award Announcement, allowing each Finalist more involvement with Center Theatre Group's initiatives. An honorarium of $2,000 is awarded to each of the two remaining finalists. Please note that artists can only be eligible for the Finalist Honorarium for two consecutive years, after which they must wait one calendar year before reapplying.
The application and more information about the Sherwood Award can be found here.
If you have any questions, please feel free to email [email protected].


AEA President Kate Shindle is Starring in Fun Home at CTG and Pro99 Folks Are Not Happy About It

The Tony Award Winning Musical Fun Home is currently playing at the Ahmanson and is currently has a 100% Sweet rating on the LemonMeter.
The production stars current Actor's Equity president Kate Shindle who recently did an interview with the LA Times. It's a good interview highlighting Shindle's Miss America experience and the activism she's done for HIV/AIDS. But you can't interview the president of AEA without mentioning the very contentious 99 Seat Plan battle. To refresh your memory, AEA has dismantled the 99 Seat Agreement which allowed theatres with 99 seats or less to use AEA actors for a small stipend. Now companies need to pay actors minimum wage, which when you're already working on a tiny budget is simply not possible. Many companies have already gone non-union. Which means less opportunities for LA AEA actors.
Here's what the interview has about the 99 Seat debate:

Although Shindle realizes she's speaking from a privileged perch inside one of the city's largest, most esteemed and well-funded theaters, she has fond memories of doing a 99-seat show at the Blank Theatre in Hollywood in 2002 while she was in town for pilot season.

“That show saved my sanity,” she says. “I believe small theater reminds people that they are, in fact, actors, even if they're not getting TV auditions at that particular moment. It gives them a chance to do what they love.”

On the other hand, for a union, the idea that actors should not aspire to a living wage is a bitter pill to swallow, she says. The compromise Equity made, Shindle adds, was to create membership rules that effectively provide wage requirement exemptions for more than 70% of the regularly producing 99-seat theaters in the county.

To these companies, many of which worry that the exemption could be rescinded at any moment, Shindle would like to say: “If anyone even brings up starting to move the membership companies out of that waiver before the end of my first term [in 2018], and if I'm re-elected, before the end of my second term, I'm going to smack them in the head. We have to let this settle … and we have to be sensitive to the fact that we're all artists.”

This interview has been floating around on Facebook with numerous LA based theatre makers not exactly thrilled that Shindle is here and has taken a job away from an LA actor. Considering Shindle and AEA have said that the new rules will allow for more midsize theatres to flourish (I imagine pigs will fly first) and that it will give its members more remunerative work (so far it's giving them less work as companies go non-union) it seems rather trite for Shindle to say "she did a 99 seat show here once." And that if anyone tries to touch the membership rule (which many companies have been denied) that she'll "smack them" seems a rather empty threat. 


A Love Letter To Gordon Davidson

Last Monday night was a Memorial for Gordon Davidson. If you don't know who Gordon is or was-the chances are you didn't grow up in Los Angeles. Gordon Davidson was the founding Artistic Director for the Center Theatre Group for over 40 years. He is the person who made Los Angeles a destination for theatre.

I attended on Monday night not because I knew Gordon personally. But because I wanted to say Thank You.

Gordon -- You created my introduction to theatre. You fostered the love of theatre and it's necessity in community.  You created a Golden Era of theatre and made it accessible to everyone.  Thank you. I owe you something good.

When I was a kid, my very first show was at the Music Center. Going to the Theatre was an event -- I dressed up in my best dress with white knee socks and black patent leather Mary Jane's and we drove downtown and when we came up those escalators, there was magnificence.  Architecture, people in tuxedos, lights and fountains.  It was the swankiest place in the world.  When the lights went down and the silence fell over the audience -- it was reverence and an excitement I'd never experienced, all in one moment.  From the second the curtain went up and the lights hit the stage, I was mesmerized.  Magic!  I was instantly hooked.

Theatre is a pure art form because anything can happen in a theatre.  There is no separation from those creating the art and those receiving the art and that connection, that touchable connection, is sacred.  That connection is what binds us together as community, as society, as living beings.  But also, it makes us aware that we are bound together.  That connection is what makes it art because until that connection occurs -- it isn't art.  It is intention in a vacuum.

Gordon understood this relationship. He was one of the few artistic directors in the nation that focused on producing new works. He created a relationship with our Los Angeles neighborhoods and commissioned them to give us their voices. He worked with schools and made scholarships available for entire seasons at CTG. Access to theater for everyone. If you grew up in Los Angeles, Gordon was an icon. Sometimes when I would go to the theater, I would see him with his white hair talking to the subscribers.  I'd think to myself, maybe one day I will have the chance to show him what I've got. Maybe he will shine his silver light on me.

There is a responsibility that is fostered in theatre.  It is a mission handed down from one artist to the next.  If that magic has touched you -- you must pass it on to another.  There are certain rules that make magic possible.  If you have been a part of the work that has created magic, you must share the rules with another artist.  It is a natural mentor/disciple relationship that is fostered in theatre.  Those who live within the natural order of theatre lead by example.  Those who are new are expected to watch and learn and if you want to come out and play -- you follow suit. It was like that for me.  It was an honor to be invited to be an apprentice at Zoo District.  Through that apprenticeship, I was taught how to respect the medium and how to preserve it.

Responsibility for that simple mission was accepted on that first day I went to the Music Center.  If you want to be part of the magic-you will do whatever it takes to speak such sacred truths.

At Gordon's Memorial Monday night -- a traditionally dark night for theatre -- it seemed fitting that it was on the Ahmanson stage amongst the Amelie set. It was filled with theatre royalty -- people who had worked with Gordon over all those years and all those projects. It was said by more than one person that Gordon's belief in the power of theatre was mythic. That the sacred words spoken would remain housed in those temples. When they had to renovate the Mark Taper, he was almost superstitious around the idea that some of those words might escape in the process thus being lost to the world forever. Because theatre is an ephemeral thing. You were either there to witness what happened on that stage or you weren't. Either way it can't be recreated.

Zoot Suit will be returning to the Ahmanson next month. A very fitting celebration to Gordon's memory.   When it premiered at the Mark Taper Forum in April, 1978, it was the first professionally produced Chicano play. Gordon ushered that project all the way to New York and it became the first Chicano play on Broadway. This was Gordon's mission. To share the underbelly of our communities, our humanity -- what links us all together. Los Angeles has plenty of its own stories to tell. You needn't go far to find a universal tale.

It was said and felt that the best way that we can honor the memory of Gordon, especially in the political times we live in is to lead with "the same noble intention and unswerving commitment."

And as Gordon was known to say:

“Leave the door open for possibility.”

This is the legacy fulfilled by Gordon Davidson.  That of a true artist.

 


Gordon Davidson Memorial on Monday, January 9th

Gordon Davidson's Memorial is set for Monday, January 9, 2017 AT 7:30PM at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Gordon Davidson, Center Theatre Group's Founding Artistic Director, who passed away on October 2, 2016, was one of America's most renowned and beloved artistic visionaries. He led Center Theatre Group for 38 years, shaping the company into one of the most creative and important theatres in the world. Under his leadership, the Ahmanson Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, and Kirk Douglas Theatre was the birthplace of many of the most acclaimed dramatic works of the second half of the Twentieth Century and a launching pad for the careers of dozens of playwrights, actors, directors, designers, and theatre administrators.
Gordon's passionate dramatic, social, and political convictions forever altered and expanded the theatrical landscape in Los Angeles and the place of theatre in American culture. He was and will remain one of the American theatre's greatest leaders. I was proud to call him a mentor, friend, and colleague.
Center Theatre Group will hold a celebration in honor of Gordon Davidson, on Monday, January 9, 2017, beginning at 7:30pm at the Ahmanson Theatre. The theatre will open at 7pm. The celebration is a non-ticketed, open event. ASL and audio description will be provided.
Additional details can be found on the CTG website.