COVID-19 THEATER SERIES: Susan Loewenberg "Sets the Stage for Learning" - LA Theatre Works and Educators


LA Theatre Works, a non-profit organization dedicated to the arts, says it all in their mission statement: “To record the most significant and important stage plays from the American and World canons and to make these recordings available worldwide.” LA Theatre Works invites the public to hear and see well-known actors perform classics by icons like Shakespeare and modern plays by playwrights like Lynn Nottage and then record the results.

Today, LA Theatre Works has the largest library of recorded plays in the world — over 500 audio productions, both free and for purchase, available to the public. In response to the current COVID-19 pandemic, they are offering 25 audio recordings of significant stage plays, each performed by leading actors of stage and screen and free to educators worldwide. LATW’s “Setting the Stage for Learning” initiative is designed to help teachers enhance distance learning during the crisis — as well as classroom learning when schools are again open.  In addition to the current initiative, LATW has remained busy in the community, offering weekly two-hour radio shows on public radio stations nationwide, worldwide streaming and through their podcasts. LATW also broadcasts their show daily in China, where they have over 15 million listeners a week, and they broadcast weekly on KCRW Berlin in Germany. All of these offerings can be accessed on their website. In the midst of this never-ending activity is producing director and CEO Susan Loewenberg, who kindly agreed to this interview in March 2020.


LA Theatre Works Digital Cover Art - Photo Courtesy of LA Theatre Works

What is LA Theatre Works, and how did it begin?

Susan Loewenberg: Originally, six theater artists and I started the organization. Eventually I agreed to head it up. It was around 1972 when a group of artists, actors, and playwrights associated with the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles began to do workshops in Federal, State, and County prisons. We called ourselves Artists in Prison. We created plays with inmates, and the general public was allowed inside to watch our productions. At one point, we even arranged for a group of furloughed inmates to perform live at the John Anson Ford Theater.

It was 1977 or 1978 when the group received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and we changed our name to LA Theatre Works. By 1980, we had begun to produce professional theater, including several award-winning world premieres. In 1985, a group of well-known actors, including John Lithgow, Marsha Mason, Amy Irving, Hector Elizondo, Ed Asner, Helen Hunt, Julie Harris, and Richard Dreyfuss, approached LATW to become their producers. We agreed, and our first project was to record Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt for radio station KCRW. It took 18 months to record the book; all 34 actors in the company participated. The recording was 14-and-a-half hours long and was released on Thanksgiving Day in 1986. It was a huge success and got great reviews. We had to follow up on that success.

Jane Kaczmarek and Nicholas Hormann in "Spill" - Photo by Nick Toren

How do you arrive at the final recording from start to finish? How do you pick your casts?

SL: Depending on how difficult the play is, we either perform in front of a live audience; or, for the more difficult plays, we record in a studio. For the live performances, we record four or five times in front of audiences, using state of the art technology. There are actors with microphones and live sound effects. I take notes on every performance. The first time, I watch the actors. But after that, I never look at them again. I focus on listening. I put on my headset and take notes, then decide which performance is better for each section of the play. For example, perhaps the first scene was better on Saturday, but the second scene was better on Sunday. We have people in continuity who make sure that every word is correct; everybody makes notes, and the editor looks at all the notes. We edit three times. It takes two to three months from performance to the finished product.

In order to cast our plays, we have a group of both high profile and excellent working actors who love to record with us and who find the work to be challenging and a wonderful way to experience great dramatic literature and exercise their professional muscles at the same time. Think of it as akin to working out in the gym! We give them the opportunity to do that, and they feel it’s invaluable.

Gregory Harrison, Diane Adair, John Heard, and John Getz in "Top Secret" - Photo by Derek Hutchison

What are the advantages of your recordings over live staged theater or audio books?

SL:  Instead of using several senses, like you do in live theater, you’re just listening. That fires up your imagination. You begin to visualize… it’s really very stimulating. With audio books, you usually have only one person telling the story; with LA Theatre Works, there is a whole cast interpreting the story. It’s a doubly rich experience — the recordings stimulate concentration and imagination. It’s more fulfilling to listen when you want to learn, and it’s a better teaching tool than a film would be. The teachers who use our recordings say that the students learn better. One student said that listening to Romeo and Juliet instead of reading it helped him to understand the play for the first time. The head of the Division of Instruction at LAUSD recently remarked about how useful we are in assisting students during the pandemic.

Gregory Harrison and Richard Kind in "An Enemy of the People" - Photo by Joshua Arvizo

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted LA Theatre Works?

SL: It’s had a big impact. Every year, we take a play and tour it around the US to 30-40 performing arts centers. We enhance the production values for touring audiences. Everybody is in costume, we don’t use scripts, there is lighting and movement. This year, we were in the middle of a tour of Seven. It’s about seven women from seven countries whose actions impacted women and human rights in extraordinary ways. We did a fabulous performance in Palm Beach on March 7, which I had flown in to see; then they flew to Minnesota to do five performances, but they only got through two when it, and the rest of the tour, was cancelled. We had 11 more performances to go. It’s sad, because it was a great show and we lost all the fees from those bookings — a big blow. We also had to cancel our NTLive film screenings and our next live in performance show at UCLA for the month of April, and we are waiting to see what we may have to cancel after that. We are trying to get new dates.

But we’re a little more fortunate than most because we still have audio sales and the radio show. We can weather the closures and cancellations. Hopefully, we’ll get aid for the losses on the tour, and maybe we and other nonprofit arts organizations will be eligible for additional governmental and private support.

Larry Powell and Aja Naomi King in "The Mountaintop" - Photo by Matt Petit

Do you have any final thoughts or information that you want your audiences to know?

SL: Absolutely. We always have the play recordings available for purchase. We also have another group of plays available for free online listening. They’re on scientific themes, and they’re called The Relativity Series — titles like The Great Monkey Trial about the Scopes trial with the great speeches of Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan. We just recorded Behind the Sheet. It’s based on a true story about a doctor in the 19th century who performed experimental gynecological operations on slave women. It was good research, but they didn’t use anesthesia and the women suffered terribly. We have others about autism, DNA, and ethics. And we just put up a free listen to the late Terrence McNally’s Lips Together Teeth Apart starring Kristen Johnston and Steven Weber.

Again, the general public can log onto our website and find a host of wonderful free and for sale recordings — a great way to help get through this trying time.


This article first appeared in LA Splash Worldwide.



COVID-19 Theater Series: Deaf West Theatre Broadens our Horizons - An Interview with David J. Kurs


Having grown up in a deaf family in Riverside, California, it was no surprise that David J. Kurs became interested in theater performed in American Sign Language (ASL) early on. His passion for the power of the arts was realized when in 2009 he joined the Deaf West Theatre (DWT), founded in 1991 by Ed Waterstreet. Upon Waterstreet’s retirement in 2012, he became the second artistic director in the history of the company. Prior to becoming artistic director, Kurs wrote and produced Aesop Who?, a multimedia show for young audiences, and served as associate producer and ASL master for Deaf West’s productions of Children of a Lesser God (2009), My Sister in this House (2010), and The Adventures of Pinocchio (2011). To quote Kurs: “Deaf West has had a great impact on me in my artistic development, and I can only hope to spread this passion on to others and to create opportunities for them so that we all can achieve a shared goal of artistic growth.” In 2020, he was named “Deaf Person of the Month” by DeafPeople.com. David took time from his busy schedule to interview in May 2020.


Daniel Durant and Natasha Ofili in "Orphee" - Photo by Brandon Simmoneau

When and how did Deaf West Theatre first form? Were you there from the beginning? What are some of the most popular shows you presented? Have you received any rewards? 

David J. Kurs:  Deaf West Theatre (DWT) was founded in Los Angeles in 1991 by deaf actors. Our theater engages artists and audiences in unparalleled theater experiences inspired by deaf culture and the expressive power of sign language. We weave American Sign Language (ASL) with spoken English to create a seamless ballet of movement and voice. Committed to innovation, collaboration, and training, DWT is the artistic bridge between the deaf and hearing worlds.

Recent and past productions include Jean Cocteau’s Orphée, The Solid Life of Sugar Water by Jack Thorne, and Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, a co-production with the Pasadena Playhouse. In co-productions with the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, we also presented Edward Albee's At Home at the Zoo. The Deaf West production of Spring Awakening transferred from a small 99-seat theater to the Wallis and then to Broadway, where we received three Tony Award nominations in 2016. American Buffalo was named the Los Angeles Times “Critic’s Choice.” In a co-production with the Fountain Theatre, we also presented Cyrano, which won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for outstanding production. Big River won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and Backstage Garland Awards for best musical in its Los Angeles premiere, as well as a Tony nomination and four Drama Desk Awards on Broadway. In a co-production with Center Theatre Group, DWT produced Pippin, which was presented at the Mark Taper Forum, and Sleeping Beauty Wakes, produced at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. Oliver! won the Ovation Award for best musical, and A Streetcar Named Desire won the Ovation Award for best play. In 2005, the Secretary of Health and Human Services selected DWT to receive the highest recognition award for its “distinguished contributions to improve and enrich the culture lives of deaf and hard of hearing actors and theater patrons.”

I have attended DWT shows since the company’s inception when I was in high school. I began working with the theater in 2009 and succeeded our founding artistic director Ed Waterstreet as artistic director in 2012.

Daniel Durant, Eddie Buck, Troy Kotsur, Ipek D. Mehlum, and Maleni Chaitoo in "Cyrano" - Photo by Ed Krieger

When did you close the theater for COVID-19? Were you in the middle of a run?

DJK:  We opened and closed our new production, Jean Cocteau’s Orphée, on the same night. It was heartbreaking; but, in retrospect, I am thankful that everyone is safe. My heart goes out to the actors, designers, and creatives who labored so mightily and valiantly to bring together an exemplary show that was seen by so few. The memory of coming together with the company in the empty theater after the curtain will remain in my heart for a long time.

How has the COVID-19 shutdown impacted your theater?

DJK:  We had to cancel our run of our play on the first night, as well as a planned tour to Tokyo. We also cancelled a planned fall show. Other than readings and workshops, we don’t have anything on the calendar for another year. But I’m still hoping that we’ll get back onstage before then.

Sandra Mae Frank, Treshelle Edmond, Natacha Roi, Katie Boeck, Lauren Patten, Amelia Hensley, Alexandra Winter, and Ali Stroker in "Spring Awakening" - Photo by Tate Tullier

Are you doing anything right now to keep your live theater going? Are you streaming? Do you have virtual meetings? Are you planning for your next show when the theater can reopen?

DJK:  We are staying in touch every day, mainly on Zoom. We collaborated with NBC on an episode of Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist that premiered a few weeks ago, and it was extremely gratifying to see the love and praise from the community. We also collaborated with Kelly Clarkson and helped create a community-sourced video for her latest song, “I Dare You.” It’s a blessing to be able to generate work for all of the actors from our community during these times, and we’re not going to stop. We’re also working on several digital projects, including a full production to be streamed.

Nick Apostolina, Natalie Camunas, Sandra Mae Frank, and Tad Cooley in "The Solid Life of Sugar Water" - Photo by Brandon Simmoneau

What do you think the impact of COVID-19 will be on live theater in general in Los Angeles? Do you foresee any permanent changes?

DJK:  It is my observation that theatergoers in Los Angeles are creatures of habit. Once we emerge from the end of the tunnel, I think that things will return to normal quicker than we expect. I also think a lot about what prospective patrons will need to feel safe in a theater again.

Troy Kotsur, Matthew Ryan Pest, and Paul Raci in "American Buffalo" - Photo by Noel Bass

What do you need right now to keep going forward? What would you like from the theater public?

DJK:  I, for one, count my blessings every day. We have a wonderful community of actors and patrons that keeps us going. Our Board has been extremely supportive, and we’ve received some wonderful donations. Theater is an art form that’s been around for ages. While we will continue to fill our need for communal experiences, our industry will continue to evolve. I think our industry will make advances in virtual space. I’m thinking about this time in our industry and how we can step up to the challenges posed by quarantine. But in my mind only one thing is certain: that we must move forward together with grace, strength, and compassion.


This article first appeared in LA Splash Worldwide.



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.



JOAN OF ART: The L.A. Art Show, A Poignant and Important Musical, Sneakers Everyone and The Constitution

There are a lot of super fun things happening this weekend in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas starting with the L.A. Art Show.

The L.A. Art Show continues to lead the way with innovative and one of a kind experiences for an expanding audience. The show is the unparalleled international art experience with over 120 galleries from more than 20 countries exhibiting painting, sculpture, works on paper, installation, photography, fashion, design, video, and performance.

More than 200,000 square feet of exhibition space is committed to today's prominent galleries. I've been going to this event for the last 20 years and I'm never disappointed. Besides great people watching, the eclectic art displayed here is some of the best.

The show takes place at the Los Angeles Convention Center at 1201 South Figueroa Street in Downtown LA, 90015. It runs from February 5th through the 9th. Hours are 11am-5pm. For more information and tickets go to LAArtShow.com.

As you know I absolutely love musical theatre and one of my favorite shows Ragtime (which I've seen twice) is back in Southern California at The Carpenter Performing Arts Center February 7th through the 23rd in honor of Black History Month.

This five time Tony Award Winning musical is based on E. I. Doctorow's acclaimed novel which tells the story of three families trying to find their way during the turn of the 20th century in New York City. Each family is struggling with the changing cultural climate in America and each facing the promise of hope and new beginnings in the midst of prejudice and bigotry.

Tony Award winning playwright Terrence McNally wrote the book and features a score filled with memorable songs. The music is haunting and memorable. If you see one musical this year, I highly recommend Ragtime.

For tickets go to Musical.org or call (562) 56-1999. The Carpenter Performing Arts Center is located at 6200 East Atherton Street in Long Beach 90815. It's definitely worth the trip.

Now if you're a fan of sneakers and think of it as art, then SNEAKERTOPIA; SNEAKER AND STREET ART EXHIBIT is the place to be this weekend.

Sneakertopia is the new massive sneaker and street art exhibit, transporting you through a series of immersive, mind-blowing galleries celebrating the art and culture of sneakers. This is a story of creativity, expression, and innovation.

You will witness the sneaker's epic ascension through sports, music, film, fashion, and fantasy.

There will be a 15,000 square foot indoor playground packed with priceless kicks, oversized sights and sounds and interactive street art masterpieces.

SNEAKERTOPIA takes place Friday February 7th through March 1st at 6081 Center Drive, Suite 222, Los Angeles 90045. For tickets go to Sneakertopia.com or call (323) 546-5950.

Lastly there is a powerful, important, and extremely moving play at the Mark Taper. The play is called What The Constitution Means To Me and this is a definite 'must see.'

In fact every man, woman, and mature teenager should see it. At a time when the Constitution is being assailed by those who have sworn an oath to defend it, this buoyant and often stirring civics lesson is the theatrical curriculum Americans desperately need now.

Actress Maria Dizzia brings to life the maddening, mournful history of how women's bodies have been abused by laws and the male dominated courts imperiously interpreting them. And don't worry about the play getting too heavy. It is infused with humor...lots of it.

For tickets to this extraordinary theatrical event go to CenterTheatreGroup.org. The Mark Taper is located at 135 Grand Avenue in Downtown LA, 90012. The show runs through February 28th.

Whatever you do this weekend people, have a great one.


Best Theatre of the Year - Looking Back At L.A.’s 2019

I give to you my personal list of the best theatre Los Angeles offered in 2019, with a few swipes at the less of the best….

First off, the production of August Wilson’s Jitney at the Mark Taper Forum. Wilson’s works share a distinction with those of Shakespeare, in that when the plays of either are fortunate enough to be housed in a production of true artistry one finds theatre nirvana, which is what director Ruben Santiago-Hudson and cast provided L.A. audiences with.

The cast —Steven Antony JonesFrancois BattisteAmari CheatomNija OkoroRay Anthony ThomasHarvy BlanksKeith Randolph SmithBrian D. Coats, and Anthony Chisholm returning to the role which earned him a Drama Desk Award and Obie in 2000’s off-Broadway production— performed as keys on a perfectly tuned piano, with  Santiago-Hudson assuring not one false note was sounded.

Contributing to this perfect harmony were David Gallo’s set, Jane Cox’s deft light design and Toni-Leslie James’ superlatively unobtrusive costumes.


In six short years the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts has won L.A.’s appreciation for the work produced and Artistic Director Paul Crewes its respect for his guidance.

This year that appreciation and respect were given further validation: The Old Man and the Old Moon by the PigPen Theatre Company, was an intoxicating entwining of old world folklore, Arabian night tales and the poetic arts of a Celtic seanchaís resulting in an evening of wondrous magic which is the essence of theatre.


Some twenty-five years ago at the old Tiffany Theatre on Sunset Boulevard, the marvelous Hershey Felder presented his first solo show based on the life of a great composer.  Having previously brought Chopin and Beethoven to the Wallis, this year Felder returned again— and again was…well, marvelous.

Hershey Felder: A Paris Love Story, are the reminiscences of his first youthful journey to Paris which are placed as a palimpsest in homage to his favorite composer Achille-Claude Debussy.  Directed by Trevor Hay it was perhaps the most enchanting show of the season.


We have the Wallis to thank for Renée Taylor’s one-woman show, My Life on a Diet Best known to movie lovers as Eva Braun in Mel Brooks’ The Producers (1968) and to TV viewers as Fran Drescher’s mother on the CBS sitcom The Nanny, Taylor, with her late husband Joseph Bologna, co-wrote the Oscar nominated Lovers and Other Strangers as well as two additional screenplays and 21 more plays.

It was a privilege and a joy to be in the company of the 86 year old Taylor who is a juggernaut of talent as well as a living history of both Broadway and Hollywood, and, personally, I wanted her show to go on longer than its 90 minutes.

Like a week longer.  Maybe two.


The Wallis also deserves thanks for bringing back talented David Mynne, whose one-man presentation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations was one of last year’s high-water mark.

A Christmas Carol, this year’s Dickens offering, was less satisfying but Mynne’s performance was nevertheless amazing to watch.


The Fountain Theatre, which I regard as one of the jewels in the crown of the L.A. theatre community offered little this year that drew my interest and what did, I’m afraid, I was less than thrilled by.

Idris Goodwin’s play Hype Man, though not without merit, I found weak and I thought the cast, Clarissa ThibeauxChad Addison and Matthew Hancock and director Deena Selenow, brought more to the play than the play brought to the stage.

Of course, there was no performance of the Forever Flamenco series that I was not enraptured by.  These monthly Juergas of dancers and singers, overseen by Deborah Culver at the Fountain since 1990, I have often heralded as one of the best kept secrets in L.A. and one of its hottest tickets.


The Long Beach International City Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s The Price was a show one should regret if missed.

David Nevell as a man who sees in the wreckage of his father’s life the failure of his own, and Elyse Mirto as the wife who sees her husband’s true worth but is unable to make him believe it, were each outstanding.

In the most Biblical referenced of Miller’s plays, Bo Foxworth’s layered performance as the prodigal son allowed the audience to see that the chains forged by his choices were as heavy as those of his brother.

As the secondhand furniture dealer Mister Solomon, which is the heartbeat of the play, Tony Abatemarco fluctuated adroitly between the Old Testament’s wise Solomon and Faust’s wheeling-dealing Mephistopheles.

I find director John Henry Davis to be rather hit or miss, but with The Price he undeniably knocked one out of the stadium.

DoubleDouble playwright Guy Zimmerman and director Juli Crockett, by a fusion of the 1944 noir classic Double Indemnity with Shakespeare’s Scottish play, successfully brought another artistic chimera to the stage.

Zimmerman and Crockett juggled snippets of dialogue and hints of shared motifs, transforming a trio of Barbara Stanwyck doppelgangers  (Henita TeloJenny Greer and Isabella Boose) into a Greek Chorus to warn  Saughn Buchholz as Walter-Walter of the fate awaiting his Oedipus MacMurray.

From concept to execution, this production had the luster that craft and intelligence brings; sharing in the credit for this are scenic designer Melissa Ficociello and Michael Feldman’s ballads.


Bill Irwin’s On Beckett was perhaps more lecture than show, but what a subject to lecture on and what a lecturer to hear.  Having been a fan of Bill Irwin since his Old Hats and Fool Moon days, what I found so extraordinary in his discourse/performance/dissertation/sermon on the works of the great Irish playwright on the stage at Kirk Douglas Theatre, was Irwin’s ability to delve into those “linguistic non-spaces” Beckett supplies, and weave relevance into those silences found there.


Playwright Lauren Gunderson is the current “flavor of the month” from the New York theatre scene.  I find most of her works “vanilla” at best.  But there are a couple of her plays which, while not on the level of “Chocolate Therapy,” come close to “Chunky Monkey” status.

Ada and the Engine is one.  It tells the story of the rakish Lord Byron’s daughter, Ada, and her contribution to the development of Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine, precursor to the modern computer.  In their staging, Theatre Unleashed emphasized the play’s strengths while cloaking its weaknesses, resulting in a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging production.

As the two dominant men in Ada’s life —William King-Noel, later Lord Lovelace and the driven Charles Babbage— Gregory Crafts and Alex Knox gave faultless performances.  But it was Jessie Sherman in the titular role that captured the audience and herded them on the pathway from the joys of dreams to the price paid for them.

Director Heidi Powers enriched the production by her employment of Denise Barrett’s costumes and use of Kevin Hilton’s animation which shattered the black box’s confines by expanding the vista of ideas.

Less successful, but certainly more frenzied was the Theatre Unleashed production of Never Ever Land by playwright Rider Strong, centering on the allegations against Michael Jackson’s involvement with underaged boys.  Director Michael A. Shepperd applied cunning and skill but was only moderately successful in masking the play’s faults.  On the other hand, Josh Randall as the “abused” lad’s manipulating father and Leif Gantvoort as the unctuous news commentator after a story turned in exceptional performances.


As a former puppeteer, I admit I was a sucker for Les Miz And Friends! A Puppet Parody and my hearty guffaws filled the Hudson Theatre on Santa Monica Boulevard.

Nathan Makaryk and Geneviève Flati co-directed their “re-envisioning” of Les Misérables, the much beloved musical based on Victor Hugo’s much renowned classic.  The crushing poverty, sexual exploitation, brutal police and civil bloodshed are still there, they just added a ton of puppets and screwed with the songs.

Performer-puppeteers Kelly RogersKevin GarciaGabrielle JacksonJaycob HunterHailey Tweter and Carter Michael kept the laughter coming, as did Christopher Robert Smith as Javert.

The production was packed with silly puns and dopey jokes, but what came as a total surprise, at least to me, was the quality of the cast’s musical chops.  Some credit for this must go to “musical accompaniment, Orchestrator and Arranger” David Norris.  Here’s hoping Makaryk and Flati set their satirical sights on another classic of the musical theatre.


I did manage to see Rogue Machine’s Disposable Necessities in their new space in Santa Monica.  Playwright Neil McGowan has conceived a clever work akin to an old “slam-door” comedy where an actor would rush out as one character to re-enter as another seconds later.  But, McGowan does away with the “doors” by setting his work in a protean near future when bodies are changed with wardrobe like ease.  The device supplies the show with laughs, but also with difficulties.  Claire Blackwelder isn’t up to the demands of conveying the persona of an elderly chauvinistic lecher dwelling in young lady with a body worthy of Vargas’ watercolors.  Nor does Jefferson Reid have the acting apparatus to conjure the reality of a spoiled white boy deposited into the body a black urban teen; the rest of the cast, Billy FlynnDarrett Sanders and the always superb Ann Noble, having the benefit of experience turn in stellar performances.

We look forward to what Rogue Machine and Artistic Director John Perrin Flynn have in store for us in 2020.


The Judas Kiss by British playwright David Hare travels the oft-treaded ground of Oscar Wilde’s disgrace following the infamous trial for libel he foolishly instigated against the father of his young lover Boise.

Director Michael Michetti’s production at The Boston Court was lushly mounted with sets by designer Se Hyun OhDianne K. Graebner’s costumes, and lighting design by David Hernandez, but all the lushness could not conceal the piece’s anemia of dramatic tension.
Some atonement was found in the performances of Darius De La Cruz as Robbie Rose, Wilde’s most stouthearted friend and that of Colin Bates as the self-centered Boise.
But it was the sincerity and depth of humanity which Rob Nagle brought to the role of Wilde that served as the most memorable feature of a rather forgettable show.


The Hollywood Fringe Festival held every June along the strip of Santa Monica Blvd running from Highland Avenue to Vine Street should be a seasonal Mecca for the creative souls of this city and those with any reverence towards the arts.  HFF 2019 boasted a total of 405 individual productions and sold over 67,000 tickets.

Here were the standouts for me:
Mil Grus, featured the absurdly inspired clowning of Helene UdyGrayson MorrisJeremy SappJenson Lavellee and Isaac Kessler under Dean Evans’ direction and took TVO’s “Best of the Fringe.”   The show, along with its five misshapen blobs of bizarre silliness, just opened in New York.

Theatre Unleashed made their presence felt at the Fringe with Tattered Capes by Gregory Crafts, an intelligent and clever account of the marital woes that befall two caped crusaders.  With outstanding performances from Chris ClabaughTravis Joe Dixon and Joanna MercedesCrafts’ play celebrated the superheroes of our childhood while reverberating with deeper questions regarding the secret identities we use in concealing our true selves from those we love.

Designer Denise Barrett provided the super costumes and Corey Lynn Howe’s direction was more powerful than a locomotive.

With Son of A Bitch, Director Billy Ray Brewton fashioned an American Morality play about, to quote my fellow critic David Narine, “Lee Atwater’s  – Republican-Strategist-Liar-Driven-Liar-Brilliant-Liar- Son of a Bitch – rise to power.”

Featuring solid performances by Dennis Gersten as George H.W. Bush, Luke Forbes as “W” and David McElwee as Atwater, playwright, Lucy Gillespie’s work was a much-needed history lesson.

Another political offering at the Fringe was The Mayor’s Debate of Tranquility, Nebraskaa silly and sinister parable on the American electorate.

A local news broadcaster, Emily Dorsett, hosts a mayoral debate in the American heartland.  The candidates include the gay uber-liberal lesbian (Kate Hellen) a Tea-Partier (Lucie Beeby) and the slimy incumbent (Jim Hanna who also penned the script).

The debate goes from glad-handing to backstabbing with gleeful alacrity and the laughs roar out.  But beneath the chortles, Hanna and his cast slip a grim warning; that in this nation today, the “amber waves of grain” are closer to Rod Sterling’s “cornfield.”

Butcher Holler Here We Come written by Casey Wimpee was perhaps the Festival’s most successful immersive piece.  The audience is confined in a room dark as pitch, sharing in the fate of five miners trapped beneath the earth.  Under the astute direction of Leah Bonvissuto, the voices of the unseen miners, Michael MasonIsaac ByrneAdam BelvoMorrison Keddie and Adam Willson, spin about the audience, webbing them in desperation.

Spencer Green’s twisted take on the anthropomorphic beast fables of Aesop, The Scorpion and the Frog, was riotously engaging.  Showcasing the talents of Matthew LeavittChristine Sage and Alex Parker it was hands down one of the Fringe’s most thoroughly enjoyable offerings.

Public Domain the Musicalwhile not perfect, had highpoints that would make your nose bleed. Sam Pasternack (who wrote the book, composed the music, supplied the lyrics and directed) gathered some first-rate performers for this musical ragging of the Disney Corporation’s propensity to squeeze profits from any character in the public domain.  Pasternack uses those public domain icons that Disney overlooked: Oedipus (Max Mahle), The Monkey Paw (Max Ash), Rosie the Riveter (Codi Coates) and…er, Potato Mussolini (Ben Cassil).  Let it be known, costume designer Ember Everett, rose to the occasion.  One of my favorite numbers was Oedipus’ song, “The Way to Become a Hero (is to be at the right place at the right time.)  Were there flaws in the production?  Of course, but it also had a Potato Mussolini!

Solo shows are the stock in trade for any Fringe and HFF 2019 had some extraordinary ones, with the TVO’s “Best Solo Show (Female) going to Raised By Wolves, a cautionary tale about life among alpha-males and evil step-mothers, written and performed by Marla Black.

TVO’s “Best Solo Show (Male) went to Monica Bauer’s Made For Each Other, an astonishingly tender tale staring John Fico as a man who learns that even those in their flabby fifties are deserving of love.

Cathy Schenkelberg arrived at the Fringe with a double whammy for Scientology; first there was Squeeze My Cans, her harrowing one-woman show about the 20 plus years she spent in the cult of L. Ron Hubbard.

Then there was that show’s musical clone Squeeze My Cabaret, in which Schenkelberg related the same tale but showed that she has a pair of pipes on her that could knock the smug superciliousness off Tom Cruise’s puss at twenty yards.

In HFF 2018 Yokko brought her New York based company Ren Gyo Soh with a Japanese Butoh re-fitting of Euripides, Butoh Medea.  This year Yokko turned her efforts on Shakespeare with Hide Your Fires: Butoh Lady Macbeth adapted by Sean Michael Welch and directed by Brian Rhinehart.  Both shows were equally entrancing.

Two excellent productions which deserved greater exposure were Clark Wade-A Jazzy Tragedy, written and performed by Esquizito, AKA EP Perez which drew on memories of New Orleans’ Golden Age;

 And

Stephen Lang’s Beyond Glory based on the recollections of Medal of Honor winners for which Steve Scott took TVO’s “Best Actor” award.

From Ireland came Drought, poetess-songsmith-performer Kate Radford’s haunting indictment of the toxicity of sexual abuse, which TVO acknowledged as the “Best International Show.”

Her true-life tale of a model being afflicted with alopecia was shared by Jannica Olin in (IM)Perfekt. Olin managed to inspire her audiences and at the same time convulse them with laughter.

With Black Boxing, playwright Matt Ritchey held a funhouse mirror to the very concept of solo shows.  Directed by Matthew Martin this raucously funny gem chronicled every pitfall solo shows face.  Fittingly, this send-up of a one-man show featured performances by Ritchey and Jim Niedzialkowski.

Finally, I’ll close with one of the most satisfying shows in HFF 2019, Temple Tantrum, written and performed by Nicole Steinwedell. Raised in a right-wing Christian cult, Steinwedell broke free and plunged into a world diametrically different – Hollywood.  Steinwedell told her tale with the slashes of vibrancy one expects on a Jackson Pollack canvas.

Steinwedell’s dynamism, like the dissonance of a “perfect storm,” may have dissipated into an ineffable silence, but for director Kimleigh Smith who ably applied orchestration to the tempest, assuring awareness of the work’s import and clarity, for which she took TVO’s “Best Director” honors.

Of course the Fringe had disappointments: Olivia Wilde Does Not Survive the Apocalypse, Princess Magic’s Trash Time Revue, and Lincoln 2020.  But these were in a minority.

And the larger L.A. theatre scene had its pratfalls too:

Between Riverside and Crazy, (It won a Pulitzer Prize for drama, just like Enter Madame and Men in White!), Scraps (whose playwright the program told us “never learned to properly write a play.” I buy that.) and The Play That Goes Wrong (which I’m sure would have been much funnier if I hadn’t seen it.)

But these were in a minority as well.

The demands of theatre are arduous, and despite good intentions, dedicated labor and inspired concept, we often fail or falter through our own faults or fate’s callous insensitivity.  This is when we should recall the words of Robert Ingersoll:

“…when men and women belong to a profession
that can count Shakespeare in its number,
they should feel nothing but pride.” ¹

And so I say to all my good friends, to all the stagehands, house managers, dancers, marketing directors, composers, ushers, wardrobe supervisors, directors, set designers, choreographers, carpenters, light board operators, set dressers, producers, sound designers, singers, dramaturges, dialogue coaches, box office agents, fight choreographers, company managers, janitors, make-up artists, musicians, spotlight operators, set builders, technical directors, videographers, dressers, prop masters, parking attendants, playwrights, actors, stage managers, wig makers, publicists, scene painters, critics and most importantly to all who make up our theater, let us join together in 2020 and do what we do best – make magic!

From all of us at theTVolution.com we hope 2020 brings you good fortune, good health and of course, great theatre.


JOAN OF ART: Lots of Laughs in Long Beach, Dance at The Odyssey, 90's Beer Festival and One GroundBreaking Play

Even though the holidays are over there are still plenty of fun things to do, starting with the LONG BEACH COMIC FESTIVAL held at the Long Beach Convention Center.

This is a celebration of comic books and pop culture that showcases the exceptional works of talented writers, artists, illustrators, and creators of all types of pop culture.

You will find exhibitors promoting various products as well as entertaining and educational programs, guest signings, and meet & greet sessions with celebrities.

The event starts Saturday, January 11th from 10am - 6pm and Sunday the12th from 11am - 5pm. For information about the festival and the expo go to LongBeachComicExpo.com.

The Long Beach Convention Center is located at 300 East Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach 90802.

Another kind of entertainment can be found at The Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles. DANCE AT THE ODYSSEY begins on January 10th and runs through February 9th.

You will find L.A.'s most exciting dance here including the world premiere by String Theory, Acts of Matter and Dance Aegis. Also performing will be JA Collective and Slauson Rec, L.A. Contemporary Dance Company and Victoria Marks.

On Friday genre bending String Theory will premiere their work Landscapes & Layers which explores the intersection of sound and movement through interactive sculptures, dance, sound design and music.

Layering sound against the backdrop of contemporary dance, the ensemble creates a highly visual and textural world with an echo of the old west. I've seen this company and absolutely love them.

Also performing this weekend is Rebecca Lemme/Acts of Matter with special guest DANCE AEGIS. Rebecca is a choreographer, performer, educator and visual artist. This is another dance troupe you do not want to miss.

For more information and to purchase tickets go to OdysseyTheatre.com. The Odyssey is located at 2055 South Sepulveda Blvd. in West LA 90025.

Now I'm sure there are many of you that want to keep partying even though the holidays are over and what better place to do that is at the 90's BEER FESTIVAL on Saturday starting at 6:30pm until 10:00pm.

So put on your best flannel and grunge shirt and make your way downtown to enjoy unlimited samples of beers, ciders and specialty cocktails like the Capri Sun Cocktail cooler and the Red Gusher martini.

You will also enjoy live music from the nineties boy who will be taking you on a musical journey of hits over the entire decade.

All drinks and food are included in the ticket price. The festival takes place at Civic Center Studios 207 South Broadway in LA. For more information and to purchase tickets go to FeverUp.com.

A great way to end the weekend is making your way over to the Mark Taper to see the 2019 Tony nominated Best Play and Pulitzer Prize finalist WHAT THE CONSTITUTION MEANS TO ME by famed writer Heidi Schreck.

This boundary breaking play breathes new life into our Constitution and imagines how it will affect the next generation of Americans.

Fifteen year old Heidi earned her college tuition by winning Constitutional debate competitions across the United States. In this hilarious, hopeful and achingly human new play, she resurrects her teenage self in order to trace the profound relationship between four generations of women and the founding document that shaped their lives.

Schreck's timely and galvanizing play, directed by Oliver Butler became a sensation off Broadway last fall before transferring to Broadway where it received to Tony Award nominations among countless other accolades. This play is absolutely brilliant.

To purchase tickets go to CenterTheatreGroup.org. The Mark Taper is located at 135 North Grand Avenue, Downtown LA.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend people, make it a fun one and HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone.


TICKETHOLDER AWARDS 2019 PART II

My 28th annual TicketHolder Awards are now posted on my TicketHoldersLA website in two parts. You can read part II below and part I here. Click here for photos.

BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY 2019

TIM CUMMINGSDaniel’s Husband, Fountain Theatre

RUNNERS-UP: Ron Bottita, Loot, Odyssey; Gilbert Glenn Brown, The Mountaintop, Marshall; Dempsey Bryk, punkplay, Circle X; Seamus Dever, The Abuelas, Antaeus; Zackary Stone Gearing, Hir, Odyssey; Zackary Stone Gearing, punkplay, Circle X; Nicholas Hormann, Loot, Odyssey; Tom Ormeny, The End of Sex, Victory; Michael Manuel, Frankenstein, ANW; Will Thomas McFadden, 1984, Actors’ Gang; Will Thomas McFadden, Violence: The Misadventures of Spike Spangle, Farmer, Actors’ Gang; Rob Nagle, Apple Season, Moving Arts; Rob Nagle, The Judas Kiss, Boston Court; Bruno Oliver, Waiting for Waiting for Godot, Sacred Fools; Bob Turton, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Actors’ Gang

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY

DYLAN JONES4.48 Psychosis, Son of Semele Ensemble

RUNNERS-UP: Tessa Auberjonois, Eight Nights, Antaeus; Denise Blasor, The Abuelas, Antaeus; Tovah Feldshuh, Sisters in Law, Wallis; Liza Fernandez, Apple Season, Moving Arts; Lianne Harvey, An Inspector Calls, Wallis; Susan Priver, A Streetcar Named Desire, Odyssey; Carolyn Ratteray, The Mountaintop, Marshall; Samantha Sloyan, The Thanksgiving Play, Geffen; Maura Tierney, Witch, Geffen Playhouse; Diane Wiest, Happy Days, CTG/Taper

BEST SOLO PERFORMANCE (TIE)

HERSHEY FELDERMonsieur Chopin, San Diego Repertory Theatre

RUNNERS-UP: Mike Birbiglia, The New One, CTG/Ahmanson; Helder Guimaraes, Invisible Tango, Geffen Playhouse; Bill Irwin, On Beckett, Douglas; Tova Katz, See You at the Funeral, Broadwater Mainstage; John Leguizamo, Latin History for Morons, CTG/Ahmanson; David Mynne, A Christmas Carol, Wallis; Deirdre O’Connell, Dana H., CTG/Douglas; Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Lackawanna Blues, CTG, Taper

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

RICHARD TOPOLIndecentCenter Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre

RUNNERS-UP: Keith Allen, Deadly, Sacred Fools; Will Bozier, Swan Lake, CTG/Ahmanson; James Delisco Beeks, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pantages; Aaron LaVigne, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pantages; Ryan Melia, The Old Man and the Old Moon, Wallis; Andrew Monaghan, Swan Lake, CTG/Ahmanson; Liam Mower, Cinderella, CTG/Ahmanson; Andy Robinson, Julius Weezer, Troubadour

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

JACQUE LYNN COLTON, In Circles, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

RUNNERS-UP: Caroline Bowman, Frozen, Pantages; Betty Buckley, Hello, Dolly!, Pantages; Alex Hairston, Summer, Pantages; Caroline Innerbichler, Frozen, Pantages; Katrina Lyndon, Swan Lake, CTG/Ahmanson; Dan’yelle Williamson, Summer, Pantages

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY (TIE)

BOB TURTONViolence: The Misadventures of Spike Spangle, FarmerThe Actors’ Gang

RUNNERS-UP: Ron Bottitta, Hir, Odyssey; Chad Coe, The End of Sex, Victory; Bill Brochtrup, Daniel’s Husband, Fountain; Rob Brownstein, Anne, a New Play, Museum of Tolerance; JD Cullum, The Cripple of Inishmaan, Anteaus; Seamus Dever, Cripple of Inishmaan, Anteaus; Arye Gross, Eight Nights, Antaeus; Stephen Guarino, Handjob, Echo; Joe Hernandez-Kolski, Waiting for Waiting for Godot, Sacred Fools; Justin Huen, Apple Season, Moving Arts; Carl J. Johnson, Driving Wilde, Theatre of NOTE; Brandon Rachal, Native Son, Antaeus/CTG at the Douglas; Tom Szymanski, Violence: The Misadventures of Spike Spangle, Farmer, Actors’ Gang; Will Von Vogt, Witch, Geffen Playhouse; Josh Zuckerman, Eight Nights, Antaeus

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY

MELISSA SULLIVANA Streetcar Named Desire, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

RUNNERS-UP: Anne Gee Byrd, Cripple of Inishmaan, Anteaus; Irene De Bari, The Abuelas, Antaeus; Mary-Pat Green, Cripple of Inishmaan, Anteaus; Alexandra Henrikson, The Thanksgiving Play, Geffen; Sadie Kuwano, punkplay, Circle X; Mara Klein, The Judas Kiss, Boston Court; Mildred Marie Langford, Native Son, Antaeus/CTG at the Douglas; Mary Gordon Murray, Anne, a New Play, Museum of Tolerance; Jenny O’Hara, Daniel’s Husband, Fountain; Zoe Yale, Eight Nights, Antaeus

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

HARRY GROENER, IndecentCenter Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre

RUNNERS-UP: Rick Batalla, Julius Weezer, Troubadour; John Colella, The Producers, Celebration; Andrew Diego, The Producers, Celebration; Paris Fitzpatrick, Cinderella, CTG/Ahmanson; Ben Ferguson, The Old Man and the Old Moon, Wallis; F. Michael Haynie, Frozen, Pantages; Paul Louis Lessard, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pantages; P.T. Mahoney, In Circles, Odyssey; Steven Rattazzi, Indecent, CTG/Ahmanson; Morgan Rusler, Julius Weezer, Troubadour; Michael A. Shepperd, The Producers, Celebration; Alan Vincent, Cinderella, CTG/Ahmanson; Dan Weschler, The Old Man and the Old Moon, Wallis

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL

ADINA VERSON, IndecentCenter Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre

RUNNERS-UP: Madelaine Brennan, Cinderella, CTG/Ahmanson; Elizabeth A. Davis, Indecent, CTG/Ahmanson; Victoria Hoffman, Julius Weezer, Troubadour; Beth Kennedy, Julius Weezer, Troubadour; Katrina Lyndon, Swan Lake, CTG/Ahmanson; Mary Ann Welshans, The Producers, Celebration; Brittney S. Wheeler, Deadly, Sacred Fools

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST IN A PLAY (TIE)

Stephen Borrello, Joely Fisher, Andy Garcia, Rose McIver, Louis Mustillo, Danny Pino, Tony Plana, Richard Riehle, Bradley Snedeker; Key Largo, Geffen Playhouse

Hugo Armstrong, John Bobek, Austin Durant, Leo Marks, Ramiz Monsef, Helen Sadler, Alan Tudyk; Mysterious Circumstances, Geffen Playhouse

RUNNERS-UP: John Apicella, Noel Arthur, Paul Baird, Gabriela Bonet, Claudia Elmore, Turner Frankosky, Troy Guthrie, Steve Hofvendahl, Connor Kelly-Eiding, Michael Khachanov, Alex Knox, Mehrnaz Mohammadi, Madalina Nastase, Liza Seneca, Janellen Steininger, George Villas; The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Antaeus Theatre Company

Victor Anthony, Joshua Bitton, Lesley Fera, Liza Fernandez, Matthew Hancock, Marisol Miranda, Montae Russell; Between Riverside and Crazy, Fountain Theatre

James A. Alfred, A. Russell Andrews, Francois Battiste, Harvy Blanks, Amari Cheatom, Anthony Chisholm, Brian D. Coats, Steven Anthony Jones, Patrese D. McClain; Nija Okoro, Keith Randolph Smith, Ray Anthony Thomas; Jitney, Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum

Crystal Diaz, Elinor Gunn, Liesel Hanson, Faith Imafidon, Cindy Lin, Nadia Marina, Lynn Odell, Alina Phelan, Briana Price, Nicole Gabriella Scipione, Yolanda Snowball, Jenny Soo, Nancy Stone, Tania Verafield; For The Love Of (or the Roller Derby Play), Theatre of NOTE / Center Theatre Group, Kirk Douglas Theatre

Ian Barford, Tim Hopper, Sally Murphy, Caroline Neff, Chantal Thuy, Cora Vander Broek, Troy West; Linda Vista, Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum

Ro Boddie, Max Casella, Micaela Diamond, Peter Jacobson, Jason Kravits, Nellie McKay, Saul Rubinek, Miriam Silverman, Joey Slotnick, Sam Vartholomeos, CJ Wilson, A Play is a Poem, Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum

Scott Cote, Peyton Crim, Brandon J. Ellis, Angela Grovey, Ned Noyes, Jamie Ann Romero, Evan Alexander Smith, Yaegel T. Welch; The Play That Goes Wrong, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre

Sile Bermingham, Reed Michael Campbell, Brian Foyster; The Ruffian on the Stair, Los Angeles LGBT Center

Will Brittain, Eli Gelb, Harry Groener, Kimberly Jurgen, Idina Menzel, Jeff Skowron, Skintight, Geffen Playhouse

BEST ENSEMBLE CAST IN A MUSICAL

Nick Adams, Nick Blaemire, Audrey Cardwell, Eden Espinosa, Thatcher Jacobs, Bryonha Marie Parham, Max von Essen; FalsettosCenter Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre

RUNNERS-UP: Rick Batalla, Chelle Denton, Beth Kennedy, Janelle Lillian, Luis “L.T.” Martinez, Mike Sulprizio, Cloie Wyatt Taylor, Matt Walker, Dave C Wright, A Christmas Carole King, Troubadour Theater Company

The ensemble of Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre

Alex Falberg, Ben Ferguson, Curtis Gillen, Ryan Melia, Matt Nuernberger, Arya Shahi, Dan Weschler; The Old Man and the Old Moon, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

The ensemble of Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre

BEST CABARET / CONCERT PERFORMANCE

DEIDRIE HENRYLady Day at Emerson’s Bar & GrillGarry Marshall Theatre

RUNNERS-UP: Michael Churven and George McGrath, Party of Two, Groundlings Theatre

NEW DISCOVERY 2019

RUNNERS-UP: Reed Michael Campbell, The Ruffian on the Stair, Los Angeles LGBT Center; Olivia Elsease Hardy, Summer, Pantages; Thatcher Jacobs, Falsettos, CTG/Ahmanson; Michael Rishawn, Handjob, Echo; Jarrod Takle, Circa: Humans, Wallis

BEST PLAYWRIGHT

Tracy LettsLinda Vista, Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum

RUNNERS-UP: Sir David Hare, The Judas Kiss, Boston Court; Larissa Fasthorse, The Thanksgiving Play, Geffen; Hershey Felder, A Paris Love Story, Wallis; Stephen Adly Guirgis, Between Riverside and Crazy, Fountain; Dave Hanson, Waiting for Waiting for Godot, Sacred Fools; Joshua Harmon, Skintight, Geffen; E.M. Lewis, Apple Season, Moving Arts; Taylor Mac, Hir, Odyssey; Jennifer Maisel, Eight Nights, Antaeus; Michael McKeever, Daniel’s Husband, Fountain; Vince Melocchi, Andy Warhol’s Tomato, PRT; Gregory S. Moss, punkplay, Circle X; Erik Patterson, Handjob, Echo; Vanessa Claire Stewart, Deadly, Sacred Fools; Paula Vogel, Indecent, CTG/Ahmanson; Gay Walch, The End of Sex, Victory; Stephanie Alison Walker, The Abuelas, Antaeus

BEST ADAPTATION OR TRANSLATION

Michael MitnickMysterious Circumstances, Geffen Playhouse

RUNNERS-UP: Alistair Beaton, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Antaeus; Nick Blaemire, Anne, a New Play, Museum of Tolerance; Matthew Bourne, Cinderella, CTG/Ahmanson; Nick Dear, Frankenstein, ANW; Jeffrey Hatcher and Andy Garcia, Key Largo, Geffen; Lucas Hnath, Dana H., CTG/Douglas; Jon Laskin and Michael Aquilante, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Actors’ Gang; Jennifer Lee, Frozen, Pantages; Jonathan Shapiro, Sisters in Law, Wallis; Jen Silverman, Witch, Geffen Playhouse; Michael Gene Sullivan, 1984, Actors’ Gang; Matt Walker, A Christmas Carole King, Troubadour; Matt Walker, Julius Weezer, Troubadour; Jacqueline Wright, Driving Wilde, Theatre of NOTE

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY

Matt Shakman, Mysterious CircumstancesGeffen Playhouse

RUNNERS-UP: Darin Anthony, Apple Season, Moving Arts; Daniel Aukin, Skintight, Geffen; Matt Bretz and Lisa Sanaye Dring, punkplay, Circle X; Dexter Bullard, Linda Vista, CTG/Taper; Emily Chase, Eight Nights, Antaeus; Guillermo Cienfuegos, Between Riverside and Crazy, Fountain; Gregg T. Daniel, The Mountaintop, Marshall; Michael John Garces, The Thanksgiving Play, Geffen; Maria Gobetti, The End of Sex, Victory; Doug Hughes, Key Largo, Geffen; Rhonda Kohl, For The Love Of (or the Roller Derby Play), Theatre of NOTE / Kirk Douglas; Simon Levy, Daniel’s Husband, Fountain; Marti Lyons, Witch, Geffen Playhouse; Matthew McCray, 4.48 Psychosis, Son of Semele; Will Thomas McFadden, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, Actors’ Gang; Michael Michetti, The Judas Kiss, Boston Court; Michael Michetti, Frankenstein, ANW; Tim Robbins, 1984, Actors’ Gang; Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Jitney, CTG/Taper; Stephanie Shroyer, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Antaeus; Jacob Sidney, Waiting for Waiting for Godot, Sacred Fools; Bob Turton, Violence: The Misadventures of Spike Spangle, Farmer, Actors’ Gang; Les Waters, Dana H., CTG/Douglas

BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL

Rebecca Taichman, IndecentCenter Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre

RUNNERS-UP: Matthew Bourne, Cinderella, CTG/Ahmanson; Matthew Bourne, Swan Lake, CTG/Ahmanson; Stuart Carden with members of the PigPen Theatre Co., The Old Man and the Old Moon, Wallis; Michael Grandage, Frozen, Pantages; Michael Matthews, The Producers, Celebration; Des McAnuff, Summer, Pantages; Jamie Robledo, Deadly, Sacred Fools; David Schweizer, In Circles, Odyssey; Timothy Sheader, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pantages; Matt Walker, A Christmas Carole King, Troubadour

BEST MUSICAL SCORE

Lisa Gutkin and Aaron Halva, IndecentCenter Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre

RUNNERS-UP: Rob Falconer, The Play That Goes Wrong, CTG/Ahmanson; Ryan Thomas Johnson, Deadly, Sacred Fools; Robert Oriol, Frankenstein, ANW; Nellie McKay, A Play is a Poem, CTG/Taper; Members of the PigPen Theatre Co., The Old Man and the Old Moon, Wallis; Arturo Sandoval, Key Largo, Geffen; Stephanie Shroyer with the members of the cast, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Antaeus

BEST MUSICAL DIRECTION

Kenneth J. Grimes, In Circles, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble

RUNNERS-UP: Derick Finley, A Christmas Carole King, Troubadour; Shawn Gough, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pantages; Ryan Thomas Johnson, Deadly, Sacred Fools; Amanda Morton, Summer, Pantages; Abdul Hamid Royal, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, Marshall; Anthony Zediker, The Producers, Celebration

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY

Matthew Bourne, Swan LakeCenter Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre

RUNNERS-UP: Rob Ashford, Frozen, Pantages; Matthew Bourne, Cinderella, CTG/Ahmanson; Kate Coleman, In Circles, Odyssey; David Dorfman, Indecent, CTG/Ahmanson; Nadine Ellis, Janet Roston, The Producers, Celebration; Drew McOnie, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pantages; Sergio Trujillo, Summer, Pantages; Matt Walker, and Suzanne Julie Narbonne, Julius Weezer, Troubadour

BEST SET DESIGN (TIE)

Brett J. Banakis, Mysterious Circumstances, Geffen Playhouse

John Lee BeattyKey Largo, Geffen Playhouse

RUNNERS UP: Andrew Boyce, Dana H., CTG/Douglas; Lez Brotherston, Cinderella, CTG/Ahmanson; Alex Calle, The Mountaintop, Marshall; Francois-Pierre Couture, Frankenstein, ANW; Joel Daavid, A Streetcar Named Desire, Odyssey; Alexander Dodge, Anastasia, Pantages; Hershey Felder, A Paris Love Story, Wallis; Lydia Fine with members of the PigPen Theatre Co., The Old Man and the Old Moon, Wallis; David Gallo, Jitney, CTG/Taper; Stephen Gifford, The Producers, Celebration; Lauren Helpern, Skintight, Geffen; Nigel Hook, The Play That Goes Wrong, CTG/Ahmanson; Christopher Oram, Frozen, Pantages; Stephanie Kerley Schwartz, Apple Season, Moving Arts; Sibyl Wickersheimer, punkplay, Circle X

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

E.B. Brooks, Mysterious CircumstancesGeffen Playhouse

RUNNERS-UP: E. B. Brooks, The Producers, Celebration; Lez Brotherston, Cinderella, CTG/Ahmanson; Lez Brotherston, Swan Lake, CTG/Ahmanson; Angela Calin, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Antaeus; Wendell C. Carmichael, The Abuelas, Antaeus; Linda Cho, Anastasia, Pantages; Linda Cho, Key Largo, Geffen; Ann Closs-Farley, Driving Wilde, Theatre of NOTE; Ann Closs-Farley, In Circles, Odyssey; Ann Closs-Farley, punkplay, Circle X; Diane Graebner, The Judas Kiss, Boston Court; Alex Jaeger, Eight Nights, Antaeus; Diane Laffrey, Witch, Geffen Playhouse; Shon LeBlanc, A Streetcar Named Desire, Odyssey; Garry Lennon, Frankenstein, ANW; Linda Muggeridge, Deadly, Sacred Fools; Christopher Oram, Frozen, Pantages; Emily Rebholz, Indecent, CTG/Ahmanson; Roberto Surace, The Play That Goes Wrong, CTG/Ahmanson

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN

Jared A. SayegFrankenstein, A Noise Within

RUNNERS-UP: Christopher Akerlind, Indecent, CTG/Ahmanson; Christopher Ash, A Paris Love Story, Wallis; Neil Austin, Cinderella, CTG/Ahmanson; Howard Binkley, Summer, Pantages; Martha Carter, Apple Season, Moving Arts; Paule Constable, Swan Lake, CTG/Ahmanson; Bart Cortright with members of the PigPen Theatre Co., The Old Man and the Old Moon, Wallis; Lee Curran, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pantages; Rick Fisher, An Inspector Calls, Wallis; Elizabeth Harper, Mysterious Circumstances, Geffen; David Hernandez, The Judas Kiss, Boston Court; Donald Holder, Anastasia, Pantages; Peter Kaczorowski, Key Largo, Geffen; Natasha Katz, Frozen, Pantages; Karyn D. Lawrence, Eight Nights, Antaeus; Rose Malone, For The Love Of (or the Roller Derby Play), Theatre of NOTE / Kirk Douglas; Tom Ontiveros, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, Marshall; Andrew Schmedake, Native Son, Antaeus/CTG at the Douglas; Paul Toben, Dana H., CTG/Douglas

BEST SOUND DESIGN (TIE)

Warren DavisApple Season, Moving Arts

Alex HawthornKey Largo, Geffen Playhouse

RUNNERS-UP: Eric Carstensen, A Paris Love Story, Wallis; Mikhail Fiksel, Dana H., CTG/Douglas; Mikhail Fiksel with members of the PigPen Theatre Co., The Old Man and the Old Moon, Wallis; Jeff Gardner, The Abuelas, Antaeus; Jeff Gardner, Eight Nights, Antaeus; Jeff Gardner, Native Son, Antaeus/CTG at the Douglas; Paul Groothuis, Cinderella, CTG/Ahmanson; Matt Hubbs, Indecent, CTG/Ahmanson; Peter Hylenski, Frozen, Pantages; Cricket S. Myers, The Producers, Celebration; Robert Oriol, Frankenstein, ANW; Gareth Owen, Summer, Pantages; Robert Arturo Ramirez, The Mountaintop, Marshall; Jonathan Snipes, Mysterious Circumstances, Geffen; Daniel S. Tator, A Christmas Carole King, Troubadour

BEST STUNT / FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY

Edgar Landapunkplay, Circle X Theatre Company

RUNNERS-UP: Ronnie Clark, Apple Season, Moving Arts; Dane Oliver, Hir, Odyssey; Steve Rankin, Witch, Geffen Playhouse; Steven Simon and Edgar Landa, Waiting for Waiting for Godot, Sacred Fools

BEST CGI / VIDEO DESIGN

Christopher AshA Paris Love StoryWallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

RUNNERS-UP: Adam R. Macias, The Arbuelas, Antaeus; Adam R. Macias, Native Son, Antaeus/CTG at the Douglas; Duncan McLean, Cinderella, CTG/Ahmanson; Kaitlyn Pietras and Jason H. Thompson, Mysterious Circumstances, Geffen; Kaitlyn Pietras and Jason H. Thompson, Key Largo, Geffen; Aaron Rhyne, Anastasia, Pantages

SPECIAL EVENTS and PERFORMANCES

Nellie McKay, performing her original music in the otherwise dastardly A Play is a Poem, Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum 

SPECIAL ACHIEVEMENTS

Michael Curry, Puppet Design, Frozen, Pantages Theatre
Ann Closs-Farley, Hair Design, punkplay, Circle X Theatre Company
Charles G. LaPointe, Wig and Hair Design, Summer, Pantages Theatre

BEST SCENE-STEALING DERRIERE OF 2019

Will BrittainSkintight, Geffen Playhouse


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


TICKETHOLDER AWARDS 2019 PART I

My 28th annual TicketHolder Awards are now posted on my TicketHoldersLA website in two parts. You can read it below and click here for photos.

Choosing my honorees this year is a real bitch. Almost as many tears shed as Carrie Ann Inaba eliminating a sports figure she finds hot. Yet there’s not much else good to write home about in 2019 besides theatre in El Lay. Between the mess we’re making of our planet and the eye-opening disintegration of everything I’ve championed and held dear all my life, thank Terpsichore it’s been a spectacular year for the creation of theatrical art to help ease the pain and frustration of living in our Trumpian nightmare. And even though I have a whole heap of productions to honor this year, with part of my time spent in New Orleans hosting an exhibit of my paintings and medical issues to tackle that seem to come with the territory at age 348, there were also a lot of noteworthy productions I sadly missed. In my world, it’s definitely been a year to praise some monumental directorial work and a plethora of spectacular ensemble casts; choosing winners in both categories has not been an easy task. And what do you think of the Geffen Playhouse? After too long a period of less-than exciting fare, the announcement in 2017 that Matt Shakman had been hired as the complex’s artistic director guaranteed a positive change and without a doubt, the turn around has been staggering. Two of the company’s casts are tied here for Best Ensemble, two of its masterful set designs are as well, and five of my top production choices for 2019 were presented at the Geffen, including my second, third, ninth, and tenth pick for Best Play and second choice of Best Revival. If I gave an annual award for Best Season, surely the Geffen Playhouse would win this year. As a matter of fact, maybe I should initiate such a thing. As a matter of fact, I think I will. 

THE 2019 TICKETHOLDER AWARD
FOR BEST SEASON

Geffen Playhouse; Matt Shakman, resident puppetmaster

BEST PRODUCTION OF 2019

Linda Vista, Center Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum
The Thanksgiving Play, Geffen Playhouse
RUNNERS-UP: The Abuelas, Antaeus; Andy Warhol’s Tomato, Pacific Resident Theatre; Apple Season, Moving Arts; Dana H., CTG/Douglas; The End of Sex, Victory Theatre Center; For The Love Of (or the Roller Derby Play), Theatre of NOTE/CTG at the Douglas; 4.48 Psychosis, Son of Semele; Frankenstein, A Noise Within; Handjob, Echo Theatre Company; The Mountaintop, Garry Marshall Theatre; On Beckett, CTG/Douglas; The Play That Goes Wrong, CTG/, Ahmanson; Sisters in Law, Wallis Annenberg Center

BEST REVIVAL PRODUCTION

JitneyCenter Theatre Group, Mark Taper Forum 
FalsettosCenter Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre
RUNNERS-UP: The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Antaeus Theatre Company; Cats, Pantages; The Cripple of Inishmaan, Anteaus Theatre Company; Happy Days, CTG/Mark Taper Forum; Hello, Dolly!, Pantages; Jesus Christ Superstar, Pantages; Loot, Odyssey Theatre Ensemble; The Ruffian on the Stairs, Los Angeles LGBT Center; Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, Garry Marshall Theatre

BEST MUSICAL PRODUCTION

Indecent, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre

Lemon Butter: Best of L.A.'s Theatre Adjacent Restaurants and Bars - August Edition

Lemon Butter is a bi-monthly column featuring choice restaurants, lounges, Happy Hours, and other spots where hospitality is offered, that are convenient to theatre venues throughout Los Angeles. For distances and times given traffic and parking are not factored in. Where available, contact all hospitality venues for valet or parking information and/or reservations.

This month's Lemon Butter covers just a few restaurants in the Silver Lake, South Pasadena, and Downtown LA areas, with one recognized by the Michelin Guide which only just recently returned to Los Angeles!


The Chicken and Waffles at Preux & Proper, Downtown, Los Angeles. Photo by Dan Watkins.

PREUX & PROPER

This Michelin Bib Gourmand awarded restaurant is just a few minute's drive from the Music Center's Ahmanson, Mark Taper Forum, Dorothy Chandler, and Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Executive Chef Sammy Monsour and restaurateur Joshua Kopel bring southern cooking to Los Angeles to their New Orleans-inspired DTLA restaurant.

Cocktails include the Punk Evans comprised of Effen Vodka, lemongrass, ginger, and frozen watermelon balls, an Alabama Slammer featuring Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Sipsmith Gin, yellow chartreuse, lemon, lavender, and grape soda, the Hells Bells made with Real McCoy Rum, ginger peach tea, and lemon, and the refreshing Green Gullah made with St. George Gin, green chartreuse, pineapple, lime, ginger beer and chipotle.

For a starter or bar bites, there's the Cajun “Popcorn” Rock Shrimp with Monsour's buttermilk marinade, cornmeal crust, Creole remoulade, and chunky cocktail sauce,  the Dungeness Crab Hushpuppies with Low-Country Boil Spice, charred Poblano butter, house bourbon barrel-aged green hot sauce, and the Southern Fried Mississippi Catfish that's marinaded in buttermilk before it is dipped in cornmeal and fried, then is served with house pickles, celery salt, and red remoulade.

There are also cool and crisp salads Baby Iceberg such as Pop’s Chop, with North Country bacon ends, heirloom tomato, scallion, Humboldt Fog goat’s cheese and buttermilk dressing, the Chicken Bacon Cobb with house chicken bacon, heirloom tomato, cucumber, hard-boiled egg, queso fresco and avocado ranch, or the OGO Caesar prepared with Monterey Bay seaweed, mustard frills, caper berries, Parmigiano and toasted yellow-eyed peas.

For main dishes there are the fried chicken plates, featuring Chicken & Waffles served with two boneless breasts on cinnamon sugar, cornbread waffles with bourbon-maple, crushed pecans, marjoram, and "really good" butter, Chicken & Biscuit prepared with two boneless breasts and a handmade buttermilk biscuit with charred Poblano butter, Serrano jelly and bourbon barrel-aged green hot, the Nashville Hot served with two boneless breasts, house pickles, Pop’s Slaw on thick cut brioche with a choice of "Hot," "XXX," "Reaper," or "Hellfire" sauce, and a Whole Fried Game Hen comprised of four quartered bone-in game hen with Low-Country seasoning, buttermilk dressing, parsley, scallions and dill, or the Crispy Braised Dr Pepper Wings which include twelve whole wings served with a pomegranate-habanero BBQ, lime crema, and cilantro.

With their South City Fried Chicken moving to Preux & Proper for lunchtime pop-ups Monday through Saturday, Preux & Proper now serves that buttermilk brined chicken in their Southern city-themed sandwiches, like the Chapel Hill topped with “Pop’s Slaw,” Jenny’s pimento cheese, house pickles, and crispy Tarheel country ham. The Greenville, their take on a Club, features that crispy chicken with hickory-smoked chicken bacon, house mayo, gruyère, baby iceberg lettuce and heirloom tomato, The Austin, with Rojo bean hummus, burrata, Javi’s Tia’s Hot Sauce, pickled radish, cilantro, blue corn tortilla crumble, and heirloom tomato, the Nashville seasoned with a Nashville rub, chili oil, house pickles and a sweet and tangy Cookout slaw, and a personal favorite, the New Orleans, with creole remoulade, cajun spice, Thai basil, a fried egg, benne seeds, and ginger-miso BBQ.

There are staple sides including the Slaw, Kennebec Fries, a Watermelon Cucumber Salad, Braised Collards, Low-Country BakedBeans, and Preux & Proper’s famous Cast Iron Mac & Cheese.

For dessert, Preux & Proper’s Pâte à Choux Beignets made with “bananas foster” dulce de leche, and powdered sugar, Maria’s Strawberry Shortcake served with a house buttermilk biscuit, brown butter solids, and crème fraîche vanilla ice cream, or Chef Sammy’s Banana Puddin’ featuring candied walnuts, bananas, Nilla wafer, and toasted coconut.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

PREUX & PROPER - 840 South Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90015 - (213) 896-0090

Distance to the Ahmanson, Mark Taper Forum, Dorothy Chandler, and Walt Disney Concert Hall  - (1.5 miles, 9-15 minute drive)


The Mole Enchiladas Poblano at Casita Del Campo in Silverlake, California, June 23, 2019. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.

CASITA DEL CAMPO

CASITA DEL CAMPO in Silver Lake houses the Cavern Club theatre and is walking distance to the Lyric Hyperion.

Legendary Casita Del Campo celebrating 57 years in Silver Lake serves fresh fruit Margaritas, like the Strawberry and Pomegranate Margaritas made with fresh lime juice, triple sec and tequila, along with flavors like apple, peach, melon, and banana—perfect for Summertime cocktails before a show downstairs at the Cavern Club.

The vibrant and colorful restaurant features homemade Mexican fare like the shareable Casita’s Special with six crispy mini tortillas topped with chicken, beef, beans, jack cheese, sour cream, fresh guacamole, chopped tomatoes, and peppers, the cheesy Enchiladas are prepared with a choice of protein or can be served vegan with a light tomatillo sauce, the Mahi Mahi, grilled and topped with red bell peppers, onions, cilantro, tomatoes and is served with white rice, black beans, and plantains, the Pollo al Cilantro, with fresh cubes of chicken in a butter sauce, with olive oil, spices and cilantro, and the Cochinita Pibil--a pork tenderloin marinated in spices, achiote chili, and fruit juice, slowly baked and served with white rice and black beans. All of their entrees are served with soup or salad, rice, beans, and hot corn tortillas.

Rudy del Campo, a successful dancer on Broadway, Las Vegas and a “Shark” in the film 'West Side Story,” opened Casita del Campo in 1962 with his family. He met Nina del Campo in 1965, where they fell in love. Rudy passed in 2003, but restaurateur Nina del Campo continues to work at the restaurant where she's been in charge of the business since the 1960s. The restaurant, traditionally and festively decorated with moons, Moravian stars, holiday decorations of the month, with “West Side Story” memorabilia throughout, also has glorious enclosed patios which contain Nina del Campo's brilliant artistry—her hand-inlaid glass mosaic tables designed by her and representing Mexican art and culture. These should not be missed in a visit to this landmark Silver Lake restaurant!

CASITA DEL CAMPO - 1920 Hyperion Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027 - (323) 662-4255

Distance to the Cavern Club Theatre  - None. You are there!

Distance to the Lyric Hyperion Theatre  - (0.1 miles, 1 min. drive, 2 min. walk.)


The Chicken Karaage, front, and Spicy Tuna "Tacos" during Happy Hour at Ai Restaurant, South Pasadena, California. Photo by Monique A. LeBleu.

AI RESTAURANT

AI RESTAURANT in South Pasadena, next door to the landmark, re-purposed Rialto Theatre, and very near the  Fremont Centre Theatre and South Pasadena Theatre Workshop is a best-kept secret when it comes to Happy Hour quick bites and a cocktail just before the theatre...or anytime.

One Yelp reviewer referred to the Ai Bar as the "Cheers" of South Pasadena, as the place is indeed that popular with diehard locals, especially during Happy Hours.

Although a modest assortment at their full bar, their collection Japanese beers are choice, as is their sake and Chef Fumito's select Japanese whiskeys. Their house Chardonnay (typically Hess) is a good value at $5.50 a glass, as is the "Ai Tai" of Bacardi Light rum, pineapple, lime, orange juice and Almond Orgeat syrup, with a float of Myers Dark rum at $8.

Happy Hour and the best deals are Tuesdays through Saturdays 4-7 pm., and Sundays 5-7 pm, which features a variety of specially priced items that can make a fantastic “tapas” style shareable dinner with bar bites such as the crispy fried Chicken Karaage, the Grilled Shishito peppers, the Ika (squid) Tempura, Mussels prepared in white wine, garlic & olive oil, the spicy Tuna Poke marinated with a seaweed salad, and the ever-popular Spicy Tuna "Tacos" on wonton tostadas.

Some of the sides include String Beans sautéed with Garlic Sauce (which is the same sauce for the off-menu Garlic Edamame, if you ask for it), Steamed Asparagus' served with a miso-based dipping sauce, Steamed Spinach sautéed with garlic and served hot or cold, Okra served Tempura, or steamed Shumai dumplings (Deep fried or steamed), the Agedashi Tofu, a deep fried Tofu in broth, and fried shrimp, squid, scallop, and other assorted Tempuras.

If you are lucky, Fumito San might have the melt-in-your-mouth Lamb Chops during Happy Hour, which come with a garnish of a very creamy mashed potato salad and dipping sauce. When he has it, this is a must have!

Aside from lots of hot plate combinations and sushi to order, Ai Restaurant is one of the last Japanese Restaurants to provide “Love Boats”–large table-service boats filled with preset and to order sushi assortments. There are also assorted “Don” or Rice Bowls with ebef, Chicken Katsu, Tempura, and unagi, and Udon Noodle Bowls of beef, chicken, Tempura, Nabeyaki, or Soba with Tempura.

Cut rolls are relatively simple, such as the Yellowtail & Green Onion Roll, Jumbo Shrimp Tempura Roll, or the seasonal Soft-Shell Crab Roll, along with assorted Sashimi to order and Chirashi Bowls (Mixed Sashimi over Rice.)

Word of warning: as a family run business, the restaurant is incredibly busy during lunch and large groups sometimes take longer to serve. The restaurant is closed on Mondays.

Itadakimasu!

AI RESTAURANT - 1013 Fair Oaks Ave, South Pasadena, CA 91030 - (626) 799-0534

Distance to the South Pasadena theatre Workshop  - (450 ft, 1 min. drive, 5 min walk)

Distance to the Fremont Centre Theatre  - (0.2 miles, 2 min. drive)


Friday Features – Sweet Shows This Coming Week

Better Lemons has lots of registered shows and events and lot of them have Critics and Audience reviews posted. Here you can see their favorites and when you click on a title, you will see all the critics' and audience reviews and ratings. From there you can choose what your adventures this weekend will be. We wish you a fantastic weekend!

The Little Foxes

The Bench, A Homeless Love Story

The Value of Moscow

Blue Surge

A Mile In My Shoes

VALLEY OF THE HEART

Jane Austen’s EMMA

COME FROM AWAY

Cost of Living

OPPENHEIMER

Delusion: The Blue Blade

The Big Event: Sunny Afternoon

THE COLOR PURPLE

BUS STOP

Finks

SHE LOVES ME

A CAROL CHRISTMAS

HANSEL AND GRETEL

Aleichem Sholom! The wit and wisdom of Sholom Aleichem

The Big Event: King Dick

Blacktop Highway


Friday Features – Sweet Shows This Coming Week

Better Lemons has lots of registered shows and events and lot of them have Critics and Audience reviews posted. Here you can see their favorites and when you click on a title, you will see all the critics' and audience reviews and ratings. From there you can choose what your adventures this weekend will be. We wish you a fantastic weekend!

The People VS Hell Kross

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Death and Cockroaches

My Date With Death – A Musical Romance

Anatomy of a Hug

THE UNAUTHORIZED MUSICAL PARODY OF STRANGER THINGS

COME FROM AWAY

Cost of Living

The Little Foxes

The Bench, A Homeless Love Story

OPPENHEIMER

Finks

Delusion: The Blue Blade

The Value of Moscow

THE COLOR PURPLE

BUS STOP

Blue Surge

HANSEL AND GRETEL

A CAROL CHRISTMAS

SHE LOVES ME

A Mile In My Shoes

Blacktop Highway

VALLEY OF THE HEART


Friday Features – Sweet Shows This Coming Week

Better Lemons has lots of registered shows and events and lot of them have Critics and Audience reviews posted. Here you can see their favorites and when you click on a title, you will see all the critics' and audience reviews and ratings. From there you can choose what your adventures this weekend will be. We wish you a fantastic weekend!

The Color Collective

DEAR EVAN HANSEN

A BRONX TALE

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Cost of Living

The Little Foxes

The Bench, A Homeless Love Story

OPPENHEIMER

My Date With Death – A Musical Romance

Finks

Delusion: The Blue Blade

Anatomy of a Hug

THE COLOR PURPLE

BUS STOP

THE UNAUTHORIZED MUSICAL PARODY OF STRANGER THINGS

A CAROL CHRISTMAS

HANSEL AND GRETEL

SHE LOVES ME

A Mile In My Shoes

Blacktop Highway

VALLEY OF THE HEART