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;


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 we hope 2020 brings you good fortune, good health and of course, great theatre.


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.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Will BrittainSkintight, Geffen Playhouse


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. 


Geffen Playhouse; Matt Shakman, resident puppetmaster


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


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


Indecent, Center Theatre Group, Ahmanson Theatre

JOAN OF ART - A Musical About Love, Winter Fun in Downtown LA, A Thousand Lights at Union Station and A Poignant, Raw, Beautifully Written, Directed, and Acted Film

After you have stuffed yourselves with delicious food, and visited friends and family, here are some fun things you might want to do that does not include eating or shopping.

First up is the return of LOVE ACTUALLY LIVE at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. This is their biggest, record-breaking hit of the holiday season. The multimedia concert celebration of one of the most beloved holiday films of all time is back by popular demand, now as a not-to-be missed Los Angeles tradition.

The team behind LA's award winning series For the Record transforms the theatre into an immersive cinema, where the modern classic written by Richard Curtis is reborn as a revolutionary stage and screen event.

To tell the story, the film and live action seamlessly intertwine throughout the London setting. Iconic scenes on screen share the stage with an all star cast of singers and a 15-piece orchestra as they reimagine the film's hit soundtrack including 'Christmas is All Around' and 'Trouble With Love.'

'Love Actually Live' is a first-of-its-kind theatrical cinema experience. The show runs from November 27th - December 29th. To purchase tickets and for more information visit or call 310-745-4000.

The Wallis-Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts is located at 9390 North Santa Monica Blvd. in Beverly Hills, 90210.

Next up is something fun for the whole family and one of my favorite things to do...ICE SKATING...Growing up in New York City once the winter was upon us, you could find me with my white skates with pink pom poms ice skating at New York's famed Rockefeller Center. It was always a magical, super fun experience even when I'd fall on my butt which I did more times than not.

Now you can lace up your skates and have the same experience as I did at PERSHING SQUARE HOLIDAY ICE SKATING RINK.

Open daily as of November 14th 2019 until January 20, 2020, you won't want to miss this magical winter wonderland that promises to delight all people of all ages. So grab your family, friends, co-workers or a date and visit The Bai Holiday Ice Rink at Pershing Square for festive fun and unforgettable memories.

The is their 22nd Anniversary Season so you know they're doing something right. Also every Tuesday throughout the rink, the season will be dedicated to FROZEN. Ice rink lights will be predominantly blue and every third song played will be from the FROZEN'S original Broadway Cast Recording at 7pm, 8:30pm and 10pm.

For more information go to or call 313-624-4289.


Speaking of Downtown, at Union Station THOUSANDS OF LUMINOUS LIGHTS are setting the stage for a month long holiday celebration which started on Thursday November 21st.

The holiday season Union Station's historic south patio will be transformed into a hub of holiday entertainment with a Luminous Holiday Light Display, a Tree Lighting Ceremony, illuminating a towering tree with thousands of glistening lights as snowdrifts from the sky fall to welcome the holiday season.

Additionally, the station's iconic clock tower will be adorned with a massive 20 foot wide wreath. There will be a month-long series of eclectic Cocoa Concerts and a Holiday Festival and Artisan Market featuring a distinctive diverse performers, artists and artisans from across Los Angeles.

The Union Station Holiday Festival, a pop-up artisan market, rolls into the station's south patio on Saturday December 7th from 10am to 6pm with more than 40 of L.A.'S most sought after artists and artisans, live entertainment, a Beer Garden, food truck favorites and fun, free activities for the kids.

The Cocoa Concert series continues on Friday, December 6 at 6:40pm (Latin beats from the Congas ), Friday, December 13th, 6:30pm (The singing sounds of the HI-FI HONEYDROPS AND Friday, December 20th, 6:30pm (Special Guests to be announced).

There will also be Santa selfies, a Candy Cane Lane where custom neon photo-op will make your season bright alongside a soaring Candy Cane Queen and holiday-themed arts, crafts and interactive games and entertainment.

I'm taking my eleven year old niece there next weekend and I'm probably going to have just as much fun as she will. For additional information on holiday events at Union Station, check out 'happenings' at

Lastly I high recommend one of my favorite films of the year MARRIAGE STORY, written and directed by NOAH BAUMBACH, who is also one of my favorite screenwriters. This 2019 films stars the fantastic Scarlett Johansson and the equally fantastic Adam Driver along with the wonderful Laura Dern, Alan Alda, Ray Liotta and Julie Hagerty.

The film follows a married couple going through a coast to coast divorce. You can see it in theaters around town and it will also be streaming on NETFLIX starting on December 6th. The film received widespread critical acclaim particularly for Baumbach's screenplay and direction as well as the acting of Johansson, Driver and Dern.

MARRIAGE STORY is at times funny, extremely raw and deeply emotional. Driver plays a successful theatre director in New York City. His theatre company is currently producing a play that stars his wife Nicole (Johansson) a former teen film actress. That's all I really want to say about it except that I promise, you will be thinking about this film long after the credits end. I know I was.

I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. It's one of my favorite holidays even though I'm a staunch vegetarian. For me it's all about getting together with people that I love and sharing what we are all thankful for. I hope that you all besides having fun and experiencing delicious food, take a moment and reflect on all the things in your life that you are grateful for.

Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – October 7 - 13, 2019

Theatrical shows, Film Festivals, Musicals, Dance, Solo, and Awards Showsregistered on the Better Lemons calendar!

For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

One Night Only

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Mermaid of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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Sally Spectre the Musical

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40th Anniversary Celebration- LA Choreographers & Dancers Performance

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Impresario of Castro Street

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The Soul of Broadway - Impossible Dreams

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Levi Kreis: Home for the Holidays

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Something Rotten!

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Between Riverside and Crazy

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The Wrong Kind of People

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Second City/NBC Bob Curry Fellowship Showcases 2019

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The Double V

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Short+Sweet Hollywood Festival - Our Fantasia and On the Terrace

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October off the Screen Series

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Pembroke Taparelli Arts and Film Festival

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An Excuse to Behave Badly

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Magoc Castle Magicians at Theatre West

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The 7th Annual URBAN DEATH TOUR OF TERROR: Haunted Theatre Attraction!

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The 16th Annual Hollywood PAL Awards Gala

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Circa: Humans

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Chills & Thrills

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On an Average Day

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How the Light Gets In

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The Eight: Reindeer Monologues

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Aliens, Immigrants & Other Evil Doers

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Now Registered on the Better Lemons Calendar – September 30 - October 6, 2019

Theatrical shows, Film Festivals, Musicals, and Interactive/Immersive Escape Rooms NOW registered on the Better Lemons calendar!
For shows with a LemonMeter rating, visit our LemonMeter page.

Short & Sweet Film Festival

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Short & Sweet Hollywood Dance Festival

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Short & Sweet Hollywood Latino

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Short & Sweet Hollywood LGBTQ+ LIVE!

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San Fernando Valley Master Chorale: Grand Finale - Popular Musical & Opera Show-stoppers

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The Abuelas

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The Art of Dining

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The Manitou House

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The Sunshine Boys

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A Christmas Carol

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Second City’s fourth annual "2019 Diversity in Comedy Festival"

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Silent Sky

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The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

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Ravenswood Manor

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Dear Jerry Seinfeld

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What if: A Musical Parody

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Key Largo

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The Thanksgiving Play

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Sisters in Law

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The Legend of Little Girl Blue


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Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill

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The Lion in Winter

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The Santaland Diaries

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Lemon Butter: Best of L.A.'s Theatre Adjacent Restaurants and Bars - September 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 and theatres on the Westside in Beverly Hills, Malibu, and Santa Monica!


Photo by Monique A. LeBleu - The Jay Dog at Chez Jay The Backyard, Santa Monica, California, August 13, 2019.

Perfect for pre or after dinner theatre, and nearest the Santa Monica Playhouse and Morgan-Wixson Theatre is Chez Jay.

Owned by Michael Anderson and operated by his son General Manager Chris Anderson, the Historical Landmark in Santa Monica on Ocean Avenue recently opened The Backyard, featuring al fresco dining by the ocean and under the stars.

Designed by Chris Anderson and Nataly Lopez, The Backyard is a comfortable, open space–much like your own backyard–and features picnic tables, couches, Adirondack chairs, a fire pit, wine barrels, hanging vintage lanterns, string lights, and a protective canopy from the noon-day sun, and is fenced in where it abuts Santa Monica’s Tongva Park.

Chef "Memo" Guillermo De Arcos G, having been in the kitchen at Chez Jay, now a landmark restaurant in Santa Monica of over 27 years, recently introduced the new Good Eats menu at The Backyard with starters such as the Peppercorn Maple Bacon, Grilled Street Corn, Southwest Steak Nachos, Truffle Fries, Kimchi Guacamole, Rhode Island Calamari, Shrimp Ceviche Bites, and Baked Clams.

There are also salads, such as the Crispy Calamari Salad, prepared with fried calamari, frisée, romaine radicchio, tomatoes, pickled red onion, and French Dijon vinaigrette, The Cobb Salad served with grilled chicken, romaine, bacon, egg, blue cheese, tomato, avocado, and lemon honey vinaigrette, or the NY Steak Salad prepared with Angus New York Strip, arugula, mixed greens, blue cheese, cranberries, walnuts, pickled onions and balsamic vinaigrette.

The Mains features seafood selections such as the Mahi Mahi Sandwich of grilled filet of Mahi Mahi, lettuce, tomato, onion and tartar sauce on a toasted bun, or the Fish & Chips with Allagash beer-battered cod and french fries. There is also the Chez Burger of a ½ pound Angus beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion, served on a toasted bun. There is also the Steak Au Poivre Sandwich with a Peppered Angus NY Steak, cream of horseradish, picked cabbage, arugula on sourdough, Memo's amazing Jay Dog prepared with a grilled 10 inch Wagyu hot dog, tomato, pickles, onions, relish, peppers and mustard on split-top brioche, or the appropriately named Mike’s Melt, in honor of Michael Anderson, prepared with a pressed ½ pound Angus beef patty, melted cheddar, and caramelized onions on rye, and–a personal favorite–the Crispy Chicken Sandwich of fried chicken, house coleslaw, apple, frisée, chipotle aioli, and pickles on a toasted bun.

To finish, you can choose the ultimate comfort food! Chef Memo’s Fried Oreos are crisply fried with a batter, remaining soft and sweet inside. A most decadent dessert!

Cocktails are served at the bar, exclusive to Chez Jay's The Backyard, such as the  Hotel California of Bombay Sapphire, grapefruit, lemon and rosemary, the Chevy To The Levy comprised of mezcal, pineapple, Ramazzotti Rosato, lemon and sage, The Juan Margarita spicy margarita prepared with Casamigos Tequila, jalapeño, cucumber, cilantro and lime, a Pimm’s Cup made of Pimm’s, cucumber, mint, ginger, and lemon, the Dark & Stormy prepared with Gosling’s Rum, ginger beer, and lime, the Never Old Fashioned with Slow & Low Rock and Rye Whiskey, orange peel, Luxardo Maraschino Cherry and bitters, or the Tecate Michelada made with veteran Chez Jay Bartender Petter Wichman’s Wickie’s Bloody Good Mix, and lime with a Tajin rim. Wines by the glass are offered, including the Cupcake Prosecco, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, Ferrari Chardonnay, Bev Rose, Meiomi Pinot Noir, and the Josh Cabernet. Their beer selections are the Allagash White, Heineken, Santa Monica 310, or Angel City IPA, Palmia Light, Tecate, Angel City Pilsner, Golden Road Wolf Pup, Corona, Bud Light and Angry Orchard.

The Backyard at Chez Jay is open every Wednesday and Thursday from 4pm to 10pm, every Friday from 4pm to 11pm, and every Saturday from 12 noon to 11pm, and every Sunday from 12 noon to 8pm.

The Good Eats menu at The Backyard ranges from $6 to $16, with beer, wine and custom cocktails from $7 - $14. Happy Hour specials at Chez Jay are every Monday through Friday from 4-6:30pm., with dinner starting at 5:30 pm.

CHEZ JAY - 1657 Ocean Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401 - 310.395.1741

Distance to the Santa Monica Playhouse  - (0.9 miles, 5 min. drive)

Shows to look for at the Santa Monica Playhouse on Better Lemons' Calendar:

Absolutely Halloween
Binge Free Festival
Binge Fringe Free Festival
Love in Bloom
Magic Monday

Distance to the Morgan-Wixson Theatre   - (2.3 miles, 7 min. drive)



Nearest to Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum and the Malibu Playhouse is Dukes's Malibu.

Photo by Monique A. LeBleu - The Crab Cakes at Duke's Malibu by the beach, Malibu, California, August 17, 2019

Named after Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, Hawaii's Olympic Gold Medalist in surfing, Duke's Malibu is a Hawaiian themed restaurant situated on the Pacific Coast Highway with pristine and open views of the Pacific Ocean. The expansive restaurant features a central bar and the Barefoot Bar, which also includes seating at an outside patio.

Inside, through picture windows, the booths overlook the pristine and open views of the Pacific Ocean. On weekends, Happy Hour is in the central and Barefoot bar for those who are awaiting the dinner seating crossover, which begins at 4pm.

To start, there's Crab Cakes of lump crab, old bay seasoning, preserved lemon, Meyer lemon remoulade, or Korean sticky ribs, a Lobster Mac 'n Cheese with creamy white cheddar and ditalini pasta, Crab Wontons with crab meat, cream cheese, macadamia nuts, mustard plum sauce, or the Crispy Coconut Shrimp with Lilikoi chili water for dipping. For salads, there is the Rocket with arugula, Maui onion, bacon, roasted beets, goat cheese, and white balsamic vinaigrette and the Maui Farm Salad of local greens, marinated hearts of palm, pickled mango, Pohole fern, Maui onions, and miso lime dressing.

For the main course, there's the Seafood Hot Pot filled with lobster, shrimp, mussels, fresh fish, coconut cilantro broth, oyster mushrooms, peanuts, served with Jasmine rice, the Furikake Ahi Steak with fire-grilled sashimi-grade ahi, chili oil, truffle unagi glaze, shiitake mushroom, black bean-peanut charred bok choy, served with coconut bamboo rice. The Fish Tacos are with grilled fish, corn tortillas from La Chapalita, tomatillo sauce, cabbage, pico de gallo, queso fresco, and chips, and the Roasted Tristan da Cunha Lobster Tails, which are the “world’s only sustainable lobster tail”, are served with herbed Jasmine farro rice, roasted asparagus, and drawn butter. The Steamed Alaskan King Crab Legs are available in two sizes, served with herbed Jasmine farro rice, broccolini, and drawn butter, and in addition to all this, there are daily fish specials.

For land lovers, there's a Prime Sirloin from the Double R Signature Ranch, with miso brown butter, mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, and broccolini, the Roasted Huli Chicken –an all natural half chicken seasoned with a garlic shoyu marinade and served with horseradish mashed Yukon Gold potatoes, snap peas & summer squash, and the Chef's Cheeseburger of 1/2 lb Angus chuck, brisket & hanger grind, white aged cheddar, bacon dijon aioli, Maui onion jam, heirloom tomato, mixed greens, brioche bun, and served with fries. They also have a vegan option, which is the Lilikoi Glazed Tofu with charred bok choy, shiitake mushrooms, sesame grilled asparagus, served with jasmine rice.

Happy "Aloha" Hour provides items that range from $6 to $15 in the Barefoot Bar, with lunch in the main dining from $8 to $19, and for dinner, from $8 - $18 for starters and $16 to $51 for entrees.

DUKE'S MALIBU - 21150 Pacific Coast Hwy, Malibu, CA 90265 - 310.317.0777

Distance to Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum - (9.7 miles, 15 minute drive)

Distance to the Malibu Playhouse - (11.6 miles, 15 minute drive)

Photo by Monique A. LeBleu - Vinoteca Wine Bar at the Four Season Beverly Hills, California, August 23, 2019.


Nearest to The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and the Beverly Hills Playhouse is Vinoteca.

Adjacent to the prestigious Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, Vinoteca is a standalone dining and drinking destination and great for Happy Hour.

Vinoteca's bar and outdoor patio accommodate hotel guests, locals, and movers and shakers of the entertainment world, featuring all of the hospitality and amenities that you would expect from a Four Seasons Hotel.

Chef de Cuisine Luca Moriconi’s menu at Vinoteca provides easily shareable bar bites, crisp pizza breads, hot wings, fried stuffed olives, oysters on the half shell, and a variety of wines, beers, and cocktails.

Happy Hour at Vinoteca features a special food item and specialty drink, and are offered for every day of the workweek.

Mondays start with $1 Oysters and $10 rosé. Tuesdays they have $1 Spicy Chicken Wings and $5 bottled beer. The market oysters are often Pacific or Pacific Northwest, which couple well with the rosé or a nice brut. Served with a creamy Gorgonzola dipping sauce, the Spicy Chicken Wings are a beautiful sweet-spicy mix that pair well with a cool, crisp beer.

On Wednesdays they offer 50% off of Wine Bottles selected by Sommelier David Gary which is served with a complimentary Cheese Plate for each bottle ordered. On Thursdays, Chef Moriconi features selected Pasta and a glass of Prosecco for $7 each, and on Friday's they offer M&M – a crisp Pizzetta Margherita and a Margarita each for $7.

Should you choose to expand on your meal, either before or after the theatre, there is also the fine dining option of the adjacent Culina.

Outside of the Happy Hour specials at Vinoteca, bar bites, pastas, pizza, and panini's range from $9 to $24.

VINOTECA - 300 South Doheny Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90048 - 310.860.4000

Distance to The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts - (0.7 miles, 4 min. drive)

Shows to look for at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on Better Lemons' Calendar:


Distance to the Beverly Hills Playhouse  (1 mile, 6 min. drive)

S.O.S.: Five Questions for Director Madeleine Dahm

I love going to The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. On a recent visit there, I happened upon a postcard for a new show called S.O.S. Looking at it closer, I learned that the Wallis had recently formed an acting troupe. Looking at it even further, I saw it was a new devised show being presented in conjunction with Circle X. This took me forward and back. Forward to some devising projects that I am working on this spring and backward to the nascence of Atwater Village Theatre, when Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA and Circle X were sharing what was a renovated either toy or pillow factory in a part of town that was quickly becoming a new hub for creative thought and millennial lifestyle romping. That was about 10 years ago.

I digress.

The task at hand: to find out what are S.O.S. and the Wallis Studio Ensemble. To help me on this quest, I got in contact with director Madeleine Dahm. Here's what I learned from her.

Roger Q. Mason (RQM): To my knowledge, Wallis Studio Ensemble is a fairly new company here in Los Angeles. Tell me a little about the history of the group?

Madeleine Dahm (MD): In the 2016 I approached The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts about the idea of a company for early-career actors, that represented the diversity of actors here in LA and explored theatre as a force for social change - they liked the idea and so Grow at the Wallis joined with me in launching the ensemble. Since its inception two-and-a-half years ago, The Ensemble has steadily acquired a reputation for creating socially conscious, cutting-edge theatre, with a strong physical component. The Ensemble has mounted four full-length productions at The Wallis and performed at two international performing arts festivals.

2018 saw the mounting of Douglas Adams environmental satire The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy (LA Times ‘Pick of the Week') and Disposable - an original devised work that examined the intersection between environmental destruction and human displacement, also seen at The San Diego International Fringe Festival in June 2018. It was hailed as “hauntingly beautiful” (San Diego Tribune) and "mesmerizing....this is avant-garde theater that sticks with you long after the curtain comes down.” (ArtNow LA).

In 2016/17 The Ensemble premiered at The Wallis Thebes, a contemporary feminist adaptation of the Greek classic by British playwright Gareth Jandrell, and its first original devised play Word of Mouth, an examination of Post-Truth and a response to the 2016 election rhetoric. Word of Mouth was not only featured on National Public Radio by Priska Neely, but was also seen at Rise Up LA and at The Crisis Art Festival in Tuscany, Italy, where The Ensemble spent a week in residence in July 2017.

S.O.S. cast member Siera Williams, a member of The Wallis Studio Ensemble - photo by Jo Rodriguez

RQM: Your current show is being presented in conjunction with Circle X. How did you link up with the company?
MD: This is not a partnership with Circle X, we are renting their theatre for this particular run. We really wanted to get outside of The Wallis space this year and into the 99 seat theater community, and we are very excited that Atwater Village Theater and Circle X were able to assist us with that.

RQM: What was the inspiration for S.O.S.?
MD: As we discuss topics and themes for our yearly devised work, we are always drawn to contemporary issues that directly impact our company members and their communities. The one thing that we found ourselves coming back to as we began this process three months ago, was the general sense of alienation and isolation felt by many people right now. With so much focus today being on attaining financial wealth it's interesting that a country's GDP is not related to the overall happiness felt by all its citizens, in fact it seems to be the opposite. Recent studies by the World Health Organization and United Nations have revealed that feelings of loneliness and alienation are reaching global epidemic proportions, and that this general sense of feeling disconnected is reaching many communities worldwide. So much so that now many countries have actually appointed ministers for loneliness in their governments, the UK being the most recent. There is no easy answer or fix to this problem but we wanted to explore how small acts of kindness, and authentic expressions of love can help us reach across the divide, and remember more thoughtful ways to interact with each other.

S.O.S. cast member, Viva Kanani Obiajulu Wittman, a member of The Wallis Studio Ensemble - photo by Jo Rodriguez

RQM: This piece is devised. What was your devising process for this show? I'm curious to learn more about the dynamic between you and the ensemble members specifically.
MD: The devising process usually begins by brainstorming topics and themes that are of interest to the company - as we begin to narrow down themes that we would like to explore, each member brings in support materials that can include text, photographs, music, newspaper articles, videos, all kinds of references. There is a lot of discussion in the early stages but, once we have landed on a specific focus for the work, we primarily begin developing the piece through improvisation. The devising process is very long and much of the material that is originated in the studio actually ends up on the “cutting-room floor.” As we hone in on the arc of the piece, many wonderful moments that we have created simply no longer have a place in the work and so we have to let them go. As the Director of a devised work it is my job to be the keeper of the initial vision and to bring all of the elements together in a cohesive way. It's like shooting a movie out of sequence, sometimes you're working on a section that will end up being at the end, but you're working on it first. Devising can be challenging for actors because there isn't an obvious through line that you would have with an existing play, and so there is a lot of trust that has to develop between director and actor, and actor and actor. It requires actors who are willing to jump off at the deep end, and have faith that we will get to where we need to by the end of the process.

RQM: What's next for Wallis Studio Ensemble?
MD: We hope to bring S.O.S to the Hollywood Fringe Festival this year. Then we have our second production of the season, which will be at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts June 6th through 9th, that will not be a devised piece but rather an existing play, on which we have yet to decide.

Featured photo: Cast of S.O.S. - photo by Jo Rodriguez

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!


Yes, Virginia







Delusion: The Blue Blade


Sisters Three

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!

Jane Austen’s EMMA

Sugar Plum Fairy





Delusion: The Blue Blade



Yes, Virginia




Aleichem Sholom! The wit and wisdom of Sholom Aleichem

Sisters Three