‘AIN’T TOO PROUD” CHRONICLES THE TEMPTATIONS

Made it to downtown L.A. in the teeth of the usual frustrating traffic to see the heralded production of “Ain’t Too Proud- The Life and Times of the Temptations”.

And maddening traffic or not, you should, too, before the run ends September 30th, at the Ahmanson Theatre and moves east to Broadway to probably become a hit and hot ticket.

There has become some debate among critics what to label the production: a jukebox musical, or a more respectful biography of a fabled singing group, with a patina of history and histrionics?

But as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, forget the labels, they are just a crutch for critics. I would wrap it all up, put a bow on it, and call it a celebration, especially if you loved the Temptations back in the 60s and 70s, as I did. The bursting-at-the seams production makes it a joyful evening.

Loved the songs, their singular sounds, the distinct harmonies, and their smooth, choreographed delivery. They are performed with a syncopated sparkle that ignites the stage under the smooth direction of Des McAnuff, who not incidentally was the guiding hand for the hit musical Jersey Boys.

He is ably aided here by choreographer Sergio Trujillo, musical conductor Kenny Seymour and scenic designer Robert Brill. A shout out also for the flash-bam lighting design of Howell Binkley, and the glittering costumes by Paul Tazwell.

Indeed, it is an all star production, with a talented cast headed by by Derrick Baskin as the persevering Temptation original Otis Williams, Jawan Jackson with the a bass that echoes the fabeled Melvin Franklin, as does Jeremy Pope hitting the high note falsettos of Eddie Kendricks. And capturing the sad saga of David Ruffin is a convincing Ephrain Sykes.

But as a tough love I would suggest before moving on to Broadway, some nip and tucking is needed. 31 songs are a lot: Let “My Girl” resound, while a few others can be forgotten.

And the unquestionably truthful dialogue by Dominique Morisseau frankly needs editing. For all the fame and fortune, the climb out a down-and-out Detroit and life on the road, obviously took its toll. There are drugs and drink, and to borrow a word, temptations. All true, but also cliché. Meanwhile, you want to hear the music, and as batted out in “Ain’t Too Proud” for sure ain’t bad.

It all makes for a great first offering for the Fall season at the Ahamson, where followed for sure will be sellouts of “Dear Evans Hansen” and “Come From Away.” It is not too early to get tickets.

 

 

 

MALIBU PLANNING FOLLIES

Observed with dismay was the recent Malibu Planning Commission and the city’s compliant staff, twisting themselves into a knot at a recent meeting reviewing the Malibu Beach Inn’s latest development requests.

A painful review of the convoluted chatter rfevealedthat after commission indicated it would probably reject the requests, it wavered as city staff blabbering on suggested some half-witted and unattractive alternatives.

This included painting a questionable “do not block” traffic zone in front of the Inn, ostensibly for guests and parking valets. Also suggested was allowing a particularly ugly multi level parking lift fronting the hotel site, by relocating a proposed swimming pool. Talk about dumb and dumber

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, you would think staff was in the employ of the developer, and not working for the city and therefore sensitive to residents and the city’s mission to protect its rural seacoast character. The only person making any sense at the hearing was Lester Tobias, a local architect, rising from the audience to take exception to the requests and the city’s mishandling.

You would have hoped that at least the commission would remind staff of its job, but they, like the council members who appointed them, tend to be self absorbed. Malibu, we have a problem, that the next local election may, or may not, solve.

Meanwhile, as for the commission hearing, it involved the beachfront hotel requests to park on the landside of PCH, in the former Hertz property. This would allow it to build the swimming pool on its present inadequate parking lot.

The formerly immodest motel has been consciously compromising the city’s building and zoning codes, and the local coastal plan in recent years as it morphed into a high end hotel and over priced restaurant. To be sure, this has been accomplished legally, however arbitrarily, while a less than competent city smiled, however amiably.

The latest incursion was the construction of a signaled cross walk that screwed up commuter traffic for several days. This compounded the crush of cars already there for the slavering celeb scene at nearby Nobu.

As I have previously riled, Caltrans had typically mindlessly approved the crosswalk, while the city, also typically mindless, had explained that the PCH was not its jurisdiction. It is, if City Hall would only assert itself.

But after being chastened, city council members indicated it would not approve the hotel’s latest artiface, though after the planning commission aired it. That was the last meeting, where the air was unfortunately hot air.

Another hearing has had to be planned, which unfortunately will be the night before the Fall election. Hopefully the rejection then will be a no brainer. Actually, considering that the planning commission and city staff will be involved, better make that a half-brainer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

BROAD FEST BECKONS ALL

Upcoming is Labor Day weekend, and given the frustrating rush and crush of the three-day holiday, it is not too early to make plans. That is a challenge these days.

I do have a specific recommendation, at least for that mid holiday Sunday afternoon, two to seven. It is the Broad Fest, a very varied multi cultural and multi generational programs, something free, and for all.

Kids in particular I think will love it, and you, too, if you are into different musical sounds, and dance, as I am. And it relatively easy to get to, at 11th and Arizona, in Santa Monica.

But as mention of public radio 99.1 KBU and websites everywhere, reservations are recommended, so contact the broadstage.org.

Yes, it is a three day weekend, and there of course is also the beach for which Los Angeles is rightly famed. But expect getting to any of its accessible stretches of sand, if hopefully by an air conditioned car, finding a parking space, and then trying to find a spot to put down the blanket and the crammed ice container, is going to be a shlep, unless you leave early enough.

And if you haven’t noticed as the Southland has become more and more populous, early enough increasingly has become earlier and earlier each year. The freeways may be free of tolls, at least for the moment, but not of a constant flow of traffic.

You have to wonder where are all these cars are going, and whether you also should be going there, wherever that is. On Labor day weekend for most that happens to be the beach.

But it also increasingly true of the museums I recommend, especially on the Westside. I love the Getty not only for its varied and always diverting exhibits, as I had noted last week, and also for its views and breezes high above Brentwood and the 405 Freeway. And at the end of the Summer, it also has become loved by the increasing hordes of tourists.

It used to be you can escape to an air conditioned movie theatre, but since they have become more plush and expensive I’ve become more choosey. Also with food now being served during the showings means people around you murmuring orders, fumbling for credit cards and eating loudly.

Yes, expect crowds and people eating loudly too, at the Broad Fest. But the music is going to be loud, and it all being free, you can try the different attractions. Consider it an adventure. I do, and that is what motivates me,

 

 

 

 

MALIBU POISED TO SLAP DOWN DEVELOPER,YES!

Finally, Malibu has an opportunity to make amends for its somnolent city administration and drive a nail into the expansion plans of the Malibu Beach Inn, which threatens to exacerbate the already frustrating and dangerous PCH traffic.

On the Planning Commission agenda for this Monday are several items that would effectively block the Inn from constructing a parking lot across PCH. There’s considerable pressure on the commissioners from sheepish council members and chastened city’s officials to slap down the Inn, and certainly not to eat there anymore.

If you might recall, that expanded parking was why the infamous cross walk was needed, so the Inn’s vehicle valets can dart back and forth across the PCH servicing guests.

And talk about a local “lebensraum,” the infamous German term for an aggressive, nefarious land policy used as a rationale for the start of World War Two.

The lot on the former Hertz property in effect would have allowed the Inn to expand, build a swimming pool and other amenities, and not incidentally covering its ass from having abused the city’s commercial zoning code and local coastal plan, adding seating and not providing parking.

The construction of the crosswalk severely screwed up commuter traffic for several days, prompting road rage, at least that is what I felt being late for an anticipated medical exam. Also angry was local architect Lester Tobias, who to his credit critiqued and pressed the issue.

Caltrans had typically mindlessly approved the crosswalk, while the city, also typically mindless, had explained that the PCH was not its jurisdiction. That‘s bureaucracy for you.

Though Caltrans in making excuses said that it is always open, indeed welcomes, the comments of effected local government. But Malibu City Hall is said to seldom say anything.

No surprise there, given the pro private property rights proclivities of our liaisons with regional and state agencies, and their lamentable primping (pimping?) beyond Malibu for perks and positions, now and in the future. Those expense reports do add up.

Perhaps that will improve after Laura Rosenthal and Lou MaMonte are termed out and replaced in this Fall’s election.

Meanwhile, the crosswalk calamity and the public protests could augurs well for increased local involvement.

It therefore will be interesting to see the turnout Sunday, for a gathering to discuss keeping the Santa Monica Mountains safe, announced for 11 AM at King Gillette Ranch, up Malibu Canyon to Las Virgenes and Mulholland. Just follow the signs there.Ostensibly recent shootings there are on the agenda.

But hopefully someone from the should-be frightened Malibu also will raise the issue of the proposal by the SMRCA for an asinine, arsonist-friendly overnight camp in Puerco Canyon, and whether that includes private weddings and film shoots there. Time to put the feet of our public officials to the fire, figuratively speaking of course.

 

 

 

AT THE GETTY, BEYOND THE NILE

 

Finally made it to the Getty to see its premier attraction of the last several months, entitled “Beyond the Nile, Egypt and the Classical World.”

I am very glad I did, for it closes September 6th, and now having seen it I recognize to might have missed it for some poor excuse or other, for me would have been unfortunate.

And I ‘m glad I ‘m reviewing the exhibit for public radio, 99.1 KBU and select websites, with several week left before it’s gone. Maybe it’ll prompt others to see it. And this is an exhibit that should not be missed, certainly notfor anyone curious about art and history, and past civilizations. To see the artifacts –the jewelry, the sculptures, the statues, ceramics and mosaics, that were produced thousands of years ago – is breathtaking.

Just to think how, why and where they were crafted, is mind bending. And there they are, many as pristine as produced yesterday, others quite conspicuous beneath a patina of age. It is Getty Museum at it best.

Enthralling also is to think these artifacts were traded and given as gifts by the Egyptians and Greeks, as early as the Seventh Century B.C. as they and others traversed the Mediterranean, and up and down the Nile.
As the dominate civilization in the ancient world, with its mastery of astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and writing, Egypt wielded much influence. That made its arts and crafts coveted, even as its power waned in the wake of the Roman Empire, and why incidentally so much of it was in time found in Italy.

Fascinating as they may be, as displayed in the exhibit, most captivating for me actually was a densely-scripted papyrus manuscript, written mostly in Egyptian.

A handbook of sorts, according to a curator, it addresses a catalogue of revealing topics, such as how to commune with the gods about the future, how to attract, and get rid of, a lover, and how to kill someone. But also noted is how to heal, including blindness and migraines, among other things.

 Few people then could read, so the manuscript apparently was not a best seller. But it did survive the ages, and there it is now, on a museum wall in Los Angeles. You have to be impressed.

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PCH CONTINUES TO PLAGUE MALIBU

As I have commented in the past, on public radio KBU and select websites, the PCH is the bane of Malibu, and the city does nothing.

Reminding us of this recently was a frightening fatal crash on a stretch of the roadway that I happen to drive almost daily, to the Trancas Canyon Dog Park, and weekly to the KBU’s very homey recording studio.

Indeed, almost every day there seems to be something delaying and diverting traffic on the PCH. And sometimes you don’t even know what caused it, be it a serious accident, a fender bender, or wayward bicyclists, riding tandem hogging a lane. Or simply a double parked car.

Then there is the badly timed or badly planned construction, a cross walk or a truck making deliveries to a building site, approved without thought of time and traffic by an uncaring county or Caltrans bureaucrat, or witless city worker

Or it could be just a failed or faulty signal, too many cars driven by tourists in the wrong lane at a snail’s pace taking pictures of the views, or just too many cars, going too slow or scarily too fast: traffic hell being others cars and drivers.

Whatever, also maddening the traffic improvements that could and should have been be made, and have not been, the millions spent on studies, and the continued twiddling of thumbs by not particularly conscientious or competent city and its consultants. Need an example?

How about the promised right turn lane at Trancas and PCH, requested by Malibu west residents, agreed to by all, principally the Vintage Market, only to be nullified behind closed doors at City Hall by an overpaid public serpent at the quiet request of the developer, saving all money, of course?

And when the City and Caltrans sheepishly admit this was an error, then doing nothing about it, puts the dunce cap on all involved. This might be a minor item, considering all that is wrong with Malibu’s main street, but these things add up.

Still, the city is yet to take the initiative, parroting the excuse it is not within its jurisdiction, at the same time increasing it budget, staff and benefits. And for what? To look for ways to avoid taking responsibility for the safety and servicing of those who live here.

It is definitely time for some oversight, and perhaps an overhaul of the city’s staff and priorities. It may not clear up the mess that is the PCH, but it could be a start.

 

 

 

 

 

“AIN’T TOO PROUD” HAS HIT POTENTIAL

The Summer is hot, and so I expect will be some upcoming scintillating stage offerings, making this seasonal lull in the entertainment calendar a good time to score tickets.

At the top of my list and just two weeks from opening night , August 24th, at the Ahmanson Theatre downtown, is the pre Broadway run of “Ain’t Too Proud—The Life and Times of The Temptations.” The production runs from August 21 through September 30th. (Check the Center Theatre Group for details, online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org, or calling 213 972 4400.)

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and websites everywhere, the musical promises to be most enjoyable, as was a similarly sourced nostalgic “Jersey Boys,” That was definitely a blast, on Broadway and here, and I’m looking forward to a revival, somewhere in the Southland soon. That and “Hamilton.”

And remember how you put off “Hamilton,” until it was too late, as it was for me. My Broadway musical instincts as a born and ill bred theatre loving New Yorker tell me that “Ain’t Too Proud.” is going to be a hit. So do frankly reading the reviews of its world premiere last year at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.

“Memorable,” “Great singing, great dancing.” “Slick, fast moving.” “nostalgic, and more,” And the reaction: “the audience went wild,” “stood up and started clapping.” Indeed, the run at the Berkeley Rep that ended recently was the highest grossing production in that theatre’s nearly 50-year history.

In anticipation to the newly polished production Ahmanson, I almost can hear the group’s “my girl ” in my inner ear, and in my mind’s eye see them in their slick suits , swaying, gesturing and harmonizing on stage.

According to Billboard magazine, The Temptations is considered one the greatest singing group of all time, at the top of the R&B pinnacle but according to its history, it was not an easy climb, not for five black men in a white world then racked with rising civil unrest.

There was the all too usual conflicts of personalities and politics, of home life, and life on the road, and of life itself, as a parade performers vied for a presence, and aged. There is a lot there, plus 31 hit songs. It all makes for a memorable musical evening. I look forward to reviewing it.

 

PUERCO CANYON A TEST FOR MALIBU CITY HALL

The Puerco Canyon carbuncle continues to fester in the form of the pending proposal of an overnight camping and cook out conceit heralded by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.

I know festering carbuncle is an ugly image, but uglier is the devastation in the wake of a wildfire, the probability of which locally will be dangerously heightened by the ill conceived project born out of a blunder by a former fumbling Malibu City Hall. (So, what else is new?)

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU, and select websites, it is unthinkable that any self-proclaimed environmentalist posing as a conservationist could promote such a project in a tinderbox canyon in this day and age of hot and dry weather, sporadic wildfires and constant threats of more.

Meanwhile, there is the Authority’s continued use and abuse of lands entrusted to its care and management, much to the concern of canyon homeowners and neighboring residents. Indeed, all who care about our fragile environment also should be concerned. (And that includes our feckless leaders.)

This abuse included the recent invasion of the canyon top by a film crew for a shoot involving explosive approved by a permissive rouge Authority, but apparently not monitored for fire danger as required by State and industry guidelines. Also observed was a designated smoking area, in violation of public lands prohibitions

And the abuses continue. Just last weekend, as fires raged across the State, the public canyon was leased out by the MRCA again for private use, this instance for a large wedding party. Residents reported vehicles constantly running up and down the canyon during the day. (No inner city kids seen.)

Though presumably this time not privately profiting was the family of MRCA fat cat, autocrat, Joe Edmiston, as they used to be for such leases, and subsequently admonished by the State. Shame, for this and other reported transgressions by the self-serving Edmiston.

Nevertheless, Edmiston perseveres, a tin pot power broker on the public tit, who plays a tough hand of poker, cajoling politicians and dominating the MRCA’s board and advisors.

This includes Malibu’s reticent representative, Patt Healy, who declines to speak out on the canyon conflict, until, she stated in an e-mail, she studies the yet to be issued E.I.R. Though it should be noted, the usually discombobulated City Hall already has actually expressed concern, and it is her responsibility to represent the city, not herself. (A friendly reminder.)

To be sure, the abused canyon site is outside the city limits, on State land. But the lone road to it from the PCH road winds through the city of Malibu. This gives the city a wild card to play if it wants to, either by taking the rare initiative or if pressured by vocal residents.

As has been pointed out by KBU’s Hans Laetz, the city can delay, delay, and delay by various strategies hindering any improvements the steep, switch back road may need, to make it safe for access to the campsite. And it can dead end it.

The city also should raise numerous issues in the E.I.R. , suggest other sites, more studies, and generally become obnoxious, as Edmiston most certainly is.

And why isn’t Malibu’s State lobbyist, California Strategies, pressuring the MRCA on behalf of the city. Just what has it done for the $1,000,000 plus the city has paid it over the years, other than glad hand councilpersons. ( Oversight anyone?)

It’s time for City Hall and friends to try to earn their keep, and our respect. Consider the Puerco Canyon conundrum a test.

A CHOIR DOWNTOWN FOR A SUBLIME SUMMER’S EVE

If you haven’t made plans for tonight, hope the traffic is Summer Friday light, and are willing to chance the PCH and the 10 Freeway, let me suggest a different venue downtown that promises to be memorable.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everyewhere, at the architectural distinguished and welcoming Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels is a one night only performance of the South London boys choir, known as Libera.

Compromised of boys seven to sixteen, the choir has a distinctive sound that has been described as a “ soaring brotherhood of angels,” drawing upon “transcendant harmonies,” with the effect: emotionally uplifting arrangements.

The choir is definitely a crowd pleaser, with an international following, having for several years been high on the popular and classical charts. This has been boosted by appearances on The Tonight Show and Today, and scoring hits on You Tube.

Libera’s tour in the Southland that includes a concert Tuesday evening in Garden Grove, at the Christ Cathedral, is interestingly sponsored by Viking Cruises.

As an arts and entertainment commentator, I particularly appreciate the promotion by the cruise line of select cultural venues beyond its ports, and that includes public television. Culture needs as much support it can get these days.

I might add that Viking’s cultural predisposition is also savvy, appealing as it does to discerning travelers with itineraries in ports of calls featuring select local stage performances, and special access to art and architectural attractions.

Viking has labeled this very culturally conscious endeavor, “the thinking person’s” cruises, as a viable alternative to mainstream cruises. And as I was lectured in the creative arts a long time ago, whatever the distinguishing difference may be, celebrate it.

And if you do make it to the cathedral downtown, pay special attention to the design and decoration. The exterior architecture itself by Rafael Moneo is understated, angeled post modern. But the interior is stunning. You enter through a set of sculpted bronze doors, exquisitely crafted by the artist Robert Graham with pre-Christan figures and a statue called the Virgin Mary.

The interior is flooded with natural light filtered through slanted shafts in the walls, decorated by a series of tapestries, depicting saints, church leaders and the anonymous, the work of California artist John Nava. It is a perfect setting for the captivating choir, and the promise of a memorable evening.