No, I didn’t score tickets to Hamilton last weekend, as several listeners and readers inquired. But I’m continuing to conscientiously enter the lottery for the $10 giveaways, and I did receive an email that a ticket on stubhub was available, for $495.

As I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU, and select websites everywhere, I didn’t bite. Instead for my theatre experience, I calculated that for just a few dollars more I could go to Dublin to take in an attraction or two at the Abby Theatre,

I do note that upcoming there is a production of Ulysses, which is being hailed as a “brilliantly adapted vibrant version of James Joyce’s classic.” Tickets start at 13 euro ($15).

As for last weekend, we did get to Hollywood for an engaging, stage event, in a new venue in the hills off the 101 freeway. (which we note was backing up when we exited at Highland.)

There after making a sharp is the welcoming, Ford Theatres., recently reimagined by architect, Brenda Levin, at a cost of $66 million to a generous county. Is it a coincidence a plaza there was named after the former supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky?

Despite its steep site cut into a verdant hillside, well lit, wide stairways and large elevators make the open air 1,200 seat theatre very accessible. Particularly appreciated are scattered plazas for picnicking., where with packed-in eatables you can also bring in wine or beer. Of course, also at the Ford for feasting before performances are inviting, if pricey, food concessions.

Also welcomed in the auditorium is the theatrical lighting and audio visual systems. No longer heard in the background is the obnoxious 101 freeway. Though a disappointment has to be the seating, which for some reason is not staggered, even just a few inches to the sides, improving sight lines, especially if the persons in front of you are six footers.

It did make viewing the evening’s program a challenge, as was the double bill itself. But if you also welcome the creative and experimental, the program had its rewards. Well deserved credit goes to the Ford, partnering as it has with the Music Center in support of the emerging performing arts. It is effort such as theirs that makes L.A. a cultural haven.

The program featured the Jacob Jonas dance company’s world premier of Pile On, and, yes, it opened with a pile on, not unlike occurs in a baseball game when a player hits a walk off homer, and his teammates bury him in bodies at home plate.

Only at the Ford it was more graceful, as were the individual break-dancing and gymnastics, as if a warmup to a Paul Taylor performance. Nonelessless, it was given a standing ovation. One senses this early experiment will in time morph into a more compelling piece.

This feeling also followed a visual and sound performance by Tim Hecker with Kara Lis Coverdale, and though dazzled by digital compositions, I found the program more noise than music. A lot of smoke, but no fire.




I’m sorry to report this week on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites that as your intrepid cultural correspondent and avid theatre goer, I unfortunately missed the opening at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood of the much heralded Hamilton, the hit musical fresh from sell outs in New York .

There the contemporary, hip-hop-inflected spin on the story of the Federalist founding father, had been received as something akin to the second coming, and scoring a ticket equal to winning the Publisher’s Clearing House sweepstakes.

We had considered getting tickets when in New York, but going through the box office was near impossible, and cashing in a 401 for a pair of questionable scalper’s seats not advisable to our financial consultant, and a mortal sin to our cultural faiths.

I also feel it is a bit ironic that the quest for tickets had taken on the mien of a stock market mania – something akin to the Dutch tulip craze in the 17th century– considering Alexander Hamilton was the liberal first secretary of the Treasury, remembered for attempting to bring some financial stability to post revolutionary United States.

Anyway, a New Yorker we know well and respect actually had gone to the opening night, and had judged the production just, “okay”. And the fact is she had only gone because it was a benefit for the praiseworthy non-profit Humanity in Action.

So we decided to wait until it came to Los Angeles, where if you keep tabs on such things, it seems to have been received as perhaps not as a second coming, but a third. The first, of course, being a tenet of pure faith that occurred 2,000 or so years ago and the second, a reception for President Clinton at the home of Barbra Streisand in the heyday of his now lamented administration.

So we of little faith missed the opening, have gotten no reasonable invites and not wanting to pay the box office prices of $300 and up. and the scalper prices that far exceed my TOTAL tuition and fees for four years at a Ivy League school. It was $600.

To the credit of the producers, there is a daily lottery for a few teasing $10 tickets. Entering it is relatively simple. Chances of winning very slim. We have tried and lost, but intend to keep trying.

Meanwhile, in reality it appears we will wait until the crowds might diminish before its run at the Pantages ends, or maybe a secret Santa deems to gift us, or just be content with a someday student production at Pepperdine, or Malibu High. Then there probably will be a movie, probably a bad one..


For those who love music and dance, are adventurous, and willing to fight the traffic on a weekend, you might want to check out a Music Center extravaganza; not at the music center downtown, but in the more accessible Hollywood Hills.

And so I comment this week on public radio 97.5 KBU, and select websites everywhere.

Admirably conscious of the need to go beyond its central campus on Bunker Hill Downtown, the Center is offering three evenings of distinctive productions in the welcoming renovated and reconstructed, John Anson Ford Theatre, in the Cahuenga Pass.

And, yes, you can come early, as you can to its next-door neighbor, the Hollywood Bowl, and picnic, making the evening a social event, and time it to best the traffic. To make things a little more comfortable, for those who do not like schlepping, there are new concessions, serving full dinners.

The 1,200-seat theatre was recently creatively reimagined by L.A.’s premier restoration architect, Brenda Levin. She has fashioned the iconic but ancient Ford Theatre – built nearly a century ago — into a state-of-the-art venue, for both the audiences and performers, with new seating, staging and most critically, theatrical lighting and audio visual systems

Having toured the Ford in the last throes of its $66 million reconstruction, I can’t wait to see it come alive with performances. And neither obviously could the Music Center, under the auspices of a most cooperative county arts commission, in joining forces with the Ford for three evenings, to sponsor what each promises to be a memorable experience.

On stage next Friday, the 18th, will be a dance performance by acclaimed choreographer Aszure Barton, entitled Awaa, which has been described as a powerful journey through music and sound, celebrating sexuality and humanity.

Featured are seven male dancers and one woman, in a performance the San Francisco Chronicle labeled “brilliant” and The New York Times, “audacious.”

Saturday, the 19th features a double bill that includes an original work by the ever-challenging Jacob Jonas. Expect something visual and visceral.

It will be followed by a concert exploring an electronic mix of past and present composition in a melding specifically for the outdoor location of the Ford. Hopefully it will be harmonic, as will be a concluding new age, new music piece.

I expect Sunday evening’s entertainment will be somewhat milder, with songwriter Rufus Wainwright performing a program that includes curated Canadian compositions.




Given the frustrating traffic inundating Los Angeles, my arts and entertainment commentaries on public radio 97.5 KBU and websites everywhere have been on the more accessible cultural venues on the west side.

The sad fact is traffic is the tail that wags the cultural dog in L.A., which for many of us has morphed from our hometown to crazy town.

But sometimes in the pursuit of culture you just have to go Downtown, to the Music Center and the Disney Concert Hall, and just gird yourself for the usual two plus hours in stop-and-go freeway traffic to get there.

Such was an evening recently when we braved the traffic to go the Disney for a stellar program of early cutting edge 20th century music, composed by three brilliant symphonist of the period, Igor Stravinsky, Bela Bartok, and Leos Janacek.

Up to the challenge was the increasing adept and praised Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and for the Stravinsky and Janacek compositions, the Los Angeles Master Choral and four solo singers.

Though without question if repeated curtain calls, standing ovations and thunderous applause is any measure, and my own cheering, the super star of the evening was the astonishing young pianist Yuja Wang.

The 30-year-old Wang is known not only for her musicality, but also for her stunning outfits. She did not disappoint.

Her jaunty entrance in a shimmering, tight, rose gold colored metallic gown, split up to the top of her thighs, stirred the audience. And then there was the four-inch high heels that made you wonder if she could work the pedals, as needed.

But this just added to the excitement of her playing the very challenging Bartok Piano Concerto Number One, which she did with verve and dexterity. It was, in a word, breathtaking.

With her energetic attack of the keyboard, she more than matched the percussion-dominated reverberations of the orchestra under the busy baton of an enthusiastic and obviously pleased Dudamel. It took your breath away.

Yes, the Bartok concerto was bookended by a sensitive short Stravinsky requiem, and a spirited, edgy Janacek mass, accented by a striking solo organ movement. Both compositions were engrossing.

But it was Wang that marked the evening as memorable. We flew home to Malibu on the freeway in a state of euphoria.





Once again I’m braving the traffic on the dreaded PCH, and weaving my way through a congested Santa Monica, and Westwood, to Beverly Hills, and to what is becoming one of my choice cultural venues.: the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.

Upcoming on the center’s schedule is a dance program by the celebrated British choreographer, Mathew Bourne,, entitled Early Adventures, running Wednesday May 17th through Sunday the 21st.

Having heard much about Bourne but never having seen him, I am looking forward to a singular program that features his early works, said to be witty and spectacular. It will be Bourne’s only U.S. appearance this spring, happily in \an inviting venue .

The former Beverly Hills Post Office has been imaginatively recycled into two distinct theatres: the Bram Goldsmith, containing 500 seats but with a rake that leaves no seat more than 50 feet from the stage. Sight lines are great, complemented by pitch perfect acoustics, making it particularly suitable for dance.

More intimate is the Lovelace Studio Theatre, with flexible space and traditional theatre seating and also cabaret style seating.

The parking at the Wallis is also accessible and reasonable , and being closer to Malibu, you do noy have to take the terrible 10.

As for the Wallis’ laudable commitment to dance, the Bourne troupe follows a classic program, last weekend that celebrated the Paul Taylor Dance Company.

Featured was three familiar favorites under the direction of the master himself, now a venerable 86. It was a trip back in time for his many fans.

The program opened with the 1987 work entitled “Syzgy,” which is an astronomical term for celestial bodies at opposite points in an orbit. As one can imagine, the choreography was energetic and athletic, the dancers pliable and playful, lots of squiggly arms and legs, singularly and in chorus, exhausting and entertaining. Loved it.

It was followed by the more somber 1998 piece,“The Word,” a dark score and grim. It sent shiver through me.

In contrast, the last piece was more joyful, entitled “Esplande, created in 1975. ” a celebration of everyday movement in a public space teeming with dancers, echoing with the music of J.S. Bach . You left the theatre uplifted and smiling.




Spring break for me, thank you, was a most enjoyable writing a remembrance and  gardening at home, and attending the theatre downtown.

So instead of doing a city observed on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites as I do every Saturday, it is an arts and entertainment observed,  happily hailing the current production at the Ahmanson,  “Into the Woods.,”

The revival running until mid May has to be one of Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s most fun musicals, a mash up of fairy tales both familiar and fractured, engaging, enchanting, sure to please children of parental guidance age, and also a little edgy, to please hardened adults.

Premiered 30 years ago to much praise on Broadway, it has been a favorite of touring and regional production companies everywhere, and also made into the inevitable Disney movie a few years ago
Overblown with over-the-top performances by superstars Meryl Streep and Johnny Depp, it nonetheless was a much praised commercial hit.

We all know the weaving of the playful story lines,  and the adventures and misadventures of Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Rapunzel,  tested by the all purpose witch, along with a big bad wolf and a bigger giant.

Therefore, to be a critic, in effect an advocate for the theatre goer, one must approach a revival with a wary eye, alert to what makes the production special, and not a forgettable, ho hum, cash cow rip off.

Fear not. It is an absolute pleasure to report this latest revival of “Into The Woods,” brought to L.A. by the Center Theatre Group, is fresh, brimming with a new look and new energy.

On an open bare bones stage, fashioned and played with a charming abandon by the acclaimed Fiasco Theatre company, it is sure to delight even the Sondheim purists.

And there being no set pieces, it allowed me to focus on the performances, which were marvelous, most of the actors performing multiple roles with aplomb.

Loved Darick Pead, in 3 roles, including the cow, and also Bonnie Kramer and Anthony Chatmon, He particularly was great as the prince and a wolf, in a great musical. Kudos all.


At the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, a coming of age play in what might be described as a coming of age theatre, entitled Good Grief, now through March 27th. It is written by coming-of-age playwright Ngozi Anyanwu,

No, it is not about the life and times of the cartoon character Charlie Brown. As I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU, and select websites, it is about a sensitive, if overwrought, Afro American girl coming to terms with her angst filled life and the tragic death of her puppy love in suburban Pennsylvania.

To be sure, it is the stuff of student drama workshops, where wanna be playwrights and screenwriters are told not to conjure up far away fantasies, but to pen real stories from their budding lives.

Good grist for the Douglas, which was founded to be a stage for new works and new voices, a satellite of sorts for the mother lode Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson and Mark Taper Forum downtown.

Not incidentally, now at the Taper is a riveting revival of “Zoot Suit,” which 40 years ago raised the curtain on the very political and public Latino experience in L.A.

In contrast, “Good Grief “evokes the main character’s Nigerian roots, but is very personal, and to anyone who has been parent to an adolescent girl, very familiar.

She was, shall I say it, a drama queen, lots of exclaiming, and gestures, intense faces, some crying. She loses her best friend, loses her virginity , but not her anxieties.

A grief counselor would have helped, though her caring parents, wonderfully played and effecting, deserved the applause they received during the play.

And you had to like the principal focus of the play, the young girl, acted no less than by Anyanwu, the playwright herself. It was a hell of debut, a high dive or sorts into the professional pool of the dramatic arts.

Perhaps it was the American suburban oven the story was cooked in, but to me the African sauce had a pinch of kosher salt. One could call the concoction “schmaltzy,” a soulful, timeworn tale.

Helping immeasurably was the staging: the spare sets, by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz , assorted costumes by Karen Perry, and the polished, crisp direction by Patricia McGregor. It made for an engaging evening in the theatre.





I usually don’t do previews of the arts and entertainment productions that interest me, preferring instead reviews. I frankly feel more comfortable lending my opinions to something I have actually witnessed, be it for public radio, and my own enjoyment.
But as I comment on 97.5 KBU and select websites, the incomparable Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre is coming to the L.A. Music Center next week is an exception.
The Ailey engagement will only be here for five days, beginning March 8, a Wednesday, through March 12, Sunday. My reviews run on Fridays, so I’d have to see it Wednesday, write and record Thursday, for Friday air time.
That immodestly is no problem for me, but it means for my listeners and readers if my reviews prompt them to see a performance, they have at best only three days to do it. And further, the chances of scoring what I anticipate will be a very hot ticket, would be a challenge. So this preview will give you a heads up.
Further, having enjoyed the dance company since its founding in New York City in 1959, which is when I happened to start writing for the New York Times, I’m confident that the program will be marvelous, just as thy have been for me over these very long years.
Indeed, I can close my eyes and actually see in my mind’s eye memorable moments from performances I attended in my distant past. I think the first time was in New York’s City Center, on a cold winter’s evening,.
I remember also when after the performance I hurried a block away, to the Carnegie Deli, for an equally memorable cup of chicken soup, equal to my mother’s, and an overstuffed, Pastrami sandwich of crusted, warm rye bread. schmered with Russian dressing. a juicy sour dill pickle on the side. The Carnegie sadly is no longer, a moot point since at my doctor’s advice I can no longer eat fatty, spiced Pastrami.
But the Alvin Ailey continues, as one of America’s premier dance companies, presenting I anticipate a challenging program of new pieces, set to stirring music, sumptuously staged, and framed by imaginative sets: an evening to be remember.
And according to the program, every performance ending as always with Ailey’s signature “Revelations.” a transcending spiritual drama that if you never seen, you must.  3.3.17


The title of the latest ambitious production at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills is “946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips..”

If the title is cryptic, so is the production, as I comment on my weekly arts and entertainment observed on public radio 97.5 KBU and select websites.

But let me add, it is also engaging, at times indeed dazzling, if somewhat scattered. And adding to the stew on stage is that it is based in part on a true story, and as we know, the truth often can be messy.

“946” in the title stands for the number of troops actually killed in a disastrous single-at-sea military exercise in preparation for the D-Day Normandy landing in June, 1944.

“The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips” is a popular children’s book by Michael Morpurgo about a lost cat of a girl coming of age during World War Two in a village in England where American troops were stationed, many of whom died in the exercise.

Morpurgo adapted the play with Emma Rice, who directed the distinct mash up style of the English production company of Kneehigh , replete with an on stage swing band, a parade of puppets and a large cast of jumping jack actors.

Throw in a clutter of washtubs filled with water in the orchestra pit fronting the stage representing the English Channel where the troops tragically died. And then there are the toy jeeps, the occasional bicyclist coming out of nowhere and going nowhere and, well, you get the picture. You might kindly label the effort innovative. Others might say it is a muddle.

As for the story line, the young girl loses her cat named Tips, or vice a versa, and spends most of her time on stage looking for her, aided by a couple of jitter bugging American soldiers based in the village.

Then there are several sub plots, some somber – after all a war is going on—and sweet, a young woman is coming of age. By the way, the performance of the girl by Katy Owen animated by flying pigtails and flailing arms and legs enlivens the stage, and lends the tale a winning focus.

It all might be untidy, but it is fun to look at, and actually to join in at, in a rousing finale. You leave the theatre smiling.

“946” runs through March 5, at the welcoming Wallis






Monday night, January 9th,  at the Ahmanson Theatre downtown there will be a memorial for Gordon Davidson, who died last fall at the age of 83, one of the truly liked notables of the L.A.’s arts and entertainment community.
I will be attending as a friend dating from way, way back, as I comment on public radio 97.5 KBU, radiomalibu. net and select websites everywhere.
The founding artistic director of the Center Theatre Group for 38 years – from 1967 to 2005 – Davidson guided the center and the city to unquestionably the crest of regional theatre across the country.
More than that, I feel, he established Los Angeles as a theatrical wellspring in its own right, separate from New York, though, to be sure, always looking respectfully and at time enviously at the Broadway of his home.
And Broadway looked back at Davidson also with respect. It awarded him a Tony in 1977 for his direction of “The Shadow Box,” a play by Michael Cristofer he brought to New York after polishing it in L.A. The same year the center’s centerpiece Taper was awarded \a Tony for outstanding regional theatre.
That recognition was followed in 1978 with the resounding success of “Zoot Suit,” as both a play and a social commentary , exposing the bitter injustices toward Mexican Americans in L.A. That also went on to New York to great acclaim.
Then there was also the landmark production of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” that explored the AIDS epidemic in two six hour epics. Staged at the Taper in 1992, it went on to win two Pulitzer Prizes.
Davidson was an unabashed liberal sensitive to the social and political issues of the day, for which I truly respected him, pursuing with an uncommon passion productions that challenged the status quo. He loved directing, but I feel his conscience compelled him to be a producer.
And on a personal note, he also had been an actor, in college, at Cornell University. That is where I first met him and, truth be told, where we were in several productions together, including Elmer Rice’s Street Scene and Bertold Brecht’s “Good Woman of Setuzan.”
Back then 60 years ago he was known as Gordy., and a causal friend then, and also through the years, in New York and L.A. And once, through the center, actually encouraged me to finish a play I was struggling with, and mercifully didn’t finish.
He was a good person, and a great stage producer. He will be missed. The memorial will be at 7.30, I intend to be there. on cue..