STAGE REVIVALS STIR TICKET SALES

As I predicted a few weeks ago the revue, musical, or songfest, call it what you will, “Blues In the Night,” became a hot ticket,

But as I report on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, happily its run at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, has been extended another week. And as I have recommended, it shouldn’t be missed

The production may be a little dated, as I am, but it still dazzles, and makes for a delightful, nostalgic, evening. Nostalgic indeed,

the revival is directed by Sheldon Epps, who worked on the show when it was conceived off-off Broadway some 40 years ago. After several productions over the years, I think he’s finally nailed it.

The set in a smoky seedy hotel in Chicago is evocative of the late down and out 30s, and so are the 26 torch songs of Bessie Smith, and Duke Ellington, among notable others.

They are woven together into the sorrowful stories of three women, and the men who have done them wrong, and delivered appropriately draped and pitch perfect by a right-on, outstanding cast of four, Yvette Cason, Bryce Charles , Chester Gregory and Paulette Ivory.

Yes, there could be more dancing, but the production like the man it portrays, is a worrisome thing, in the memorable words of composers Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer.

In addition to Blues in the Night, there are several other productions scheduled locally that I expect also will be hot tickets, revivals actually that were hits in their time.

At the Japanese Garden on the West L.A. VA campus, from June 5th to July 1st, there will be a rare production of Shakespeare’s “Henry IV,” staged by Tony Award winning director Daniel Sullivan. Of particular note featured will be screen actor Tom Hanks in stage debut as Shakespeare’s greatest comedic character Sir John Falstaff. For tickets you are going to have to link via email to the Shakespeare center.

 At the Wallis, June 8th through July 1, will be Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. This production will star the distinguished actors Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville.

June 20th to July 1st, the Freud Playhouse, on the UCLA campus, will host a Reprise production of the Broadway hit play, Sweet Charity. Directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall.

Tickets for all should be a scramble. Go for it.

 

 

ANOTHER TRAFFIC PROBLEM PENDING ON PCH

No question that the PCH is the bane of Malibu, as it is on select roadways serving commuters everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. At least where I had suffered, and that includes Tokyo, Jakarta and Moscow.

I remember Moscow in particular, for I feel it reflects a situation in the present and perhaps future Malibu, and so comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere.

Several decades ago when doing a TV report on the Soviet transition from a totalitarian to an authoritarian regime I noted that among many foibles surviving was some traffic dictates; specifically one backing up traffic every morning on the bridge over the Moskova River behind the Kremlin.

There, eight lanes of traffic each morning jammed the bridge into the central city, including an express central lane apparently reserved for “official” cars.

But for these cars to make a right turn into the back entry of the Kremlin they had to cross seven lanes of traffic, which of course had to be interdicted. And they were, making a great visual to tease a segment, with me intoning, “Some things never change in Moscow…”

Back to Malibu, where the left turn from the west lane of PCH to access the Nobu parking lot continues to stop and slow traffic most days . It certainly has delayed me. Very frustrating.

And we can expect the same from the traffic light at the crossing serving the Malibu Beach Inn. What developers want in Malibu, developers tend to get, no thank you City Hall

Another expected traffic problem I feel will be at Sunset Boulevard, if and when a proposed new reimagined, larger restaurant will replace the now iconic but aging Gladstones. It has been tentatively approved by an enthusiastic Board of Supervisors, with high praise to the development team fronted by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck and celebrity architect Frank Gehry.

Nice, if you are into celebrity veneration. Except at the beach, and if your drive the PCH. Then you’d know that the intersection at Sunset happens to be one of the more impacted, and the scene at present of countless traffic delays, due in part to the left turn needed to access the restaurant parking lot.

And turn they will, into no doubt will be a pricey, tourist attraction, iconic maybe, but the site must be questioned. We therefore look forward to the traffic report, in the anticipated environmental impact statement, as well as the Coastal Commission reaction to a mega structure plotzed on a public beach.

SEARCHING FOR L.A. ON THE SUNSET STRIP

Ostensibly, this is a review of an evocative illustrated history of a fabled stub of Sunset Boulevard, entitled “Tales from The Strip: A Century in the Fast Lane.”

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, the book published by Angel City Press chronicles the heydays and the high and low life nights of a roadway just two miles in length, but long in rollicking and revealing stories.

Located in the immodest satellite city of West Hollywood, edging a boastful Beverly Hills, the Strip celebrates a greater Los Angeles. Though warped with age, it perseveres as a stand out stop on the celebrity bus tour.

But also for me, and donnish others, searching the expansively suburban, reluctantly urban, Los Angeles for nothing less than its soul, that unique sense of place with the potential of generating an elusive evanescent quality of a “genius loci.” The Strip offers clues.

After all, “The city is the teacher of man,” stated the venerated philosopher Simonides, in 475 B.C. The hope expressed then, and now, nearly 2,600 years later, is that those select public places could somehow give rise to a civic identity and sense of community, however fleeting, to feed a frail democracy.

The Strip’s shifting scenes once upon a time before television were peopled by a cast of spot lit characters, featuring a parade of big screen celebrities, with an occasional menacing mobster lurking in the shadows, and on the sidewalks, the omnipresent chorus of wannabes and witnesses.

The scene lent Los Angeles a certain world fame, tinged with notoriety, that lingers today in what might be defined as a post modern sense of history. To be sure, no such pronouncement is offered by the book’s creative team head lined by writer Van Gordon Sauter, photographer Robert Landau and graphic designer Frans Evenhuis.

Their superlative collaboration is a loose chronology of people and places, including the more furtive later years, the scruffy counter culture, rambunctious musicians, and shifting sounds and life styles, to the present relatively tame, some would say tacky, commercialization.

Nevertheless, as “Tales” touts, developments are constantly being proposed with appropriate fanfare flogging the Strip. And almost daily it seems a new conspicuous billboard is being unveiled. Change has always been welcomed on the Strip, though not always for the better.

The memories persist, lending the Strip a certain appealing cachet and its purveyors cash. Though tarnished, the Strip, I feel, is still the gem in the tiara that is Sunset Boulevard, lending sparkle to a Hollywood of a certain age.

If tempted to cruise The Strip, I suggest going in a car with the roof open or down, careful not to be too distracted by the billboards, and for a closer look stop, and park. Perhaps go tomorrow, Saturday , where at 4 PM at Book Soup, at 8818 Sunset Blvd. the “Tales” creative trio will be, extolling and signing their book.

 

 

 

 

MALIBU LAND PURCHASE RAISES CONCERNS

Malibu City finally did something right, and obvious, at its recent meeting. As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere, it voted unanimously to pursue the purchase of three prominent properties; two in the now scattered and scarred so called civic center, and the other at the cluttered and confused entry to Point Dume. The total indicated price is $42.5 million,

But the praise for the City stops here, for I feel that though the purchase should be pursued, it also raises serious concerns, and necessitate the very close monitoring of our less the competent staff and council.

I note that almost immediately after the meeting, the usually paranoid and less than transparent City Hall put out a press release, praising itself for the purchase by claiming to be fiscally responsible, and quoting its moustache of the moment, rookie Mayor Rick Mullen.

Pardon me smirking, but I can’t remember when the city was so quick to issue a statement. Certainly it didn’t when disavowing any responsibility for the construction mess screwing up traffic on the PCH, explaining it was principally a matter between private developers and the bumbling Caltrans. Civil servants, indeed!

Only reluctantly did the city get involved in the management of the projects to mitigate the traffic delays, and only after being embarrassed to do so by angry Malibu driver.

As for the private developers, it should be said they were empowered by the city, which not only yielded to their wrangling for zoning abuses, but also bowing to their commercial imperatives.

I mention that here because it is the lack of any planning imagination or initiative that, not coincidentally, fattened the price of the parcels the city is now pursuing at what they say is fair market value.

I also must observe that being fat from fees and taxes does not make one fiscally responsible, as the city’s press release boasts.

In fact, in the case of Malibu, it is my opinion it has made the city less than responsible, administratively fat and lazy, prone to sit at their P.Cs and outsource work. Over the years this has resulted in millions of dollars to avaricious consultants, including, in at least one prime instance, without any proper accountability. The abuses continue.

This apparently has sadly shifted City Hall’s priorities to primarily payrolls, pensions and perks, rather serving residents. And in turn surreptitiously has led the constant care and feeding of councilpersons, approving trips and expenses, and who are endlessly delaying public meetings to have their pictures taken by toady staff.

And let us not to forget the additional legal fees to our well-compensated city attorney and her office. Let’s face it, Malibu has been a gravy train for some, a trough for others.

So, getting to the point of this recitation, while praising the purchase of the properties for the city’s land bank, given the poor history of our past and present City Hall, it is imperative that there be some responsible citizen oversight to the process and professional planning necessary to benefit a future Malibu.

If not, this purchase could easily become a bureaucratic paper game on City Hall desks, an annuity of sorts for some. Unless Malibu voters demand change.

 

 

WEST L.A. CULTURAL SCENE ALIVE AND DIVERSE

I might have been on hiatus for several weeks, but the very varied cultural scene in west Los Angeles certainly was not, and is not, as I observe on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere

At the Broad Stage, tomorrow is percussion personified, as the renowned TAO troupe performs its latest production, entitled Drum Heart. Expect the auditorium in Santa Monica to reverberate, with the unique Japanese sound and style.

Then on Sunday the Broad Stage will be the scene of a very different sound and presence, a classic music concert. Wrapping up its multiyear Beethoven String Quartet cycle, the acclaimed Calder Quartet will be playing a program including two of the master’s compositions.

And for a little variation, the program also will feature a string quintet, by Mozart, with a guest musician on the additional instrument of a viola. That no doubt is a reminder by the quartet that is should not to be remembered for just Beethoven.

Nor I should add should the Broad Stage should only be known for music, having last week hosted the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Revolutionary when founded 50 years ago as a home for Afro American ballet dancers then being shunned, the group continues to be, simply and boldly, outstanding.

It brought the Broad Stage to life, and the audience to its feet applauding, in a limited appearance that featured an inspired program of neo-classical and contemporary ballet. Particularly moving was the ballet “Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven”: subtitled Odes to Love and Loss. It was as the creator Ulysees Dove had hoped, “an experience in movement, a story without words” Beautiful.

Not to be, should I say, upstaged, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills continues with its rich tradition of diverse dance, music and theater offerings. On my must see list is “Blues In The Night,”

Conceived and directed by Sheldon Epps, the musical bears witness to sorrowful stories of three women, and the men who have done them wrong. Featuring 26, yes, that is two dozen plus two, for a very full evening of the sexy songs made famous by Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, and a host of famed others.

It runs until May 20th. but it promises to be an evening that you just might want to see and hear several times.

 

And for something very different, at the Skirball Cultural Center, atop Brentwood, this Sunday, is a puppet festival. Featured in addition to live music and kid workshops, will be a performance by the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre’s famed Animal Cracker Conspiracy Puppet Company. We’re talking real art and entertainment here.

 

 

MALIBU CITY SHOULD BUY LAND, BUT OVERSIGHT NEEDED

There is no news like local news. So because my local followers expect no less, I dutifully cut my hiatus a little short to comment on public radio KBU and select websites on a pending item before the Malibu City Council, to consider pursuing the purchase of three parcels of land I feel critical to the future of the city.
 
The parcels are the nearly ten acres at the prominent corner of Stuart Ranch Road at Civic Center Way, commonly identified as the Chili Cook Off site; and the lot at the corner of PCH at Webb Way, where the construction equipment for the sewer project is now parked.
 
The third site is the vacant 18 plus acres at the entry to Point Dume at Heathercliff, where the Christmas trees are sold annually. Owned at present by the Perrenchio estate, the parcels are zoned commercial and carry the total price tag $42.5 million, which is considered a bargain.
 
If planned, designed and developed with a true civic purpose, I feel they have the potential to lend focus, maybe a point of pride or two, to the 21 meandering miles of Malibu.
 
Indeed, if selectively and sensitively landscaped for needed recreational facilities, at last a ball field or two, even a skateboard park and a swimming pool, it could take the pressure off the proposed misguided compromising of Bluffs Park. And also solve that political conundrum.
 
Yes, these may be fantasies, certainly for my skeptical self, especially given our bumbling local government, whether it can purchase the properties without a hitch and hidden conditions. and then boldly initiate some imaginative planning effort.
 
Its track record is not very good. I note still languishing is the development to somehow justify the purchase of the 35 acre Trancas Field, for something, a community garden, a wildlife sanctuary, a tree farm, whatever. And that is even when the work is outsourced by City Hall, as it usually is when thorny.
 
All one has to do is look how our city government over the years trashed the not so civic center. I consider that fractured collection of commercial conceits a design disaster, at best geared to tourists, a badly landscaped roof of a pricey water treatment plant serving real estate interests, and for residents, an uninviting city hall and library.
 
The there is our past and present fumbling neophyte city councils, however congenial and collegial, naively relying on a self serving city staff. Talk about the blind leading the blind,
 
Still, I feel the purchase must be pursued, and hope enough residents care to pay attention and steer City Hall in the right direction. Certainly some citizen oversight is needed.
 
But these parcels must not fall into the hands of private developers.
 
In real estate if you want the land and the price seems right, and you are not sure how you’re going to get the monies needed, you go for it any way,, and trust the figures are going to work, eventually.
 
At least that’s my opinion, having professionally pursued development in the jungles of New York City in the distant past, and personally in Malibu where we fortunately said yes, decades ago and could not afford to do so today.
 
The city should do the same.
 
 

SOME THOUGHTS FOR MALIBU BEFORE SPRING BREAK

It’s Spring break time for Malibu and other school districts around the Southland. This prompted me to think it also would be a good time for mine, especially since I’m scheduled for a few necessary medical procedures in the next several weeks.

But as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, as a long time concerned resident of Malibu, I frankly also need a break from some persistent local issue.

These include traffic tieups on PCH, the protracted school divorce proceedings, the homeless, and the raw surface condition of the Trancas Canyon Dog Park.

But before I climb out of my catbird seat for a few weeks, I have some parting comment, of course.

The PCH: Enough already with the blame game and the mea culpas. There’s enough to go around for all: a callous Cal Trans, a sluggish City Hall, servile councilpersons, and inconsiderate developers . And yes also, an angry but not particularly alert public .

Hopefully the recent fiascos on the PCH have taught lessons to all, and the promised fixes will make driving on the dreaded highway somewhat more tolerable. To this I would add some common sense and some common courtesy. But realistically, the traffic will never cease. It is the bane of Malibu. And there is the question whether City Hall can become more proactive.

Concerning the creation of a separate school district for Malibu: Lets continue to exercise good faith, and hope, in the push for an equitable divorce settlement, despite the recalcitrant Santa Monica reps on the board.

But, really, they have to drop their ridiculous demand that after the divorce.Malibu continue to subsidize Santa Monica schools. and for no less than 50 years. If anything, it is sanctimonious Santa Monica that should be paying reparations to Malibu, for the years it has shortchanged educational instruction and facilities in the seacoast city..

But, if being reasonable won’t work, and soon, then Malibu must appeal to the county for the divorce, and back it up with boycotts, protests and political resolve.

As for the homeless, the restoration of the meal program in the civic center is a start, but a more permanent solution is needed. There is a real and pressing need, and we as a city have a responsibility to do something.

But something also has to include the library somehow being made safe and welcoming for the locals, and not have to suffer being a sorry way station for the homeless.

Meanwhile, it was encouraging for me and my Corgi Bobby to attend a recent Parks and Rec Commission meeting., and hear concerns for the raw surface condition of the neglected Trancas Dog Park.

Now let see if was just talk, and that actually something promised will be done, perhaps when I’m on break. But I wont be holding my breath,

 

 

DANCE BECKONS

I am happy to report on my arts and entertainment commentary for public radio 99.1 KBU and websites everywhere, that dance is flourishing in Los Angeles. But this frankly has made it a real challenge to keep up with the increased venues.

This is especially a problem if you, as me, love modern dance, melding as it does music, and movement, celebrating the sensuality of sound and the human body, embodying and expressing a range of emotions.

For me, it’s alive as no other art. But sadly I just can’t attend every thing, being just a once a week cultural critic with an aging Prius living on Pt.Dume in the far reaches of western Malibu. Finding time is fine, but getting places is a bitch.

So this weekend it is the hard choice between the L.A. Dance Project at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, and a Kyle Abraham’s program of three premieres at the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA’s Freud Theatre.

Both are promising. According to the advance publicity, Abraham, born into the hip hop culture, “entwines a sensual and provocative vocabulary with a strong emphasis on sound, behavior and all things visual, “ It is personal and provocative, and what you’ve come to expect from the inspired UCLA’s Center.

Meanwhile, at the same time, at the Wallis, premiered are three distinct performance pieces by its heralded company-in-residence, directed by Benjamin Millepied.

Included in particular is the Martha Graham Duets drawn from her magnum Diversion of Angels and Canticle for Innocent Comedians that in part won for her the title of “dancer of century,” and sainthood from her many legions of followers.

The chance to see a Graham creation performed also won me over, if only for the nostalgia. I was smitten seeing her perform 60 years ago, being introduced to her at a performance by a dancer friend of mine at the time in New York City.

And so my choice was the Wallis. The performance is for tonight, and tomorrow, at 7,30, and if you are interested hopefully there a few tickets still available.

And then there is next week at the Wallis, where the celebration of dance continues with an inventive reinterpretation of the classical ballet Giselle. A classical story yes, but expressed in contemporary dance techniques infused with African dance steps,. Have to see that. .

Performances are scheduled evenings, Thursday the 12th through Saturday, the 14th. It happily is on my schedule.

So is the acclaimed Dance Theatre of Harlem It will be performing for just two nights, April 20th and 21st, at the Eli and Edythe Broad Stage on Santa Monica. That also should not be missed.

 

 

LACMA EXHIBIT CELEBRATES ART AND URBAN HISTORY

As I comment this week on public radio 99.1 KBU and select web sites, the exhibit “City and Cosmos” that just opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, uniquely embraces both art and urban history.

And let me state from the beginning of this review, modest as the exhibit may be in three galleries in the Resnick wing of sprawling LACMA, it is not to be missed.

Engagingly revealed are the finding of the lastest exhaustive excavations in the ancient city of TEOTIHUACAN of three pyramids. the sun, moon and feathered serpent, and the adjacent residential compounds.

The excavations have been ongoing by international teams of archeologists, for the city in central Mexico was for centuries, at the turn of the first millennium, from about 100 b.c. to 600 a.d , the largest urban center in the Americas, with an estimated population of 100,000.

For a context, they lived in single family, one story houses, off a well planned street system, focused on a major avenue anchored by the three impressive pyramids.

The city is considered the centerpiece of Mexico’s rich narrative, and its ruins draw about 4 million visitors a year.

The 200 or so objects displayed are fascinating, for me riveting, Included are both large and small scale impressive stone sculptures, beautfully crafted jewelery, and household items, principally pottery, decoratfed with scenes of everyday life. mothers and children, and animalsThe carved masks and polished faces mesmerize.

The craftsmanship is exquisite, the work obviously of a large and talented artisan class, though one questions whether they were slaves or critizens. And where did some of the materials come from, such as the varied shells?

Indeed, if anything, the exhibit raises more questions than it answers, and a well written and illustrated timeline would have been appreciated. The labeling was inadequate, atleast for the plebian public.

Whatever, the objects indicate a rich and vibrant cosmopolitan life, that hint at the city in its hey day attracting people from various tribes and cultures from across meso America. In this respect, I feel this speaks in a way to Los Angeles today, and its large immigrant and migrating population.

But I would have liked to learn more why this city was destroyed; was the devestating fire in the six hundreds deliberate or accidental, and were the city’s apparent egalitarian institutions that had welcome the city’s diversity eventually subverted by despotic rulers only hinted at in the exhibition catalogue? Questions.

 

 

 

 

 

MALIBU CITY INACTION CREATES CHAOS ON PCH

Instead of my usual commentary “the city observed,” on public radio 99.1 KBU, and select web site., I’ve labeled this one,“the city suffered,” That is especially if you live on Pt.Dume, as I do, and the western reaches of Malibu, and if for whatever reason you occasionally use the PCH.

I had to early this week., for a can’t miss pre op doctor’s appointments, replete with he usual slew of tests, in Santa Monica. It had been delayed too often, and was a medical necessity, whatever my insurance provider might rule.

Alert to the unpredictability of the PCH, I listened to the welcomed up-to the minute traffic reports on 99.1 KBU, which repeated several times traffic was slow in the Lagoon vicinity,

I also checked the website the city has touted, though as usual it was dated and incomplete. The more reliable Google Maps that morning showed east bound traffic backed up beyond John Tyler. This prompted me to leave an hour earlier, giving me up to 2 hours to get to my appointment .

Good thing I did, for the stop and go traffic was slow, and frustrating, prompting some cars to dangerously jump the median and head toward Malibu Canyon Road and the 101.

There were some close accidents, and one wonders where were the Sheriff deputies. I would guess probably lurking in a speed trap somewhere else in Malibu in wait to ticket for a senior going a few miles over the limit in their dated Prius.

Finally, I got to what was causing the monumental backup: the merging of two lanes into one at the Malibu Beach Inn, to accommodate the installation of a traffic signals for a crosswalk. This incidentally would allow the Inn to park cars on the northside of PCH in the old Hertz lot, and make room for an outdoor pool for its pampered guests on the southside steps from their rooms.

Nice, the Inn’s team of lawyers had once again out maneuvered the somnolent city, for yet another profitable amenitiy. How private interests are forever prevailing in Malibu raises question that needs to be answered, hopefully soon.

For the moment, there was the traffic problem, which I feel based on my hands on planning experiences could have been easily addressed, and saved thousand of commuters, and myself, several anguished hours on the PCH.

Specifically, the parking at the south curb should have been just temporarily banned. This would have allowed the private contractor’s truck, and an occasional Cal Trans car to park at the curb,, and not double park as they were doing eliminating a second eastbound lane and inhibiting the flow of traffic.

The resulting mess was a sad illustration of the planning adage that a road is as wide as its narrowest part.

In addition, the construction could have been timed for the evening at a relatively minor charge to the Inn, instead of costing the public hours of lost time at no doubt substantial sums. Yes, I made my appointment, barely.

Unfortunately lacking in all the parties involved was some common sense and common courtesy. Just having someone from City Hall there to check the situation could have made a difference.

Thanks to a burst of outrage in the social media, the double parking at the Inn is now no longer, thank goodness..

But beware, for scheduled to begin this weekend and run through the summer is some major road construction in the Civic Center area that promises to create a traffic hell. The work, of course, is to accommodate the wave of new commercial development that past self-aggrandizing councils had questionably approved.

Of course,, City Hall tell us the PCH is the responsibility of Cal Trans and the Sheriff’s department, not the toothless, and I would add, clueless city.

However, as KBU’s Hans Laetz has noted, there is much our City Hall staff can do. Yes, and I would add if the staff headed by an anemic city manager only had the gumption, as well as the support of a savvy council.  For the present, it is sadly not happening.

Something to think about when next stuck in traffic on the PCH