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OPENING NIGHT CHAT: Although Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at La Mirada closed on May 2, it bears a mention, first because its opening night was sensational and secondly because we wonder if there is any truth to the rumor that producer Tom McCoy is putting out feelers for the show to move. Director Glenn Casale has assembled a fantastic cast, particularly Brandon Albright in the title role and his actor/musicians who simply tear the house down with their talent, energy and heart. This infectious rock ‘n roll musical production deserves to live on and McCoy will hopefully make it happen…

The film's star Colleen Grey attends opening at Geffen
The film's star Colleen Gray attends opening at Geffen

Nightmare Alley director Gilbert Cates turned the Geffen into an extension of his onstage set by creating a carnival-like atmosphere. Opening night patrons listened to a live combo in the beautiful Geffen courtyard while sipping a drink called The Wheel of Fortune, a concoction of various spirits and lemonade. In the lobby we found a cotton candy machine and popcorn maker on an old fashioned red cart. Guests filled up red and white cardboard tubs with fresh popped corn and walked over to pick up some of personal chef Jaydene O’Connor’s Delectable Creations. We entered the theatre to discover the onstage midway tent extending halfway into the orchestra allowing Cates to use it for projections during the show. After the final curtain, the audience was greeted by a coterie of carnie folk including a delightful bearded fat lady and harlequin offering Gerber daisies. In attendance was actress Colleen Gray, who starred in the original film version opposite Joan Blondell and Tyrone Power, Betty White (a vision in the brightest yellow sweater on the planet – she later donned someone’s jacket as the air turned nippy), Taylor Hackford and Helen Mirren. The musical runs through May 23 ….

"39 Steps" cast members Ted Deasy and Claire Brownell
"39 Steps" cast members Ted Deasy and Claire Brownell

The Brits are onstage at the Ahmanson in Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps. Maria Aitken repeats her Tony-nominated direction in this production playing until May 16. If you enjoy farce, this energetic slapstick presentation with four actors playing all the roles will appeal. It’s a rollercoaster ride of a show with many surprises. Caught at the opening were Eric Idle and his wife Tania Kosevich, Carl Reiner and, bundled up for this unusually chilly spring evening, the foursome of Harry Groener, Dawn Didawick, Lisa Pelikan and Simon Levy. After the show we walked downstairs to Kendall’s Brasserie where family and friends toasted the cast with champagne and enjoyed a simple wine and cheese buffet. A vision in red, Claire Brownell (who was also in the Broadway production), arrived with her co-star Ted Deasy and completing the cast of many played by four were: Eric Hissom and Scot Parkinson.

THE BIZ REPORT: Seven years ago Jesus’ Kid Brother opened at the Hudson Theatre to excellent reviews. In most cases, you can then say, end of story. However, co-writer Mark Karmelich reports this little show has “legs.” After moving to an Equity production at International City Theatre in Long Beach, it was showcased by Stephen Schwartz in his ASCAP Musical Theatre workshop at Disney Studios in Burbank. “This led to us getting the attention of the York Theatre in NYC. They specialize in developing new work by having staged readings for Broadway and Off-Broadway producers. So we’ve been selected for a staged reading on May 25.” Written with his brother Brian, the “little show that could” is hoping to get as many New York producers as possible to attend. “It was a big deal for us to be chosen. Native Angelino brothers are finally getting a shot at New York with our hit LA show. Katy Von Till who played Mary Pilate and our musical director Brian Murphy are flying east with us to do it. But, we’re using a New York director and cast in an effort to get as much involvement as possible on the east coast. After seven long years of sending out scripts and CDs, I’m so excited about this opportunity.”…

Eva Longoria Parker and Lin-Manuel Miranda unite for "In the Heights"
Eva Longoria Parker and Lin-Manuel Miranda unite for "In the Heights"

In the Heights, winner of four 2008 Tony Awards including Best Musical will have its LA premiere at the Pantages Theatre on June 23. This is the first full-length musical written by Lin-Manuel Miranda whose close-knit Puerto Rican family has inspired his work as a writer, composer and performer. The story takes place in Washington Heights where Miranda grew up and tells the story of his American dreams with a Latin beat. In anticipation of its opening, leaders of the Latino community gathered in the Pantages lobby on April 27 to Unite for In the Heights. Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa presented Miranda with a special Welcome Resolution from the City of LA. Keynote speakers included director/choreographer Kenny Ortega, Eva Longoria Parker and Tony Plana.

CHIT CHAT: Cabrillo Music Theatre is currently casting their production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella. It will open in July with the always delightful Sally Struthers in the role of the Fairy Godmother, directed by Lewis Wilkenfeld and choreographed by Heather Castillo…Martin McDonagh’s Tony nominated play, The Lieutenant of Inishmore previews June 30 and opens July 11 at the Mark Taper Forum. This graphic satire on violence takes place in 1993 in County Galway and is directed by Wilson Milam…Writer/Composer Jason Robert Brown directs his show The Last Five Years at the Kirk Douglas Theater. It stars Kristen Bell, who made her Broadway debut at Becky Thatcher in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer but is perhaps best known for playing the title role in the UPN-TV series Veronica Mars. Producers are hoping to cast a Broadway name as her co-lead. The show previews Aug. 29 and opens Sept 5…

Josh Grisetti in "Succeed" at Reprise
Josh Grisetti in "Succeed" at Reprise

Josh Grisetti, who won the 2009 Theatre World Award for the Off-Broadway revival of Enter Laughing, is Finch in the Reprise production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. Grisetti was set to make his Broadway debut as Eugene in the Broadway revival of Neil Simon’s Broadway Bound, directed by David Cromer when the show, set to run in repertory with Brighten Beach Memoirs was cancelled. Memoirs had already opened to positive reviews but lack of ticket sales meant Grisetti’s show never saw the light of day and caused his debut to be put on hold. However, he will Succeed when he opens at Reprise on May 12, directed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge, whose critically acclaimed production of Ragtime at the Kennedy Center opened on Broadway last fall…The hugely popular, fun production of Life Could be a Dream, written and directed by Roger Bean, continues to extend at the Hudson with a new closing date of May 30.

39 Steps image by Ryan Miller/Capture Imaging

Article by Connie Danese

Connie Danese

Connie Danese