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NEWS”¦ Having trouble finding the LA Times Calendar listing of the musical theater production you’ve heard so much about? Have no concern. Music Theatre International (MTI) has created a musical theater app for the iPhone and iPad, The MTIshowsâ„¢, a free download that offers consumers a theatrical encyclopedia of musicals and the ability to locate current local productions anywhere, anytime. Did I mention it’s free?”¦As a companion piece to its currently previewing premiere of Alan Alda’s Radiance:  The Passion of Marie Curie, Geffen Playhouse’s theater-for-young-audience ensemble, Story Pirates, is debuting Brilliance!, a science-themed interactive exploration of Madame Curie’s radioactive discoveries, beginning Nov 12 in the Audrey Skirball Theater”¦Sadly, the acclaimed but currently homeless  West Coast Ensemble, founded in 1981, is discontinuing its membership component effective Nov 1.  In a joint announcement by co-artistic directors Les Hanson and Richard Israel, “We hope that this decision will not be seen as an end, but as the beginning of new opportunities for all of us.  West Coast Ensemble Theatre will continue to operate as a non-membership theatre producing entity, and is actively pursuing opportunities for co-productions, as well as options for partnerships with other companies.””¦

Salome Jens

PREMIERES”¦ Met Theatre in Hollywood is debuting On Holy Ground, opening Nov 11, scripted by Stephanie Liss, helmed by L. Flint Esquerra.  The production stars Salome Jens, Lisa Richards and Abbe’ Rowlins, bringing the Israeli-Palestine conflict into focus from the vastly different perspectives of three women:  Henrietta Szold (Jens), a co-founder of Hadassah; Shula (Richards), an Orthodox Jewish woman from the settlement of Efrat who meets Reim (Rowlins), the mother of the bomber who has killed Shula’s teenage daughter”¦Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills continues its 2011-12 season with the West Coast premiere of the bio one-hander, The Color of Rose, scripted and performed by Kathrine Bates (based on a concept by Chuck Fries), a perusal of the life and times of the grand 20th century matriarch Rose Kennedy, opening Nov 28 in the Reuben Cordova Theatre on the campus of Beverly Hills High”¦Hollywood’s Dory Theatre at the Complex is hosting Mad World Productions’ premiere of the tinseltown saga, Thanks For Coming and Thanks For Waiting, scripted by Elizabeth Noel Donovan and Milania Austin Henley, co-helmed by Joe Filippone and Joelle Arqueros, opening Nov. 3″¦ Over at the Odyssey Theatre in West LA, Justin Tanner’s premiere comedic sojourn within the world of morning booze hounds, Day Drinkers, helmed by Bart DeLorenzo, has been extended again, this time through Nov 20…And Elephant Theatre Company’s premiere of Love Sick, “a graphic tale which follows one woman’s dark and comic quest for revenge,” scripted by Kristina Poe, helmed by David Fofi, is extending its run at Elephant Space until Nov. 5″¦

ENCORES”¦ The PlaygroundA Street Rock Musical, scripted and helmed by Michael Leoni, inspired by the true stories of LA’s homeless youth, returns to town after its 2009 premiere, opening at the Met Theatre in Hollywood on Nov 18, presented in conjunction with National Homeless Youth Awareness Month. Featuring an amalgam of rock, blues and hip-hop, musical contributors include Beth Hart, Michael Montoya, Ishmael Herring, Gunner Wright and Winston King Jr, under the musical direction of Chris Raymond, choreographed by Nick Teti“¦Re-appearing after a successful run last May, Experience Magic, combining musical theater with the talents of Magic Castle illusionists Jeff Black, Joel Ward and jimmy H, opens Nov 6 at Sierra Madre Playhouse. With book, music and lyrics by Ryan Luevano, the action centers around the romantic machinations of an out-of-work lad (Nathan Tam) and a nubile magician’s assistant (Christina Valo)”¦And the annual Experience NoHo Arts Festival & Celebration ““ a free, multi-arts festival and celebration featuring live theater, dance, music, art, and food ““ returns Nov 12 (noon to 8 pm) along Lankershim Blvd., between Otsego Ave and Weddington Street. Participating theatrical venues include:  Actors Forum, Actors Workout, Antaeus, Avery Schreiber Theatre, Crown City Theatre, Group Rep, J.E.T. Studios, NoHo Actors Studio, NoHo Arts Center, NoHo Stages, Raven Playhouse, Road Theatre Company, Secret Rose Theatre, Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center  and Zombie Joe’s Underground… Now a holiday tradition, Blank Theatre’s staging of David SedarisThe Santaland Diaries, this year starring Paolo Andino, helmed by Michael Matthews, opens Nov 26 at Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood”¦

Syesha Mercado

OTHER HAPPENINGS”¦ Cabaret guru Chris Isaacson is launching his 3rd season of Upright Cabaret’s American Icon Series at Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza’s Scherr Forum Theatre with Heart and Soul, celebrating the music of Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick and Whitney Houston, opening Nov 4.  Featured vocalists are Syesha Mercado (American Idol finalist), Broadway’s Shoshana Bean and Sylvia Maccalla, musical direction by Gerald Sternbach.  The series continues with The Troubadours:  music of Bob Dylan, Carole King and James Taylor (Jan 27, 2012):  Rhythm in the Night: music of Gloria Estefan, Santana and Ricky Martin (May 5); and Viva Las Vegas: music of Elvis Presley, Elton John and Cher (June 8)”¦ Moving into its fall harvest season, Theatricum Botanicum in Topanga Canyon is serving up SeedlingsFest: Certified Organic – Botanicum Seedlings Festival of (short) Playreadings, featuring “two days of new plays by a fresh crop of playwrights,” Nov 19 and 20.  Offering up their goods are Theatricum playwright-in-residence Jennie Webb and literary manager Julie Retzlaff, as well scripters Barbara Lindsay, Mary F. Unser, Isabella Russell-Ides, Katherine James, Ann-Giselle Spiegler and the lone male, Matt Van Winkle.

John Iacovelli

THE THING IS“¦ “During my early years, whether designing for film and live theater, I would create the same style of set. Now, on stage, I never want to do a set that smacks of TV realism.  The theater allows a broader view, gives the designer the permission to go beyond the fourth wall. We can do things a live audience will accept that can’t be done on TV. And I love working with producer Joe Stern because he is so supportive of the artist’s vision. The reason I wanted to do this theater work is, I truly believe this is one of the great American plays.  In many ways, it’s our Hamlet. It comes out of the starting gate like gangbusters and never lets go of you. The energy builds from scene to scene, from moment to moment.  My dilemma was figuring out how I was going to represent it on this tiny stage.  I could not do what other people have done in larger venues, showing the other backyards, the expanded neighborhood, the poplar trees. Then I remembered a quote from Miller that explained this wasn’t a play about the past or World War II, which had just ended.  It was a cautionary tale about the future. So, with kind of a nod to movies like American Beauty and Blue Velvet, I decided to design a very simple, ordinary backyard but surround it with the encroaching influence of the industrial age.  I saw that beautiful brick wall at the back of the theater and decided to utilize it to represent the machine age and industry. And fronting the wall are the poplar trees, but made of metal that looks rusted.  They’re shaped like poplar trees but the leaves are actually made out of metal scraps that look like they could have been refuse from the war effort. So, up close we have this very real set where the actors are.  But as we look further back, there is this intrusion, creating an underlying uneasiness.  It is a reminder that, unlike the picture-book backyard scene, the world is not perfect.” “¦Award-winning set designer John Iacovelli discusses the recently opened Matrix Theatre production of All My Sons by Arthur Miller. Upcoming Iacovelli projects include: Blues For An Alabama Sky (Pasadena Playhouse), Desire Under The Elms (A Noise Within) and Waiting For Godot (CTG Mark Taper Forum)”¦

The Music Box Theatre

INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY”¦ The live theater venue located at 6126 Hollywood Blvd. suffers from a monumentally inconsistent production identity since its launching on Oct. 20, 1926 as the Carter DeHaven Music Box Theater, backed by such tinseltown notables as John Barrymore, John Gilbert, Reginald Denny, King Vidor and Mae Murray. The original concept is to offer Ziegfeld-style revues with after-show speakeasy booze being served in the open-air cabaret space above the lobby. The debut tuner, Fancy, tanks, as do two subsequent revue efforts.  In 1927, the house goes legit, offering the West Coast premiere of the play, Chicago, starring Clark Gable and Nancy Carroll.  In 1931, thesp George K Arthur launches an ambitious series of English-language Grand Guignol plays from France that are well-reviewed but fail to put behinds in seats. In 1936, the space becomes home to Lux Radio Theatre and its schizophrenic years are underway.  During the early 40s, it reverts back to legit use as the Music Box Theatre.  In 1945, acquired by Fox West Coast, it is remodeled and becomes a movie venue, renamed the Guild. Over the years it evolves into the Fox and then the Pix (1958), which hosts the cinematic premieres of Jaws (1975) and Rocky (1976).  In  1977, the house is completely shuttered for the first time and remains so for eight years. In 1985, desiring a venue for tours too small for the Pantages down the block, Nederlander Organization refurbishes the space and renames it the Henry Fonda Theatre. Among its productions in the ’80s are the LA premieres of Glengarry Glen Ross and Driving Miss Daisy. It’s damaged in the ’94 earthquake but returns to host a successful run of Tony “˜n Tina’s Wedding in 2000. However,  the venue fails to establish itself as a go-to legit house. Subsequently, the space has evolved into the Henry Fonda Music Box Theatre, the Music Box@Fonda  and finally, in 2010, the Music Box, a live music club administered by Thaddeus Smith. The seats have been removed on the main floor. The original open-air cabaret space on a terrace above the lobby has been re-opened (after many decades) as a lounge dubbed The Rooftop. The booze is absolutely legal”¦

“¦The Julio Martinez-hosted ARTS IN REVIEW, broadcast Fridays  (2 to 2:30 pm) on KPFK (90.7FM), spotlights the best in live theater and cabaret in the Greater LA area. Upcoming on Oct 28, KPFK offers its 2011 fall membership drive“¦

Julio Martinez

Julio Martinez

Julio pens the weekly LA STAGE Insider column for @ This Stage Magazine, as well as the monthly LA STAGE History column. He is a recurring contributor to Written By (the monthly publication of the Writer’s Guild of America) and is the TeleVision columnist for Latin Heat Entertainment. On air, he hosts the weekly Arts in Review program for KPFK 90.7 FM. An active journalist for over 30 years, Julio’s articles and reviews have appeared in Los Angeles Times Magazine, Daily Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, L.A. Weekly, Stage Raw, Backstage West, Westways Magazine, and Drama-Logue Magazine, among others.