Missionaries and witches alike can take pride in recent records set at the Pantages Theatre. The Book of Mormon went out with a bang in its final two weeks at the Pantages last November, with grosses of $2,346,513 and $2,470,678, setting and then re-setting the record for single biggest take from a standard eight-performance theatrical week in LA history. However, Pantages officials now reveal, Wicked still holds the record for biggest week ever, regardless of the number of performances. During the week ending on Jan 4, 2009 at the Pantages, Wicked raked in $2.579 million, assisted by the fact that nine performances were held that week. For more on the Pantages, see today’s edition of Inside LA Stage History, below…
TIME TO SIGN UP…Hollywood Fringe Festival is holding Fringe Benefit, a fundraising event that will kick off registration for the June 13-30 festival, on Feb. 2 at Fringe Central Station. The actual registration for the fourth annual festival begins Feb 1…The 14th annual Directors Lab West will be held May 18-25 in residence at Pasadena Playhouse. The Lab, which was spun off from Lincoln Center Theater’s Directors Lab in 2000, seeks theater directors and choreographers to participate in a week-long series of workshops, panels, roundtables, and symposia with some of the nation’s leading theater artists.Â There is no cost to the participants, but attendance is by application only. Deadline for receipt of applications is Mar 29 at 5 pm”¦
PREMIERES…Longtime Neil LaBute collaborator Jo Bonney will helm LaBute’s re-working of August Strindberg’s classic Miss Julie, set on Long Island just before the 1929 stock market crash, premiering May 1 at Geffen Playhouse…Newly founded Stages of Gray Theatre in Pasadena is offering the Feb 1 premiere of Doctor, Doctor as its debut production. Scripted and helmed by Randall Gray, Doctor, Doctor peruses the machinations that occur when several health specialists unite under one roof”¦ Paradise — Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy, wrought by Bill Robertson, Tom Sage and Cliff Wagner, helmed by Dan Bonnell, premieres at Ruskin Group Theatre in Santa Monica, opening Feb 8″¦Upright Cabaret is presenting the West Coast debut of the musical theater songwriting duo, Kait Kerrigan (words) and Brian Lowdermilk (music), featuring a slew of vocally adept thesps, led by music director Brent Crayon, one night only, Jan 20, at Catalina Bar and Grill in Hollywood “¦
AROUND TOWN“¦Dakin Matthews‘ Andak Stage Company is launching its 2013 season with Kevin O’Morrison’s 1976 LadyHouse Blues, a drama for five women, set in 1919 St. Louis, helmed by Anne McNaughton, opening Feb 16 at NewPlace Studio Theatre in NoHo, starring Kitty Swink in the lead role”¦ Destiny’s Child alumnus Michelle Williams has joined the cast of Fela!, spotlighting music Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, returning to CTG’s Ahmanson Theatre, Apr 25 through May 5″¦Innovative cross-genre music organization Muse/Ique, curated by artistic director Rachael Worby, continues its Uncorked Series with Powerhouse From The Firehouse: The Legendary Tena Clark Backstage, Mar 11, on the stage deck of Pasadena Civic Auditorium. Wine will be served”¦Rob Mersola’s Dirty Filthy Love Story is moving from Rogue Machine on Pico Blvd to Skylight Theatre on Vermont Avenue, helmed by Elina de Santos, beginning Jan 18″¦Impro Theatre is returning to Pasadena Playhouse’s Carrie Hamilton Theatre with the improvised Jane Austin Unscripted, co-helmed by Impro artistic director Dan O’Connor and Paul Rogan, opening Valentines Day, Feb 14″¦Theatre West presents its inaugural Sunday Night Solo Series, beginning with Lee Meriwether’s The Women of Spoon River, Feb 10. Upcoming solo artists include Jim Beaver (Feb 17), Kres Mersky (Mar 3), Abbott Alexander (Mar 10), Dina Morrone (Mar 17), Anthony Gruppuso (Mar 24) and Steve Nevil (Apr 7) “¦Also at Theatre West, the third annual Betty Garrett Memorial Musical Comedy Tribute will consist of four staged readings of Panama Hattie, the 1940 tuner, wrought by Cole Porter (music and lyrics) Herbert Fields and B.G. DeSylva (book), helmed by original cast member Miriam Nelson, running Mar 2,3,9,10″¦24th Street Theatre received a commendation from the City of Los Angeles for “fifteen distinguished years of dedication to making a difference in the lives of Angelenos and audiences around the world.” In a ceremony at City Hall, held Jan 11, council member Jan Perry presented 24th Street artistic director Debbie Devine and executive director Jay McAdams with an official commendation recognizing 24th Street as one of LA’s premier arts organizations.”¨”¨..
THE THING IS“¦ “I play Lindsay Skinner, which is a fictional name, actually based Lynndie England, a member of the National Guard, who was involved in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq. I was interested in this work because I had never paid any attention to Abu Ghraib when it was happening.Â I didn’t even know what Abu Ghraib was.Â I was a sophomore in college in 2003 when the war started. When you’re 22, you really don’t want to hear about American soldiers torturing prisoners. But when I was offered to play this role, I was really excited and really terrified. I did do some research on this character and the situation in Iraq that led to these prisoner abuses. I watched the HBO film, Taxi to the Dark Side.Â I dug up interviews with Iraqi people who had lost family members, which was terribly disturbing. I also watched and read interviews with Lynndie England herself.Â I really didn’t want to over-educate myself on everything.Â I didn’t want to judge what happened. But, occasionally, in rehearsals, I’d dive into a certain scene and tears would come out.Â It really didn’t make sense that I would be overcome with emotions. I learned to keep my focus on the scene and my fellow cast members. Audiences have responded to the show, but each performance seems a little bit different. Audience reactions are varied.Â Sometimes people are laughing, sometime there are guffaws. There are audible gasps occasionally. The way the stage is configured, the audience is close in.Â I feel very vulnerable out there.Â But it a very exciting show to do.” – Kate Morgan Chadwick discusses the extended premiere run of the musical, Bad Apples, produced by Circle X Theatre Company, performing at Atwater Village Theatre, extending until Feb. 2
INSIDE LA STAGE HISTORY“¦ Greek American entrepreneur Alexander Pantages (1867Â ““ 1936) owns and operates 84 theaters across the US, maintaining a powerful vaudeville circuit right into the 1920s. Although he is warned that vaudeville is dying, Pantages fulfills his dream of building a palatial performance venue at 6233 Hollywood Blvd, designed by architect B. Marcus Priteca, opening June 4, 1930. Unfortunately Pantages gets caught up in a sex scandal with a minor. He ceases all involvement with his theaters, turning over the day-to-day operations to others. The naysayers also prove right. Vaudeville is no longer viable on its own. To survive, Pantages Theatre in Hollywood becomes a first run movie house. In 1932, the building is sold to Fox West Coast Theatres. In 1949, Howard Hughes acquires the theater as the flagship of his RKO theater circuit. From 1949 through 1959, the Pantages hosts the annual Oscar ceremony. Beginning in 1965, the space is operated by Pacific Theatres, which shuts down the operation as a movie house in Jan 1977.Â The space re-opens a month later, hosting the musical revue Bubbling Brown Sugar. Now a dedicated live theater venue, Pantages is operated by Nederlander Organization. In the year 2000, Pantages goes through a $10-million restoration and upgrade.Â Pantages is now LA’s most successful commercial theater venue — see the news about its latest box office records, above.
– Julio Martinez produced and hosted Arts in Review, celebrating the best in LA-area theater and cabaret, airs Fridays (2 to 2:30PM) KPFK Radio (90.7FM)”¦