When a Piece is Practically 100 Years Old and Still Being Produced, That Means Something

Ain’t Misbehavin’ The Fats Waller Show, Title Inspired by Waller's 1929 Song is Currently Playing at the California Center for the Arts Escondido Until October 8 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

The cast and band of Ain’t Misbehavin’ The Fats Waller Show

Fats Waller was an American jazz musician, composer, and innovator. This musical is an absolute celebration of music and dance where each song is a little story set in piano bars, clubs, and swing. Set during the Harlem Renaissance, the performers in Ain’t Misbehavin’ portray Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, and the Dandridge Sisters as they begin to shape this art form alongside Thomas “Fats” Waller. 

Like we say in Spanish, this production is "de manteles largos" (long table cloths) because the direction of the piece is by Ken Page who created the role of "Ken" in the original Broadway production. The cast for the Escondido piece includes Paula Galloway as Nell, Felecia Fairley as Charlaine, Katie Porter in the role of Armelia, Mark Antony Howard is Andre and DeAndre Simmons is Ken. Stephen Gifford's scenic design along with Steven Young's lighting design sets the perfect club mood, -cocktail seating included- having musical director Lanny Hartley playing piano on a moving platform. Hartley is facing the cast most of the show and has his back to the audience which is part of the many charms of this production. It truly gives audiences the nightclub, variety feel. The cast makes a great ensemble and really brings it to the audience. Paula Galloway is saucy with an amazing voice and comedic flare. Felecia Fairley as well as delivering great vocals brings physicality to the piece, Katie Porter delivers too comedic flare and game. In the male roles, Mark Antony Howard is an agile and gifted dancer. DeAndre Simmons's opera training shines through as he coats the songs with a smooth, velvety bass vocal.

The production has its own jazz band with its musicians playing onstage at different levels and that definitely adds to the experience.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ The Fats Waller Show is an older, seasoned piece that debuted on Broadway in 1978 with a book by Murray Horwitz and Richard Maltby Jr., and music by various composers and lyricists as arranged and orchestrated by Luther Henderson. The title song just like Honeysuckle Rose were created in 1929 and inducted into the Grammy hall of fame 60 and 70 years later. To be able to keep producing this work and continue its life for new generations to experience and learn about it is pure jazz

The rest of the creative team includes choreographer Lacy Darryl Phillips, Blake McCarty in projection design, sound designer Paul Durso, costume designer Janet Pitcher, wig & hair design Louticia Greer, assistant stage manager Olivia Pence, and production stage manager Kira Vine.     

Be sure to catch this production currently playing until October 8. For performance times and ticket prices please click here.                            

*Footnote: Sometimes when there are 4 or more shows in the queue to write about, errors can happen quicker and easier. If there are any names or roles misspelled and misplaced, please let us know by filling out the "contact us" form on the lower right-hand side.           

                                  

                    

What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

A Disenchanting Title for an Amazing, Well-Written Play that is Also a Comedy 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

(L) Greg Hildreth as Mark, Rebecca Creskoff as Debbie, Sophie von Haselberg as Lauren, and Joshua Malina as Phil. Photo Jim Cox 

I will start with this so it does not seem I am saying the same thing about each show I have seen lately. So, The Outsider is to Scripps Ranch what What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank is to The Globe. I believe it is their best play yet. Fast, very funny, and with inside baseball jokes about Jewish people, the religion, and things that come with it. 

The piece written by Nathan Englander was first published in The New Yorker in 2011 and then included in a 2012 short story collection by Englander along with seven others. The inspiration for the title was Raymond Carver's 1981 short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.

Scheduled to premiere at the Old Globe in 2020, 'What We Talk About... has been patiently waiting for over two years like its director Barry Edelstein shared in the program's Director's note. The stage ping-pong dynamic starts with married couple Debbie (Rebecca Creskoff) and Phil (Joshua Malina) who live in Florida in an amazing home and have a teenage son, Trevor (Nathan Salstone). Debbie went to a traditional Jewish educational institution (Yeshiva) with her friend Lauren (Sophie von Haselberg). As life took over, Debbie became less religious and Lauren did the opposite. She married a man by the name of Mark (Greg Hildreth), moved to Jerusalem, and became Orthodox. They have 10 kids, all girls, and now go by the names of Shoshana and Yerucham. Debbie and "Shoshie" as she calls her, have not seen each other in years. But they finally will have their moment because the couple is visiting from Jerusalem and has accepted the invite to stop by for a drink. Debbie is nervous because the only challah bread Phil could find is stale and there is not really kosher food she can offer. Once reunited, Phil starts taunting everybody about religion, beliefs, and practices. The husbands poke each other on their religious styles Phil calls the Hasidic community "insular" and Mark slashes back saying that their Judaism is an anemic version like skim milk. (I am not laughing, you are).

Nathan Salstone as Trevor, Rebecca Creskoff as Debbie, Joshua Malina as Phil, Sophie von Haselberg
as Lauren, and Greg Hildreth as Mark. Photo Jim Cox 

The intensity gets more alive when Trevor appears and tells the guests that he is not Jewish and that his religion is spaghetti, trying to prove a point. Trevor leaves for baseball practice and as the vodka pours become larger, so do the conversations but the walls as well, figuratively speaking. Phil praises Lauren's wig, and there is a playful exchange. Debbie finds Trevor's marihuana stash and Lauren proposes they revisit good old times and get high. After they do, the munchies arrive, and surprise! there are kosher snacks/junk food in the pantry that they can munch on. The girlfriends also decide to revisit an old game called "the Anne Frank game" in which they speculate by taking turns while role-playing who among their non-Jewish friends would save them in the event of a second Holocaust. The headline for this blogview refers to the play having a disenchanting title because it definitely is confusing and when realizing it is a comedy, even more so. I understand the meaning of it and the word game behind it. I also think it does a disservice to the piece because it is such a good one. People may steer clear without giving it a chance. 

Part of Edelstein's direction has the husbands moving around the kitchen counter where the story takes place and during most of the interaction, they are framing an X which looks amazing and it illustrates the fast pace along with the dialogue. Sort of like a Pacman game. Definitely outstanding. 

All five actors are fabulous. Rebecca Creskoff gives both sides of the coin with serious and funny. Her comedic ability is on point and she steals the "marihuana scene" where they are all getting high. Your stomach is going to hurt from laughing. Greg Hildreth's voice is enchanting. Deep, crisp and he has this naturality that he moves around with. Pairs really well with stage wife Sophie von Haselberg who has this soft, sophisticated style that is paced and held completely. She is also Bette Midler's daughter and that is pretty cool too. Nathan Salstone as the feather ruffler Trevor has an in-and-out type of role but it is enough. It is performed so splendidly that when he is off stage, his dialogue lingers. Joshua Malina is very funny. He leads the entertaining pack as well as some heavy conversations about lifestyle choices and religion, what to believe and how to go about it. I felt during the performance that I saw that Malina was a tad forced and he would jump his lines a little, I would have wanted to see a smoother portrayal out of him. Even though the play goes deep into the "Jewish" jokes it is pretty universal and that is part of why it is so good. The title should have been 'What We Talk About When We Talk About Religion' but I am not a playwright so...
Joshua Malina as Phil, Sophie von Haselberg as Lauren, Rebecca Creskoff as Debbie, and Greg Hildreth. Photo by Jim Cox 

Paul Tate dePoo III's scenic design is beautiful and magical where both kitchen space and patio are framed. There is a rain scene, water pouring inside the theatre and all, that is absolutely breathtaking. The play has a couple of scenes that are worth the trip. This is definitely one of them.

The Globe continues to push the envelope and that is a good thing. It leaves you thinking "What would I do?". "I Would NEVER play that give but if I did..."

I highly recommend this play. It is definitely worth your effort and time.

Currently playing until October 23. For performance times and ticket prices please click HERE.

 


SAN DIEGO JUNIOR THEATRE PRESENTS THE SPONGEBOB MUSICAL

From October 28  to November 13 


Press Release 

San Diego Junior Theatre, the nation’s longest-running youth theatre program, opens its 75th Anniversary Season with The SpongeBob Musical!

The stakes are higher than ever in this dynamic stage musical, as SpongeBob and all of Bikini Bottom face the annihilation of their undersea world. Chaos erupts. Lives hang in the balance.

And just when all hope seems lost, a most unexpected hero rises up and takes center stage. With original songs by Steven Tyler and Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Sara Bareilles, The Flaming Lips, Cyndi Lauper, John Legend, Panic! At The Disco, Plain White T’s, They Might Be Giants, David Bowie, and more, this award-winning musical, based on the beloved animated series, demonstrates how the power of optimism really can save the world!

Junior Theatre welcomes back Jason Blitman, director of last season’s hit production The Lightning Thief, to bring the stories of Bikini Bottom’s citizens to JT audiences. Joining Jason on this adventure under the sea is JT alum and Frog and Toad choreographer, Emily Shackelford as well as first-time JT music director, Eliza Vedar.

The SpongeBob Musical will run from October 28 to November 13, 2022, and is recommended for all ages.

Junior Theatre continues to provide an ASL-interpreted performance for each production. For The SpongeBob Musical, the ASL-interpreted performance will be Saturday, November 12 at 2pm. For optimal seating, members of the Deaf community can reach out directly to the box office at boxoffice@juniortheatre.com 

For tickets please visit www.juniortheatre.com or call the Box Office at (619) 239-8355