Dr. Seuss's How The Grinch Stole Christmas! Is Back with in Person Performances Until December 31

The 2021 production definitely has a more artistic vibe both in interpretation and delivery. 
Andrew Polec as The Grinch brings it to a new level

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Andrew Polec as The Grinch in Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, 2021.
Photo by Rich Soublet II.
2021 marks the 24th year of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!  at The Old Globe in Balboa Park. After a 2020 pause due to the P-word, theatre goers happily came back to revisit their favorite Christmas meanie. This show can go different ways. It is a San Diego tradition for sure so, either people go and see it year after year and enjoy it just the same, or it is a one and done kind of experience. It has been a couple of years since the cast has been changing for each season and that I believe, has spiced things up.

Andrew Polec comes back to The Globe campus as The Grinch after his performance as Berger in the production of Hair, The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical. Really good production with a very talented cast so, I was pretty curious as to what Andrew would bring to the table. He is not the only Hair cast member to pivot on to the holiday fave, Christopher M. Ramirez is debuting as Papa Who and Bethany Slomka as a swing. MFA Alumna Bibi Mama is in the ensemble as well. 

John Lee Beatty's Scenic Design shines bright like every year with gleaming reds contrasting with baby pinks and whites. The red team graced the stage in that Wednesday performance and as happy as I was to see Leila Manuel as Cindy-Lou Who, I have noticed that the kids in that role need a bit more volume and word articulation because, for most of the performance, it is difficult to understand what they are saying. Still, the show is as lovable and cute as always. The production this year definitely has a more artistic vibe both in interpretation and delivery. Andrew Polec brings The Grinch to a new level following the well-known goofy grumpiness of the furry, pot-bellied creature in an elegant manner. He gave me Cirque du Soleil, what can I say. Polec put his artistic mark on the Grinch and set the bar even higher showcasing his skills and creativity as well as his training. It is impressive and worth seeing. Christopher M. Ramirez also does his part -literally- bringing a younger flare to the family man displaying wonderful vocals and a more tender side to Who.
Leila Manuel as Cindy-Lou Who and Andrew Polec as The Grinch in
Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, 2021. Photo by Rich Soublet II.
Another wonderful surprise is Ali Nelson as Danny Who also printing her essence into the character with hip-hopish moves and skate shoes. I saw that I did! Awesome addition. And who does not fall in love with both Young (Tommy Martinez) and Old Max (John Treacy Egan)? the Grinch's loyal yet questioning companion turned one-horned reindeer. 

John Treacy Egan as Old Max and Tommy Martinez as Young Max in
Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, 2021. Photo by Rich Soublet II.
The live music led by Music Director Elan McMahan, brings that lovely fuzzy feeling that makes audiences smile.

Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is definitely the starting flag for the holidays. A lovely evening for both kids and adults. Performances are currently running until Friday, December 31.

There is also a sensory-friendly performance on Saturday, December 11 at 10:00 a.m. For tickets, please call the Box Office at (619) 234-5623.

Before the show from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. the third annual Sensory-Friendly AXIS event will take place. This all-ages event will offer Grinch-inspired activities and a performance by the coLAB workshop with neurodiverse artists.  

Check out the Instagram Live we had with Andrew Polec who plays the Grinch Here 

A ‘Bah! Humbug!’ Like You Will Not See Anywhere Else

The Old Globe's Ebenezer Scrooge’s BIG San Diego Christmas Show is Fun, Funny, and Just Merry

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Cathryn Wake, George Abud, Bill Buell, Orville Mendoza, and Jacque Wilke. Photo by Jim Cox 

The holidays bring an array of options for everyone to enjoy and kick off the festivities. Showings of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol are practically everywhere and being on the border, some pastorelas are too. Hopefully, we will see more companies hosting offerings of those. But I digress... So, The Old Globe has done it right with two different options on the same campus. The San Diego favorite, Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and, since 2019, Ebenezer Scrooge’s BIG San Diego Christmas Show written by Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen. It's like Disneyland and California Adventure. Both are family-friendly but one is kind of more fun for adults. Directed by Greenberg, the Big San Diego Christmas show is a gift wrapped in silly laughs and just a good old time. The other marvel is that, unlike the other Christmas Carols that go for over two hours, this one is 70 minutes and change. Bill Buell as Ebenezer Scrooge is still stingy and bitter like the one we all know but his version is lighter, more likeable. The supporting ensemble with George Abud, Orville Mendoza, Cathryn Wake, and Jacque Wilke, is the one leading the funnies, delivering the famous characters that range from Bob Cratchit to Tinny Tim and of course, the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future with an added musical flare, playing live instruments and all. 

This story is in the round and resolved creatively by using different props designed by Adam Koch, like a vertical bed set with a nightstand with other "moving" pieces that contribute to the comedy. -no spoilers allowed- but, there is velcro involved. David Israel Reynoso does it once again with a gorgeous wardrobe design. A certain pink jacket with tulle was one of my favorites. (they should sell it in the gift shop, wink). The cast is incredebly talented and they support eachother with their abilities which is appreciated and wonderful to see. George Abud's violin playing is impressive, gives the piece a wonderful touch. 

George Abud as Tiny Tim, Jacque Wilke as Mrs. Cratchit, Orville Mendoza as Bob Cratchit, Bill Buell as Ebenezer
Scrooge, and Cathryn Wake as Ghost of Christmas Present. Photo by JIm Cox 

Drinks and food are still not allowed and that is a good thing. Less noise, less distraction. So I would advise to go and have a nice dinner with drinks and then go enjoy the show wich I would say it is a must for the season, and a nice balance from all the merry, fairy, christmasie content out there but still leaving you feeling all warm and fuzzy. It is original and very fun. 

The creative team also includes lighting design by Amanda Zieve, sound design by Bart Fasbender, music direction by Orville Mendoza, casting by Tara Rubin Casting/Merri Sugarman, CSA and Kim Heil, CSA and stage management by Anjee Nero.

Performances are currently running until December 26. Ticket prices start at $37 and can be purchased at www.TheOldGlobe.org.

Shameless plug: listen to our latest podcast episode where we talk to two wonderful cast members of She The People with The Second City HERE

To The Yellow House is an original piece worthy to be seen.

The La Jolla Playhouse World-Premiere by  Kimber Lee, Directed by Neel Keller is currently playing until December 12

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Paco Tolson as “Vincent” photo by Rich Soublet II.
Going back to the Mandell Weiss Theatre after so long was truly special. This venue is perfect for Kimber Lee's world premiere To The Yellow House. A behind-the-scenes-like look at outstanding, sensitive, and vulnerable artist Vincent van Gogh (Paco Tolson). These plays based on real people and things that happened before our time show how mindblowing life can be. In Yellow House's case, the playwright took a meditation approach to a time and place where van Gogh was not even a good painter yet. Always an artist, he never lived to see his fame or sale of a painting. This play taps into that, his complex relationship with brother Theo (Frankie J. Alvarez), and the overwhelming Parisian scene.

Masha Tsimring's dimmed lighting design takes audiences to intimate settings in Vincent's life through Paris and Arles. Moving set pieces designed by Takeshi Kata, mark the rhythm of the story placed on a large dark and shiny linoleum floor. Making a reference to the artist's beginnings painting darker shades. Visually, the piece is truly aesthetic and romantic also accompanied by lovely music by Justin Ellington and beautiful projections by Nicholas Hussong that hint at some of van Gogh's famous works like The Starry Night

The squeaking shoes on the linoleum, however, would totally break the mood. Because the set is moving constantly by ensemble members and the play is 2 hours and 45 minutes, it became too distracting too often.

People who have read Dear Theo or any of the books containing Vincent's letters to his brother will appreciate this piece as some of the dialogue references the letters. Brooke Ishibashi in each of her two roles, one as the rent charging, feather plucking, Marie and the other, bartender turned baker and art advocate, Sophie, gifts all the feels delivering strong, punctual lines as well as endearing, moving moments that land the story and the audience. Difficult to put into words how Deidrie Henry's vigorous performance of Agostina, a woman that posed for practically every artist in Paris, has a self-portrait at the Louvre and is a businesswoman trying to keep her cafe open while also trying to handle moody van Gogh's temper and unreciprocated love for her. Imagine putting all that into one character. Henry is just flawless and absolutely breathtaking in David Israel Reynoso's gorgeous costume designs. The women shine brighter than the men with those stunning gowns with great detail.

Paco Tolson is charming and humorous channeling the trying stages of the proud Dutch artist. The stage interactions with Frankie J. Alvarez as Theo are moving and appalling at the same time. The wonder here as with every artistic expression is that each person will have their own take depending on the van Gogh background they come with. For me, Theo has been pictured throughout history as Vincent's unconditional guardian and confidant. Here, it is that but in a more dense and obligated feeling kind of way. It is thought-provoking and appreciated. 

Marco Barricelli literally practices what he preaches. The impressive UC San Diego acting faculty member brings a unique flair to each of his stage charges: dedicated, knowledgeable, yet distracted Paul Gaugin, manipulative Jean-Léon Gérôme, and my favorite, artist/art studio master, Cormon is expressive and funny. 

Painter sidekicks Alton Alburo as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and DeLeon Dallas as Emile Bernard do brief yet solid snippets that bring context to the story. 

The ensemble is formed by Grayson Heyl, Noah Israel, Noah Keeling, Jada Alston Owens, Natalia Quintero-Riestra, Jordan C. Smith. It is lovely to see six UC San Diego MFA students onstage, Quintero-Riestra belts out some mean notes, and Grayson Heyl stands out for a second while doing a meaningful walk through exiting the cafe and looking back. Yes, I saw that, and yes they look great yet, I was left totally wanting/expecting more than them just being part of a backdrop or moving set pieces. 

To The Yellow House is an original piece worthy to be seen. The second act is more solid than the first which could have been resolved in a briefer manner. Performances are currently running until December 12. Tickets can be purchased by calling  (858) 550-1010 or through the website LaJollaPlayhouse.org

Shameless plug: listen to our latest podcast episode where we talk to two wonderful cast members of She The People with The Second City HERE

Part of the Second City Troupe is Gracing San Diego with a Necessary Show Created and Performed by Women

The Raw, Honest and Funny She The People is Currently Running at The Lyceum Stage Until December 5

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

She The People. Photo by Tim Schmidt
In these times, a good comedy show is always welcomed. Even better when it is created and performed by women, giving audiences a breather from the usual (however changing) male-dominated stand-up and exercising some diversity.

Part of The Second City troupe based in Chicago is gracing California's finest with She The People, a show that has had many lives throughout the years and has been adapted to fit the times by wonderful women like Carisa Barreca, Marla Caceres, Katie Caussin, Carly Heffernan, Tien Tran, Lauren Walker and the different Casts of The Second City. For the San Diego engagement, the cast includes Lexi Alioto, Kennedy Baldwin, Katie Caussin, Kazi Jones, Yazmin Ramos, Laurel Zoff Pelton, performing until Sunday, December 5th at the Lyceum Stage in downtown next to the deceased Horton Plaza.

The show is comprised of different sketches that range from one cast member to all six onstage, touching upon different topics like relationships, gun violence, how women are depicted in TV commercials, dating, and many more. There is also interaction with the audience as they ask for different words or phrases in order to feed a bit. All the cast members are fabulous showing different stage skills like belting out a note for over a minute, rapping, and dancing. Of course, the landing of the jokes and sketches varies depending on the audience and that too depends on the day and time, which is also very interesting because it shows the pulse of the town a little bit. The way people engage with an art form/expression is -always- a strong indicator. The performance I attended was a Sunday matinee therefore, audiences were more on the older, White side, and since many of the jokes accurately presented, were about racism and White privilege, well...some of them did not go too well aside from the usual sleeping suspects in the first rows.

Without spoilers, two of my favorite sketches were about how women are depicted in TV commercials and one with a board game that was called Privilege, zooming in on the very different ways people are treated depending on their skin color and their sexual preference. She The People is bold and raw, a show that really is for everybody but not everybody will feel like it is and that, is where the self-reflection comes in or should come at least. Another quality is the diversity amongst the cast members, with all ages, sizes, colors, and a live pianist for that added special touch.

She The People. Photo by Tim Schmidt

This is the perfect girl's night out, friends night out, cousins/siblings night out. Audience members will not only appreciate good comedy but a mean stage training and improv ability.

Each performance would not be possible without the artistic team comprised by the Associate Director/Choreographer Carisa Barreca, Sound Designer/Music Director Elise Wattman, Stage Manager William Collins, Production Manager Joseph Ruffner, Creative Director Anneliese Toft, VP, Production Elizabeth Howard and the Executive Producer Jon Carr.

She The People will have performances until Sunday, December 5. Tickets range from $25 to $91 dollars and can be purchased by calling 619-544-1000 (12pm-6pm daily), or online at sdrep.org.

Active-duty military, teachers, group, and senior discounts are available. Student tickets are available

for all performances. Prices are subject to change.

Listen to our latest podcast episode where we talk to two wonderful cast members of She The People with The Second City HERE

Backyard Renaissance Theatre Brings the Life and Good Healthy Lungs Back to Audiences with Witchland

Scary Fun Performances are Currently Running Until December 11 at Tenth Avenue Arts Center

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti

Witchland. Christopher Louie Szabo, Daren Scott, and Amira Temple. Studio B Photo Productions

You know? Live events in San Diego and Los Angeles started coming back around June-ish, July-ish. The obvious focus then was the indoor factor, wearing a mask the whole time, the feelings coming from the unknown. Now, theatre companies coming back during this time are focused on the experience itself for audiences. Yes, safety protocols as a priority but beyond that. Backyard Renaissance Theatre Company very creatively designed a spooky and suspenseful comeback with Witchland. A 90-minute world premiere by Tim Mulligan.  

Audiences stood in line waiting to get into the already scary venue, Tenth Avenue Arts Center in Downtown, and was asked to sign an interesting (also a bit spooky) waiver that leads to the experience as well as getting a wristband that indicates who is "ready to have fun". Witchland is theatre performance, meets haunted trail, meets, La Dama de Negro (The Woman in black), The Ring (or The Conjuring... your preference).  

The show is directed by Andrew Oswald and features Marcel Ferrin, Dagmar Krause Fields, Kay Marian McNellen, Kaivan Mohsenzadeh, Kate Rose Reynolds, Markuz Rodriguez, Daren Scott, Christopher Louie Szabo, Liliana Talwatte, and Amira Temple. Directing this was probably not an easy assignment due to many moving elements, the immersive aspect, and having actors walk around all over and under the place -literally- but Andrew Oswald handled the task cleverly well. And how could he not? having Jeffrey Neitzel, a Fright Coordinator and Haunt Specialist on the team? you have to keep those close and handy.

Liliana Talwatte. Studio B Photo Productions
Jared (Christopher Louie Szabo) and Van (Daren Scott) are a gay couple living in Seattle with their adopted daughter Ali (Amira Temple) who is exhaling at school and gearing up for her senior year. Van is managing a restaurant and has been sober for three months. Even though things seem to be running smoothly, Jared wants more for the family and has been offered a high-paying job that can allow the family a bigger space and college money for Ali. So, he convinces them to move to Richland, Washington, a town considered the most toxic ever and historically linked to the “Downwinders Class Action Lawsuit” for the large number of cancer cases caused by the resident nuclear power plant. It also houses Judith the witch (Kate Rose Reynolds) that coincidentally lives across the street from their new, yet temporary home. 

Daren Scott is utterly hilarious from minute 1 to 90, easing the audience between scares with pleasant, fun laughs. Christopher Louie Szabo as the concerned, hard-working, and well yeah, possessed partner, is moving. Veil-y and creepy Judith is powerful, bringing theatre goers' souls out while chanting away what seems to be Latin? Hard to tell but it was hair-raising.

In addition to being very impressed with how well put together this piece is and all the original aspects, I do appreciate a good story. Not only will patrons be immersed in the narrative (and spooks) but also the reality of many towns in this country. The lack of acceptance and withholding parts of your life in order to fit in. Once the family moves from Seattle, Ali has a tough time in school. Classmates cannot understand how she can have two White dads being Black. No one there looks like her nor is considered different. At one point she is even advised by her new friend Shannon (Kay Marian McNellen) to not mention her parents in order to not stand out. Having these topics marinated into the story, is a lovely highlight. 

Faith A. James's costume designs are as well as the piece, very impressive. I favor Ali's. Those outfits were on fire and Amira rocked everyone. She too rocks some chants while standing up to tricky Judith, creating a very powerful and engaging scene together.

Special mention to Lighting Designer Lorrena Harvey, Scene/Prop Designer Tony Cucuzzella, Sound Designer George Ye, Stage Manager Anna Younce and Assistant Stage Manager Dylan Napieralski. Because of them, you will be pleasantly scared and have all the emotions running through your popping veins. 

Witchland is the perfect night out with friends or for a date. Fun guaranteed. Congratulations Backyard Renaissance for welcoming audiences back and making them feel as alive as ever and with the healthiest lungs too. 

Performances run Thursdays – Saturdays at 8:00pm, Sundays at 7:00pm

Special Industry Performances - Mondays, Nov. 29th and Dec. 6th at 7:00pm

Ticket prices range between $32-$40 dollars.

You can purchase tickets here: https://backyardrenaissance.com/tickets/

Shameless plug: listen to our latest podcast episode where we talk to two wonderful cast members of She The People with The Second City HERE