L.A.’s uber-popular For The Record franchise once again dazzles, this time with an absolutely stunning Broadway-scale, Broadway-caliber For The Record: Scorsese – American Crime Requiem at Beverly Hills’ sumptuous Wallis Annenberg Theatre.
Like For The Records before it, American Crime Requiem follows creative partners Anderson Davis, Shane Scheel, and Jesse Vargas’s proven formula for audience-captivating success.
Take an iconic filmmaker (John Hughes, Baz Luhrmann, and Quentin Tarantino have also gotten For The Record treatment), reenact iconic sequences from his movies in a nightclub setting, stir in two or three dozen hit songs made even more iconic for their inclusion in said filmmaker’s oeuvre, and perhaps most importantly, hire some of the most sensational vocalist/actors in town to bring the show to thrilling, fiery life.
Now, six years after its intimate Show At Barre debut, Scorsese – American Crime Requiem makes it clear that For The Record has what it takes to mesmerize a 500-seat theater crowd even when they’re no longer seated smack dab in the middle of the show.
Make a list of your top five Scorsese movies and chances are at least a couple of them find themselves saluted in American Crime Requiem, directed by co-creator Davis with consummate flair.
Jersey Boys’ John Lloyd Young brings Broadway star power and Frankie Valli pipes to Casino’s Sam Rothstein opposite 2016 Best Actress Tony nominee Carmen Cusack’s electrifying Ginger. Zak Resnick, Jason Paige, B. Slade, and American Idol sensation Pia Toscano recreate Goodfellas’ Henry, Frankie, Stacks, and Karen to pulse-pounding, rafters-reaching effect.
Not only do these twelve Broadway/movie/recording stars act the hell out of Scorsese scenes you’ll either remember or want to check out on Netflix, they show off some of the most gorgeous power vocals in town in songs that run the gamut from ‘60s girl group pop (“Be My Baby,” “I Will Follow Him”) to classic R&B (“Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” “The Thrill Is Gone”) to Mick Jagger (“Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”) to Patsy Cline (“I’m Sorry,” “Sweet Dreams”) to Old Blue Eyes himself (“My Way”).
(Note to the prudish or faint-hearted: It’s Martin Scorsese, so expect to be bombarded by the F-bomb even as cast members get bombarded by bullet after bullet after bullet.)
Scenic designers Matt Steinbrenner and Kyle Courter have transformed the Bram Goldsmith Theater stage into a mammoth, multilevel Vegas-style nightclub, onstage seating for a couple dozen audience members giving the show a hint of the original For The Record feel.
Lighting designers Dan Efros and Michael Berger provide Vegas-ready flash, Steve Mazurek costumes the cast with Vegas/Scorsese flair, and sound designer Ben Soldate mixes vocals and instrumentals to finely-tuned perfection.
Add to the above RJ Durell and Nick Florez’s smoking-hot choreographic moves and music director Vargas’s sizzling seven-piece onstage band and you’ve got a production that, like Deaf West’s Spring Awakening before it, could well end up traveling cross-county from The Wallis to The Great White Way.
Also receiving deserved program credit are Cassie Russek (wig and makeup design), Carissa Huizenga (props master), Sumie Maeda (associate director), Vargas (music supervision and arrangements), and Siobhan O’Neill (AD Astra Live producer).
Lora K. Powell is production stage manager and Rick V. Moreno is assistant stage manager.
For The Record: Scorsese – American Crime Requiem ought to top every music, movie, and theater lover’s October must-see list. It makes for one bang-up night at the theater, with the accent on BANG!
Bram Goldsmith Theater, Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills.
September 29, 2016
Photos: Kevin Parry