LITTLE ME


It takes directorial brilliance (and balls) to take a Broadway show with a cast of thirty-six playing more than three dozen roles and stage it with a mere nine performers and no set design other than one comfy armchair and pull it off, but pull it off director David Lamoureux and his cast of nine did on Sunday as Musical Theatre West opened its Reiner Reading Series’ fourth season with the 1962 Broadway gem Little Me.
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WONDERFUL TOWN


From autobiographical short story collection to play to movie to Broadway musical to musical movie (but with different songs) to TV series. Few musical comedies have had as many incarnations as 1953’s Wonderful Town, and though Broadway revived it in 2003, this Golden Era hit has faded a bit too much into obscurity to join perennial 1950s favorites like Damn Yankees and The Pajama Game onto any major theater’s annual season—making it a perfect choice for Musical Theatre Guild to revive for one night only as the first of their 2013-2014 “concert staged reading” treats.
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CITY OF ANGELS


They said it couldn’t be done, but Musical Theatre West went and did it—gave a sold-out house Broadway’s Tony-winning Best Musical of 1989 City Of Angels in concert staged reading form (i.e., without the design elements so much a part of its Broadway and post-Broadway success), and come out with a winner—and all with a mere twenty-five hours of rehearsal.
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KISMET


A dozen supremely talented musical theater triple-threats and an inspired director-choreographer joined forces this past weekend to bring back the Golden Age Broadway hit Kismet, demonstrating once again that the “concert staged reading” may well be the very best way to revive forgotten musical theater gems.
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GIRL CRAZY


Musical theater lovers who might have wondered just how revolutionary Oklahoma! was when it redefined the Broadway musical in 1944 got a tangy taste of what came before it at Monday night’s terrifically entertaining Musical Theatre Guild concert staged reading of George and Ira Gershwin’s Girl Crazy.

Fully integrated songs and dances? No way. Lyrics that advanced the plot? Forget it. Serious subject matter? You must be kidding! And as for 21st Century political correctness, there was no such thing back in 1930 when Jews, Mexicans, Gypsies, Asians, Gays, Women, you name it, were deemed joke-worthy.
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A CATERED AFFAIR


While it may be true that no musical is too big for Broadway, Spider Man being a case in point, it’s equally true that some musicals are simply too small, too intimate, too “chamber” to make it on the Great White Way, one more reason to celebrate Musical Theatre Guild for bringing these delicate gems back to life, if only for an evening or afternoon of musical theater bliss.

Such is the case with 2008’s A Catered Affair, which despite its pedigree (music and lyrics by John Bucchino and book by Harvey Fierstein, based on a screenplay by Gore Vidal and a teleplay Paddy Chayefsky) and a cast which included Tom Wopat, Faith Prinze, and Fierstein, closed on Broadway after a mere 143 performances and previews.
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THE SECRET GARDEN


You’d think that theaters in search of grown-up entertainment for the entire family would be jumping at the chance to program Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman’s musical adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic children’s novel The Secret Garden. 709 performances on Broadway, seven Tony Award nominations and two wins (for Norman’s book and Daisy Eagan’s performance as Mary). And as if that weren’t already enough, Norman’s book pays as much attention to the novel’s adult characters as it does its children while show’s Tony-nominated songs (music by Simon, lyrics by Norman) capture ever so gorgeously the sound and feel of the Yorkshire moors.

You’d think that this would be true, but you’d be wrong. The Secret Garden hasn’t had a big stage L.A.-area professional production for over a dozen years, all the more reason for Musical Theatre West to add it to this season’s Reiner Reading Series, a one-night-only event that not only brought Burnett’s classic story to unforgettable life, it did so after a mere twenty-five hours of rehearsal.
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CHESS


After their phenomenal concert staged reading of Titanic The Musical, a production I dubbed “one of Musical Theatre Guild’s crowning achievements,” you might think that the triple-threats of MTG would want to take it easy for the rest of the 2012-2013 season.

Not so, as last night’s titanic staging of Chess (In Concert) at Glendale’s Alex Theatre made abundantly clear, and for those who missed this phenomenal achievement, you have but one more chance to catch it this coming Sunday afternoon in Thousand Oaks.
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