Performance Riverside introduced its patrons to the musical theater genre known as the Concert Staged Reading in last night’s script-in-hand, one-performance-only “reading” of Ahrens and Flaherty’s A Man Of No Importance. And the result?

A nearly flawless production entirely deserving of its standing ovation.
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A title that rings a bell for older musical theater buffs, but one that might not be familiar to anyone under a certain age. A score by songwriters whose better known shows keep getting revived and revived, but not this one. Songs that became hits even though the musical they came from did not. A book that, as they say, “needs work.”

It’s precisely for musicals like 1965’s On A Clear Day You Can See Forever that the “concert staged reading” was designed.
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Musical Theatre Guild closes its strongest season in years with an imaginatively staged, powerfully performed “concert staged reading” of the 1975 Broadway hit Shenandoah.
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Tony-nominated musicals of the 1950s fall largely into two categories. There are those that have made such a lasting impression that hardly a year goes by without regional theater revivals galore. Shows like South Pacific, Guys And Dolls, The King And I, West Side Story, Damn Yankees, My Fair Lady, and The Music Man make this list. The rest are mostly long-forgotten chestnuts that nonetheless merit a “concert staged reading” from time to time, if only for nostalgia’s sake. Take for instance Pipe Dream, Redhead, or New Girl In Town.

Then there’s Bells Are Ringing, which in spite of a Tony-nominated Broadway revival in 2001, has largely faded into obscurity despite at least three popular standards (“Long Before I Knew You,” “Just in Time,” and “The Party’s Over”) written by the incomparable Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, and a book that continues to delight five and a half decades later. If ever there were a show in Category B which deserved to be in Category A, Bells Are Ringing is that show, as Sunday’s Musical Theatre West concert staged reading made abundantly clear.
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Musical Theatre Guild continued its finest season in years with Monday evening’s one-night-only concert staged reading of William Finn’s A New Brain, so brilliantly directed (by Todd Nielsen) and performed with such polish and panache that it came close to meriting the words “fully staged,” quite an achievement considering that the entire shebang was put together with a mere twenty-five hours of rehearsal.
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Here’s a trivia question for you: What do these eight Broadway musicals of the 1950s have in common?

Plain And Fancy, Pipe Dream, New Girl In Town, Oh, Captain!, Jamaica, La Plume De Ma Tante, Take Me Along, Redhead, and Fiorello!
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One of the largely unsung Broadway musical treasures of the early 2000s now provides ten of the most talented L.A.-based performers to shine as Musical Theatre Guild presents its concert staged reading of Little Women, with just one performance remaining.
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Musical Theatre Guild’s awesome one-night-only “concert staged reading” of the 2006 Broadway flop High Fidelity has confirmed what Hunger Artists’ West Coast Premiere first suggested in July. I am madly in love with HiFi, and if the cheers which greeted last night’s reading are any indication, I am not the only one who feels this way.

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