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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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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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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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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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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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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Musical Theatre West’s One-Night-Only concert staged reading of 110 In The Shade, the 1963 Broadway musical adaptation of N. Richard Nash’s perennial favorite The Rainmaker, proved an entertaining, particularly well-timed treat for this reviewer, having only one week prior seen the very play which set the musical ball in motion.
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Legs Diamond died twice, the first time in a mob shootout on December 18, 1931, and then a second time on February 19, 1989, when the musical bearing the Prohibition-era gangster’s name died an ignominious death inside the soon-to-be-defunct-itself Mark Hellinger Theatre, the victim of too much hurried rewriting and a leading man who wasn’t quite the triple-threat the role of Legs required.

End of story, right?

Wrong, though it would have been without Michael Betts, co-producer of Musical Theatre West’s Reiner Reading Series, who fell in love with the musical’s Original Broadway Cast recording and refused to let go of a dream to bring Legs back to life, even if for One Night Only, a dream which came miraculously true on Sunday, December 2, 2012.
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