Posts Tagged ‘Reiner Reading Series’


Whimsical French chamber musicals and Broadway rarely if ever mix, no matter how tuneful, no matter how many Tony nominations they score, witness the 2002 flop Amour. They do, however, make for magical concert staged readings, witness Musical Theatre West’s one-night-only reading of the Best Musical/Best Score-nominated Michel Legrand gem.
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They don’t write shows like Li’l Abner anymore, and not just because the 1956 musical adaptation of the Al Capp comic strip pretty much defines political incorrectness. With its Original Broadway Cast of fifty-four, only schools and community playhouses could possibly hope to produce this musical behemoth in 2016—which makes it a perfect choice for the theatrical genre known as the Concert Staged Reading, proof positive of which was evidenced at Musical Theatre West’s Daisy Maezing one-night-only Reiner Reading Series latest.
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The dynamite performances delivered by Chris Warren Gilbert and Jill Van Velzer in Musical Theatre West’s Reiner Reading Series concert staged reading of the 1978 Tony winner On The Twentieth Century are just two of the many reasons for someone, anyone, to give the Cy Coleman, Betty Comden, and Adolph Green gem the fully-staged SoCal revival it so richly deserves.
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Musical Theatre West’s Reiner Reading Series has once again done what it does best—treat Broadway buffs to a one-night-only almost fully-staged revival of a show unlikely to get an extended MTW run—in this case Rodgers & Hart’s Pal Joey, which despite the unsympathetic characters who populate John O’Hara’s often unengaging book proves a showcase for a couple of R&H’s best known song classics (and for the triple-threats who perform them and many more).
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That go-getting whiz kid J. Pierpont Finch once again zipped his way up the corporate ladder this past Sunday as Musical Theatre West’s Reiner Reading Series dazzled yet again (and with a mere 25 hours of rehearsal) in their one-night-only concert staged revival of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying.
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Here’s a thought for schools considering yet another production of Grease, Bye Bye Birdie, or High School Musical. How about having a go at the quintessential “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show!” show, Rodgers & Hart’s Babes In Arms, and not the “sanitized, de-politicized rewrite” that debuted in 1959 but the 1937 original, political incorrectness be damned. As anyone attending Sunday’s one-night-only Concert Staged Reading at Musical Theatre West can tell you, there’s not a funnier, dancier, or more gorgeously tuneful show for up-and-coming musical theater majors to show off their triple-threat talents than Babes In Arms 1.0.

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Though I’d be hard pressed to pick just one of the fifty concert staged readings reviewed here as the Absolute Best Concert Staged Reading Ever, I can’t recall a more spectacularly staged “reading” of a Broadway musical than last night’s Reiner Reading Series staging of Kander & Ebb’s Steel Pier.
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A pair of stellar lead performances, a topnotch supporting cast, and direction by the musical’s original leading lady bring out the best in the never-made-it-to-Broadway Busker Alley, Musical Theatre West’s Reiner Reading Series 2013-14 season closer. Still, despite some terrific Sherman Brothers songs, it’s hard to become invested in the story of as sad sack a lead character as street entertainer Charlie Baxter, even as played with abundant pizzazz by triple-threat extraordinaire James Leo Ryan.
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