‘Frost/Nixon’ – a wily game of cat and mouse at TheatreWorks

By Ande Jacobson

News as entertainment isn’t a new phenomenon. In the 1970s, a real-life crime drama took center stage when the Watergate investigation jumped into high gear, ultimately resulting in the first ever resignation of a U.S. President. The crimes took place in the months leading up to the 1972 general election, but the public’s outrage didn’t reach record levels until two years later, when the latest TheatreWorks production’s story begins. The 2006 play, Frost/Nixon, written by Peter Morgan, opens with Nixon’s 8 August 1974 announcement that he would resign. The end of an era perhaps, but the beginning of a great hunger amongst the U.S. public. A hunger that would only be satiated if, and when, President Nixon did three things:

  1. Admit that he committed criminal acts of wrongdoing.
  2. Admit that he abused the power he had as president.
  3. Apologize for the agony that he inflicted upon the American public.

A tall order for a man who famously answered an interview question with “Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.” Of course, in follow-up discussion on that answer, he added that he came to realize that not everyone agreed with him on that particular point. Continue reading

Advertisements

SJ SaxMas is coming to town!

SaxMas for the last time at Vallco in 2017

By Ande Jacobson

For some, the holiday season starts when decorations begin appearing all over town, which these days could happen as early as July. For others, it’s Thanksgiving. That feast signals the start of gatherings with friends, family, colleagues, or even among friendly strangers on the street. For others still, it’s when those ubiquitous brass quintets start playing all over enticing listeners to drop a few cents (or dollars) into their bright red kettles. None of those can hold a candle to the thrill that has enthralled San Jose on the third Saturday of December for over two decades (in 2018, it’s the 15th, the earliest possible date). That fateful day marks the holiday tradition known as the San Jose Saxophone Christmas, or SJ SaxMas for short. This year marks the 25th Annual SJ SaxMas, and it’s set to be the biggest yet. Continue reading

PYT’s Willy Wonka lets the imagination soar

By Ande Jacobson

Although the show has already opened and continues only through the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2018, this isn’t a review. A review wouldn’t be proper given this reviewer is leading the orchestra for PYT’s current production of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka. This is instead a bit of an introduction, and a notification to not miss a holiday lead-in that will whet the appetite and get audiences into a festive mood in time for Thanksgiving. And of course there is lots of chocolate on stage (in the pit, backstage…).

The story started out as a beloved children’s novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, written by British author Roald Dahl in 1964. Children of the 1960’s and 1970’s will likely remember it fondly, with its tale of a magical factory making the most mind-boggling treats imaginable. It is said that Dahl’s personal experience with chocolate companies as a boy inspired the story. In his native England, Cadbury used panels of schoolchildren to test their new creations. In Dahl’s novel, his alter ego, Charlie Bucket, along with four other lucky children including Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, and Mike Teavee, find the magical golden tickets that give them access to tour Wonka’s factory. Charlie’s Grandpa Joe used to work at that factory until it closed its doors years before. Along the way, before Charlie finds his ticket, Grandpa Joe tells Charlie the most amazing stories from his time there.

In 1971, Dahl’s story reached the big screen in a whimsical film entitled Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder as the mysterious and reclusive Willy Wonka. The movie was later adapted for the stage, first in 2004. This original stage production contains elements from both the novel and the film. With permission from the Dahl estate, Tim McDonald and Leslie Bricusse wrote the script. Bricusse also started with the music and lyrics that he and longtime musical collaborator, Anthony Newley, wrote for the film and added some new songs for the stage presentation. Newley was not involved in the stage adaptation as he had died before work began.

There have been later film and stage adaptations entitled Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but PYT’s production is the original Willy Wonka stage version.

Director/choreographer Meg Fischer-Venuti and vocal director Holly Smolik have shaped two very large and enthusiastic casts (actors are ages 8-18) to bring their vision to life with an energy that is contagious. To enhance the visuals, Andrew Breithaupt’s sets, Leonardo Hidalgo’s lighting design, and Char DeRoin’s costumes all combine to titillate the imagination.

The music in this show is also beautiful and very well-orchestrated. The score has most of the music from the original movie, plus some additional charts that were expanded for the stage. Memorable hits include Pure Imagination, several Oompa Loompa songs that get inside your head, Think Positive, and I’ve Got a Golden Ticket. A personal favorite is also I See It All On TV which is kind of an eerie tango.

As previously mentioned, there will be no A Good Reed Review review of this one as I will be on the podium leading the very talented community orchestra. The musicians include: woodwinds: Doreen Oroshnik, Joel Greene, Rebecca Ritger, Kathy Switky, Bev Hansberry, Jordan Selburn; strings: Jaime Yuen, Ethan Dea, Rob Gloster, Jonathan Erman, Michael Firefly Perry; brass: Susan Schadeck-Chase, Ricky Martinez, Ricky Hall, Jim Deloach, Joe Kelly, Jason Loveman; keyboards: Del Quan, Doug Forsyth; and percussion: Carlos Velascos. Not all musicians will be playing every performance.

This is an imaginative, “feel good” show with a great message, and of course lots of chocolate. Get your tickets now before they are all gone.

What: Roald Dahl’s Willly Wonka

Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro Street, Mountain View, CA.

When: 10-18 November 2018, see: Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka at PYT for more information.


Additional references:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (book)
Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka (Leslie Bricusse Songbook)


A Good Reed Review also gratefully accepts donations via PayPal to help defray the costs of maintaining this site without creating paywalls.
Donate with PayPal

BayOp shows what can happen when women are pirates and kings

By Ande Jacobson

Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance has long been an audience favorite ever since it debuted in New York City in 1879 (just barely). Billed as a comic opera, it’s a little closer in style to our modern Broadway musical format than some of the other works in the Gilbert and Sullivan (G&S) oeuvre. Like much of their work, it pokes fun at 19th Century life, exaggerating stereotypical societal roles and attitudes for the sake of humor. The storyline is typical G&S fare. A young man is accidentally indentured as an apprentice (and accompanied by his nurse) to a pirate instead of a pilot until he reaches his 21st birthday (not to be confused with his 21st year of life). Shortly before his release, he falls instantly in love with the daughter of a Major-General, and the two seem fated to spend the rest of their lives together, that is until a rather unique paradox complicates their lives. Now for the Bay Area Opera Collaborative (BayOp) production, strike that, reverse it (with respect to gender anyway), and you’ll find that all of the humor remains and even grows beyond expectation. Continue reading

‘Tarzan’ swings into Palo Alto in style

By Ande Jacobson

Palo Alto Players’ Tarzan is a Disney favorite suitable for all members of the family. The show is based on the 1999 animated film of the same name, with music and lyrics by Phil Collins and book by David Henry Hwang. The original Broadway show made its debut in 2006 and has delighted audiences worldwide since then. It’s a visually spectacular show with actors singing and swinging across the stage (and over the audience at times). In true Disney form, the heroes and villains loom large, and the story careens through a fairytale sequence of tragedy, joy, suspense, and finally, exuberant triumph in the familiar tale of two worlds colliding in the jungle. Continue reading

“Good fences make good friends” in TheatreWorks’ ‘Native Gardens’

By Ande Jacobson

The regional premiere of a crisp, new Karen Zacarías play is the latest TheatreWorks production. Native Gardens is a very topical take on just what it means to be a good neighbor when a young couple moves into an old, established Washington, DC neighborhood. This tight, 90 minute production, presented without intermission, covers many of the issues facing the U.S. today through an extended interaction between neighbors starting with the best of intentions. Initially welcoming and friendly, the old neighbors meet the new neighbors. Over the course of the play, an intense backyard drama ensues over the position of the fence dividing the two properties. The dispute takes on monumental proportions and serves as a microcosm of the country, and perhaps even the world at large as the Butleys fight for the status quo on their side of the fence, while the Del Valles challenge their long-held views of their neighborhood, their culture, and their property’s borders. The story is at turns gentle, humorous, contentious, and thought-provoking, challenging audiences to perhaps consider a neighborly border dispute in a new light. Zacarías penned the story in 2015, and it has increased in its societal relevance ever since. Continue reading

Stanford Rep celebrates female ingenuity strikingly combining Euripides’ ‘Hecuba’ and ‘Helen’

By Ande Jacobson

This summer, Stanford Repertory Theater’s festival is aptly entitled Nevertheless They Persisted in tribute to the strength and perseverance of women throughout history striving to overcome oppression. Rush Rehm again helms the live theatrical portion of the festival, directing a work that he and Courtney Walsh (the star of the production) adapted and combined from two of Euripides’ plays, Hecuba and Helen. This new adaptation, Hecuba/Helen, is presented in two acts running approximately two hours including a short intermission. Rehm, a professor of Theater and Classics, has long noted the relevance and value of Greek tragedies, and through a stroke of inspiration pursued combining these two stories of strong women from a time and patriarchal culture when women had no official power. He sees many lessons for today’s societal turmoil in these ancient writings and is excited to bring this adaptation to Stanford Rep audiences. In his program note, Rehm reveals the relevance of Euripides’ writings from a societal perspective:

“Disturbing and terrible, recognizable and even funny, Euripides’ plays have much to offer us – a society that aggressively denies its own obvious limitations and has so little interest in the lessons of the past.”

Continue reading

‘The Sound of Music’ is enthralling audiences at FMT this summer

By Ande Jacobson

This year, Foothill Music Theatre (FMT) is presenting that long-time family favorite, The Sound of Music. The show, with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, and book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse, made its Broadway debut in 1959 with Mary Martin heading the cast as Maria. Today, far more people are familiar with the 1965 film version of the show as they picture Julie Andrews singing at the top of her lungs while running around an enchanting Alpine meadow. There’s a lot to love about The Sound of Music, and it has made the stage rounds in regional, community, and scholastic theaters for decades. The music is familiar to theater-goers young and old, and the story is touching with more than a hint of danger, a danger that has recently become all too recognizable. Long time standards from the show (and the movie) include “Edelweiss”, “My Favorite Things”, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain”, “Do-Re-Mi”, and the title song, “The Sound of Music”. There are a number of lesser known songs as well. The stage version has a few songs that were not in the movie and vice versa. FMT’s production keeps the best songs unique to the stage version, and adds a couple written for the movie to make the show more familiar to newer audiences. Continue reading

Redwood City Players’ ‘Dogfight’ brings the company to life

By Ande Jacobson

In 2013, Raissa Marchetti-Kozlov realized a portion of a dream she has held from the time she was 18. In working toward her goal of owning (and running) a theater company, she began doing some independent consulting working with San Francisco Bay Area schools on inclusive programs in theater arts. Over time, her outreach grew to include community theater groups in addition to several local schools. Her program provides training to inspire performers, designers, and technicians in theater arts and assists with various theatrical productions of both classical and new works. In 2016, her program formally became Redwood City Players (RCP). Now in July 2018, her company is mounting the first production of its own. That production is Dogfight, sponsored under the Fractured Atlas 501(c)(3) public charity, and the show opens on 14 July in McDonald Hall on the Redwood City American Legion post. Continue reading

‘Homo Deus’ – will AIs replace Homo sapiens?

By Ande Jacobson

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, is the second, recent, international best seller by Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari. In it, Harari draws heavily on his previous book (also an international best seller) Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. In fact, Homo Deus can stand alone and give the reader a nice synopsis of the earlier work. Harari compresses his previous book’s crucial concepts about the various developmental revolutions that humanity has weathered into half as many pages before broadening those concepts and presenting some possibilities of where humankind might be headed in the twenty-first century and beyond. Homo Deus was first published in an Israeli Hebrew edition in 2015. The first English translation appeared in the UK in 2016, and it finally made it to the United States market in 2017. As of spring 2018, it has been translated (in order) into English, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Chinese, German, Dutch, Hungarian, Croatian, Italian, Korean, French, Norwegian, Greek, Czech, Lithuanian, Romanian, Russian, and Bulgarian. While it hasn’t quite caught up to the 45 languages Harari’s earlier work has so far appeared in, this latest book is well on its way. Continue reading