The Pear is willing, wanting, and waiting for you to come see “Pygmalion”

pyg_pub1-4839By Ande Jacobson

The Pear’s audiences have been treated to a number of plays by George Bernard Shaw over the years, so it isn’t at all surprising that this season features Pygmalion coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the play. Many theatergoers are familiar with the popularized versions of the story from the stage and movie musicals entitled My Fair Lady. The musicals don’t quite capture the wit, bite, and unconventional nature of Shaw’s original play, as they are closer to classical romances with a love interest at the core. Pygmalion isn’t a love story. It’s a romance of provocative discovery, and The Pear’s production embraces the delicious display of Shaw’s views on the English class system. Continue reading

The language of love vs. the love of language

cltc-tla-the-fightBy Ande Jacobson

Few would argue that the primary purpose of language is communication. Still, there is a vast difference between transmission and reception between two people even when they ostensibly speak the same language. City Lights Theater Company’s current production of Julia Cho’s play, The Language Archive, takes a compelling look at the language of love vs. the love of language. Continue reading

Life’s bruises and beauty have purple in common

mkitaoka_140324_6311-color-purpleBy Ande Jacobson

Hillbarn’s final show of its 73rd season is The Color Purple, based on Alice Walker’s novel of the same name. The story winds its way through the bruises and beauty that life has to offer a poor black woman living in the Southern US from 1909-1945. This production is packed with emotion and power, and yes, plenty of purple.

Walker’s most famous work has enjoyed success in many forms making its debut in 1982 and becoming a Pulitzer Prize winning novel in 1983. The Steven Spielberg film adaptation followed soon thereafter. Finally, the musical adaptation (with book by Marsha Norman, and music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray) hit the Broadway stage in 2005. Continue reading

Join Tabard’s “Love, Laughter & Linguine” for its final weekend

LLLBy Ande Jacobson

Tabard Theatre Company finishes its season of “twists and turns” with Love, Laughter & Linguine. Written and directed by Cathy Spielberger Cassetta and Doug Baird, this production is a celebration of life as seen through the eyes of seven women. The story is ostensibly a memorial for a recently departed mentor and friend filled with fond remembrances, but the message is clear. Treasure those who are important to you always, and celebrate the joys that life has to offer. Continue reading

Climbing out of the pit

Fiddler_0332By Ande Jacobson

In the fall of 2012, A Good Reed Review published a commentary entitled “The role of the pit musician in musical theatre”. The article discussed the unique role pit musicians play along with some of the challenges they face. Part of that discussion focused on some of the differences between being a pit musician versus a cast member. While I am a pit musician and musical director (normally the reason for periodic breaks from publishing theatre reviews), last fall, a different opportunity presented itself. For a change of pace, I climbed out of the pit and onto the stage as a cast member in West Valley Light Opera’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, an experience which confirmed, amplified and expanded upon much of the discussion in my previous commentary. Continue reading

Big Pharma and romance can make for a complicated combination

rx-2By Ande Jacobson

Big Pharma has what many would say is a well-deserved reputation as being an industry solely focused on its profit margin. This theme is explored as Dragon Theatre Company opens its 2014, nine show season with Rx by Kate Fodor. Fodor’s script is a quirky satirical romance that also indicts Big Pharma. The plot follows one company’s pursuit of chemical solutions to non-problems as it convinces patients they are sick and that a pill can solve everything. Along the way, an unassuming researcher gets a bit too close to his study subject, and the resulting romance threatens both of their livelihoods. Continue reading

Join WVLO for FIDDLER ON THE ROOF opening on 9 November


By Ande Jacobson

The village of Anatevka has taken over the stage at the Saratoga Civic Theater as final preparations are under way for West Valley Light Opera’s FIDDLER ON THE ROOF. The excitement continues to build as opening night nears. The show is full of familiar songs such as “Tradition”, “If I Were a Rich Man”, “Sunrise, Sunset”, “To Life!”, and “Sabbath Prayer”. Come see dances such as the “Bottle Dance”. Enjoy the gentle humor and rousing celebrations by the exuberant villagers and be touched by their hope and spirit in the face of tragedy. Tickets are selling well, but WVLO would love to see a full house for the gala opening night on 9 November 2013. Please call 408-268-3777 or visit the WVLO website at to order your tickets now. You’ll be glad you did. Continue reading

“If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans”

MGL FamilyBy Ande Jacobson

As she was researching shows for this 13th season, the title Making God Laugh jumped out at Tabard’s executive director, Cathy Spielberger Cassetta. Intrigued, she started corresponding with the playwright, Sean Grennan. As she says in her program notes, she found “merit, wisdom, and folly in it” and decided to add this little yet-to-be-published gem as one of the “Twists” to the season. Grennan describes his play as a “dramedy that takes place in four scenes at a family home, each ten years apart.” First is a Thanksgiving dinner in 1980 and the play continues with one scene per decade until spring of 2010.  Grennan too has a program note and says “all playwrights have to write their Family play.” This is his, and Grennan’s characters are each familiar in some ways. The script is very funny, and he uses several pop-culture references both in musical quotes (e.g., “Jet Song” from West Side Story, “Everything’s Comin’ Up Roses” from Gypsy, Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind”) along with some period-specific failures (e.g., AMC’s Pacer, Yugo, Enron) to help hammer home the points he’s making. Continue reading

Magic from within

By Ande Jacobson

Everyone searches for meaning at some point in their lives. Some aspire to greatness, some aspire just to survive, and others are somewhere in between. Sunnyvale Community Players presents Pippin, the Roger O. Hirson and Stephen Schwartz musical that is very loosely based on the life story of Pippin the Hunchback, son of Charlemagne, as he searches for meaning in his life. The story is extremely disjoint. It has generous doses of farcical humor and cheap magic tricks (reminiscent of Godspell) mixed with threads of meaning if you look below the surface. Continue reading

Exploring the varied results of the Reardons’ rearing

miss-reardon-FBBy Ande Jacobson

Paul Zindel’s And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little isn’t your typical play although the plot is largely drawn from Zindel’s experience. He credits his early years with his eventually becoming a writer. He often retreated into his imagination to escape the drudgery of his family life after his father deserted them. He also had fortuitous timing as an undergraduate in taking a creative writing class taught by playwright Edward Albee who later became Zindel’s valued mentor and friend. Although Zindel majored in chemistry, spent some time in industry, and later taught high school chemistry, he indulged his love of writing in his spare time. After his death, his New York Times obituary reported, “…he never went to the theater, he said, until he was already a published playwright.” Continue reading