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Do You Think You Know Gene Kelly?

"Singing in the Rain." Photo courtesy of Patrica Ward Kelly.

Teasing apart the movie musical a few years back, cultural critic Gilberto Perez wrote that each successful musical positions one of two figures of the artist in the fore: either the performer or the director. Sometimes, as in "The Band Wagon," we actually see the two figures characterized on film, fighting for prominence. But usually, one of the two figures subtly dominates the artistic creation and lingers in our minds. "Whereas in the Astaire musical the artist is the performer," Perez writes, " the artist in a Berkeley musical is above all … [Read more...]

Teatro Zinzanni Comes to Southern California

Norm Langille. Photo: Lawrence K. Ho for the Los Angeles Times.

[first published in the L.A. Times] As the outré Euro-style dinner-theater called Teatro ZinZanni parks its vintage 1910 Belgian spiegeltent on the scrubbed architectural grounds of the Segerstrom Center for the Arts for the next three months, there's much cooing among the ZinZanni staff about the luxuries of this Costa Mesa locale. "Marble bathrooms," says associate artistic director Reenie Duff. "It's a huge deal." On a break from retooling scenes for the three-hour vaudeville revue "Love, Dinner & Chaos," ZinZanni Artistic Director … [Read more...]

Bring it On!

Professional cheerleaders featured in the cast of "Bring it On"

[This piece first ran in the Los Angeles Times.] At the pre-show warm-up for "Bring It On: The Musical," performers in their 20s are stretching and assuming yoga postures, others are jumping rope or jogging softly in place. It's what you might expect from any cast of a musical. Then suddenly, downstage right, there's a complicated, unfamiliar moving shape that turns out to be a man flat on his back, doing fast, full push-ups into the air with a tiny young woman standing straight on his hands. A similar surprising amalgam of styles is being … [Read more...]

Billy Elliot in Spades

photo by Michael Brosilow

The film “Billy Elliot” is a masterpiece of storytelling economy. Alongside its most famous thread — a young boy’s discovery of ballet — Lee Hall portrayed the impotent rage of a redundant working-class population (it’s set during the year-long strike of the British National Union of Mineworkers), the insularity and conformity of small-town England (this is Geordie territory, a Northern region with its own distinct Anglo-Saxon dialect) and the choking shame of hidden secrets and public losses (Billy’s friend Michael hides his homosexuality; … [Read more...]

Behind the Scenes at Hanson’s Revolution

Dayna Hanson & Dave Proscia

"Gloria’s Cause" is choreographer Danya Hanson’s first full-bodied ensemble piece since her 33 Fainting Spells days, and she has packed it more fully, and dug more deeply, than anything she’s done before. If her early works with Gaelen Hanson were like dense short stories, and her later works with Hanson, Peggy Piacenza, and Linus Phillips were like brainy collage revues, this is like some kind of fierce, half-plotted operatic allegory. Billed as a “rock musical on the American Revolution,” it’s hard not to enter “Gloria’s Cause” as if on a … [Read more...]

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