a kate west review
created by Normand Latourelle
directed by Erick Villeneuve
under the White Big Top
corner of Colorado & Central, downtown Glendale
April/May – Extended!!! Tix $59 - $79, V.I.P. $175
Contact (866) 999-8111 or

For those of you fully entrenched in the endlessly fascinating and diverse world of the equine, the magic of “Cavalia” is a dream come true. Created by Nomand Latourelle (co-founder of the world-renowned mystical world of Cirque du Soleil) and directed by Erick Villeneuve, “Cavalia” is a show of lights, acrobats, stunning visual projections and even more beautiful horses. In fact there are thirty-three of them: Arabians, Belgians, Lusitanos, Percherons and Quarter Horses and they are all magnificently impressive, even for those of us who know nothing about horses. And the people keep up the pace pretty nicely as well.

Direct from sold-out runs in San Francisco and all over Canada, this fabulous team of Canadian artists gives the crowd their money’s worth, leaping, bounding and dancing their merry way around the arena. Composer Michel Cusson and Costume Designer Mirelle Vachon provide a new age atmosphere and stylistic costumes while the technical crew also puts on a dazzling display of effects. Scenic Artist Marc Labelle and Lighting Designer Alain Lortie create one of the most imaginative sets this side of the Mississippi by ingeniously projecting a series of incredible images on the backdrop. It really has to be seen to be believed. Jerome Boisvert also does well with Sound Effects and Choreographers Brad Denys and Alain Gauthier provide captivating tribal-like dance numbers.

Then there are the fantastic co-directors: namely, Frederic Pignon (they call him a “horse-whisperer”) and his equally talented wife, Magali Delgado. They appear throughout the production, skillfully showing off the horses’ best tricks, including bowing to the audience (always a classic). It is amazing to watch their quiet rapport with these noble beasts. Each act showcases the highly skilled. Two standout numbers include riders thundering by on Quarter Horses with an astounding display of trick riding and also twirling acrobats high on trapeze swings, interacting with the horses and riders. From beginning to end, the horsemanship is remarkable. Trainer Andre St-Jean is to be applauded as well.

Although the show drags a bit for those of us not completely obsessed with horses, it is suitably entertaining and a huge step above your average circus act. Insider tip: purchasing the V.I.P. package gets you into the V.I.P. tent where the food is plentiful and the service impeccable. And after the show you can visit the stables and see the “artists” up close (no touching allowed) and ask their human companions for autographs. Well worth paying a little extra and watching the younger fans’ delight. This truly original production has something for everyone and is definitely an enchanting evening. Read more!

Hedwig and the Angry Itch

“Hedwig and the Angry Itch”
a kate west review
by John Cameron Mitchell, music & lyrics by Stephen Trask
directed by Derek Charles Livingston
at the Celebration Theatre
7051B Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 957-1884, Tix $25
Thursdays – Saturdays; April 17 – May 23, 2004

Diehard fans of the newly-touted cult classic film “Hedwig and the Angry Itch,” (or the original Broadway production) may need to be coaxed to see the Celebration Theatre’s recent production of the same name; however, they also may very well be surprised. Wade McCollum plays an intense Hedwig Schmidt, an East German transsexual suffering from a botched sex change operation. He may not match creator John Cameron Mitchell’s take on the character but still makes the part very much his own.

Hedwig regales the audience with tales of her East German childhood, her stoic mother, her first love and her escape into the fabulously wild world of rock and roll. McCollum’s light-hearted manner delights the audience, lulling us into joyous entertainment only to surprise us with the occasional emotional outburst, which he handles well. Haunted by her all-consuming passion to find her twin soul mate, Hedwig falls for up-and-coming rock star Tommy Gnosis who cannot deal with Hedwig’s shortcomings, so to speak (you’ll understand when you see the play) and naturally ends up breaking her heart.

Peppered with topical references (including a knock at George W.), Hedwig’s two hour rant (with no intermission) is supported by a sympathetic and talented crew of singers, dancers and musicians. Standouts include Trystan Angel Reese as former drag queen and new husband Yitzhak, William Belli as the surly ex-lover Tommy Gnosis and Lisa Robert as one of the versatile Angry Itch singers and Hedwig’s mother.

By the end of the production, the audience is on their feet cheering, pulling for Hedwig while we watch her many twists and turns on her emotional roller coaster. The story is amusing, sad, scandalous, entertaining, passionate and joyful. Hedwig is tragic, noble, lonely, sad, strong, funny and triumphant. The climax is a frenzy of dance, complete with strobe lights, exhausting the performers and the participatory spectators. While a more definitive ending would have brought enhanced closure, Hedwig’s final monologue still leaves us sympathetic and wanting more. And the music is fabulous. A wonderful endeavor by the Celebration Theatre.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch (New Line Platinum Series) Read more!

The Talking Cure

“The Talking Cure”
a kate west review
by Christopher Hampton; directed by Gordon Davidson
at the Mark Taper Forum

135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles 90012
April 4 –
May 23, 2004; call (213) 972-7376

The two most recognized names in Psychiatry, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, are often remembered together and although they did work closely for a time, they were very different. Tony-award winning playwright Christopher Hampton’s “The Talking Cure,” now at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum, illustrates these differences and relates the events leading to the two men’s inevitable estrangement. What distinquishes this story is the introduction of Sabina Spielrein, who, after suffering in a mental institution, is cured by Jung, has an affair with him and then becomes a reputable psychiatrist in her own right.

Harris Yulin is the stern, inflexible Freud and Sam Robards is the passionate and confused Jung. Abby Brammell plays the bright and promising Spielrein. The actors seem a bit stiff in the first half of the play but warm up by the second half, especially Robards.

Spielrein, suffering from a mental and sexual disorder, is brought in to the Burgholzli Mental Hospital in Zurich, Switzerland, where she meets Jung. He is ecstatic at the prospect of trying out his mentor’s (Freud) new “talking cure” on an actual patient. He believes he can cure her by delving into her childhood and talking her through her traumas. He is so swept away with euphoria when he succeeds that he falls in love with her, dismissing any suggestion of transference* and betrays his wife, family and Freud, the father figure. This leads to much feuding and by the end, Jung is friends with no one and although he is no longer seeing Spielrein, she implores him to reconcile with Freud, but it is not to be. She feels the two men are very much the same but Jung vehemently disagrees.

The play is essentially a live essay on the theories and practices of these three vibrantly intelligent forward-thinkers but does not offer any particular insight. While it is interesting to note how the radical new ideas of the early 1900’s must have seemed remarkably extreme back then, we tend to take the terminology for granted today. Although most people are unaware of the nature of the relationships among the three, we are still left feeling that there is no real added dimension to the story.

Set Designer Peter Wexler creates a fascinatingly simple set, which is at first a mental hospital which he converts into Freud’s office, an ocean liner and finally a beautiful backyard garden, all by moving a few pieces of furniture and changing the lighting. Its stark economy is impressive. The directing and acting are fairly solid but aside from learning about Spielrein, we learn nothing much new.

*The process by which emotions and desires originally associated with one person, such as a parent or sibling, are unconsciously shifted to another person, especially to the analyst.

The Talking Cure Read more!


a kate west review
music & lyrics by Mark Hollmann; book & lyrics by Greg Kotis
directed by
John Rando
at the Wilshire Theatre

8440 Wilshire Blvd., east of La Cienga, Beverly Hills
Running through
May 23, 2004; call (323) 468-1770 now!
or visit

The Tony-award winning Broadway hit, “Urinetown,” a spectacularly original fun new show, has finally arrived in
Los Angeles direct from New York City for oh, too short a time. From Chicago’s hip theatre scene, Mark Hoffmann and Greg Kotis collaborated to invent an unusual story about water shortage, of all things. And with characters like Officers Lockstock and Barrel, you know you’re in for a fun ride.

Scenic Designer Scott Pask creates the first startling impression with his stark, metallic grey set, made up of prison walkways and roving spotlights (thank Light Designer Brian MacDevitt). Cast members also occasionally use flashlights to create a semi-ominous atmosphere. Director John Rando’s inspired blocking (stage movement) keeps the action moving quickly and the choreography is equally wonderful.

The story revolves around two star-crossed lovers: wistful Hope Cladwell (the lyrically beautiful Christiane Noll) and heroically handsome Bobby Strong (the delightful Charlie Pollock) trapped in an uncompromising town where everyone must pay to use a restroom. Hence the odd title “Urinetown.” Tragically, Hope is the only daughter of the tyrannical Caldwell B. Cladwell (Ron Holgate) who has the poor in a vice-grip of evil. Bobby is the leader of the underground revolution demanding free toilets and an ample water supply.

Not to give away plot points, but this union cannot end well.

We eventually discover that Urinetown is actually a euphemism for discarding the unwanted (i.e. killing the poor). Recounting these important plot details, Jeff McCarthy is a definite standout as Officer Lockstock, also acting as the Narrator. His expansive method and side winks at the front row fit in perfectly with the fantastically peculiar style of the show. His sidekick, the adorable Meghan Strange as perky Little Sally, helps to move the plot along, including the audience in scores of inside jokes. The entire cast is quite strong (Christiane Noll is like a young Madeline Kahn) and the entire production is blissfully entertaining, especially the second act.

Highly recommended as great fun, a good night and the newest hot ticket in town.

Get the Soundtrack:

Urinetown (2001 Original Off-Broadway Cast)

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The Royal Family

“The Royal Family”
a kate west review
by George S. Kaufman & Edna Ferber; directed by Tom Moore
at the Ahmanson Theatre/Center Theatre Group/
L.A. Music Center
135 North Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90012
March 27 – May 16, 2004; Call 213-628-2772

Creators Edna Ferber and George S. Kaufman, flamboyant artistic voices from the early 1920’s, may have officially denied it, but “The Royal Family” is absolutely a portrait of the famous theatrical dynasty, the Barrymores. Currently running in downtown Los Angeles’ large venue, the Ahmanson Theatre, the latest production of “The Royal Family” is an extravagantly nostalgic dramatic romp designed to be a crowd pleaser.

The matriarchal head of the “Cavendish” (a.k.a. Barrymore) clan is Grand mere Fanny Cavendish, gloriously portrayed by stage diva Marian Seldes. Her daughter Julie, normally played by Kate Mulgrew, is aptly played by understudy and local stage veteran Jenna Cole at this particular Sunday matinee. Rounding out the family cast is spunky granddaughter Gwen (Melinda Page Hamilton) and swashbuckler brother/uncle Anthony (the suave Daniel Gerroll).The entire artistic brood is in constant uproar throughout the play, exiting and entering in proper melodramatic manner. The Cavendish family has been comprised of world famous actors dating back to their ancestry. They are expected to love the theater and to act ‘til they drop as did poor old Grandfather Cavendish.

Blustering George S. Irving as theatrical manager Oscar Wolfe and equally vociferous Charles Kimbrough as Herbert Dean dart in and out of the household, contributing to the general noise and clamor. Adding to the mayhem are frantic stereotypical servants (Ellia English and Alan Mandell) running around as well as five live dogs, while extraordinarily well-trained, are naturally distracting as they run up and down steps and jump on chairs.

Perplexed outsiders Gilbert Marshall (Richard Cox) and Perry Stewart (Robert L. Devaney) attempt to the win the hands and hearts of Julie and Gwen respectively, hopelessly trying to become more important to the women than the Cavendish’s fanatical devotion to their theatrical careers and family. Both women struggle between wanting a normal life and wanting to be loved. The family naturally loudly discusses this dilemma endlessly. The issue is never fully resolved, as Gwen marries and has a child but still longs to return to the stage and Julie decides to marry Gilbert but has doubts of her own. She does not want her only daughter Gwen to end up alone as she did and yet cannot bear for her to give up her heart’s desire. The puzzling ending (no fear – it will not be given away here!) does not offer any illumination.

Set Designer Douglas W. Schmidt creates a clever set, a cross between a realistic mansion-style home (with gorgeous floors, rugs and furniture) and an obvious stage “set” with painted murals and exaggerated colors. This atmosphere encourages applause when the curtain first goes up as do all the usual theatrical manipulative devices such as grand gestures and Noel Coward style delivery. All in all, it is a rather empty piece and while director Tom Moore has the actors make the most of playing as melodramatic as possible this exaggerated technique grows rather tiresome. Unfortunately, the play is not particularly inspirational or deeply interesting in spite of the obvious effort of the unrestrained actors.

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Twelfth Night

“Twelfth Night”
a kate west review
by William Shakespeare
at A Noise Within

234 S. Brand Blvd. Glendale
March 19 – May 16 (818) 240-0910

One of William Shakespeare’s most popular and oft-performed works, “Twelfth Night,” is the story of Viola, who is separated from her twin brother Sebastian after a shipwreck, then disguises herself as the loyal male servant Cesario in order to serve the handsome Duke Orsino. We learn early on that Orsino is desperately in love with the beautiful Countess Olivia, who steadfastly and heartlessly opposes the match. Meanwhile, Viola (as Cesario) finds herself in the compromising position of wooing Olivia for her master and realizing she is in love with Orsino, while Olivia, mistaking Viola for a youthful, fine-looking man, falls for the deceptively charming Cesario (Viola).

Confused? No worries. All gets sorted out cleverly in the end in classic Shakespearean style. Viola is reunited with her long-lost twin brother Sebastian, Orsino finds out that Cesario is really Viola and lovingly asks for her hand, Olivia falls for the attractive Sebastian, the thoroughly unpleasant manservant Malvolio gets his comeuppance and the audience rejoices.

As far as this production goes, the versatile and gifted Julie Coffey is quite good as Viola, giving excellent line readings and aptly aiding director Kris Tabori in creating a truly audience-accessible production. J. Todd Adams as Orsino, Robertson Dean as Sir Toby Belch (Olivia’s uncle) and Tessa Thompson as Olivia are all equally strong. Cynthia Beckert is the subtle, yet mischievous maidservant Maria and Hamilton Camp does a nice turn as the comic relief, playing the ridiculous Sir Andrew Aguecheek, another hopeless suitor to Olivia. Alan Brooks plays a somber, yet delightfully twisted Malvolio and the rest of the cast is fairly strong, especially standout Mark Bramhall, as the sharply intelligent court fool, Feste, who serves as an impish go-between for many of the characters.

Set Designer Trefoni Michael Rizzi creates a generically peaceful Mediterranean-style set and the scenes flow together smoothly. Modern audiences must take all the obvious disguises with a grain of salt, but we are nonetheless entertained by the consummate skill of the Bard and the simplicity of the emotion in the story. It might be fun to see actual identical twins cast in a production of “Twelfth Night,” but barring that, A Noise Within does a fine job of justifying classic mistaken identity. This is a nicely entertaining and likeable production. The perfect light menu for such a hot summer.

Read it:
Twelfth Night (Folger Shakespeare Library) Read more!