Jesus' Kid Brother
a kate west review
Music, lyrics & book by Brian & Mark Karmelich
Directed by Jules Aaron
Hudson Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd
Hollywood, CA (323) 856-4200
EXTENDED October 3 now through December -
Although critically touted as a Los Angeles hit sensation, the new musical "Jesus' Kid Brother" leaves much to be desired. From the excruciatingly simple lyrical score (think along the lines of "Jesus in school. He is so cool") to the wildly inappropriate final dance number, this production fails to hit an intelligent satirical mark. It is certainly no "Jesus Christ Superstar."
Director Jules Aaron does a solid job of blocking the piece, while the real stage dynamics are credited to Choreographer Brian Paul Mendoza. Yet however much the actors work at it, they cannot overcome the poor material.
The story revolves around Larry Christ (the name is already a hoot!), Jesus' kid brother, admirably portrayed by John Altieri (on alternate nights) who pours his heart into an uninspiring role.
Other standouts include Jeffrey Landman as an earnest Joseph and Amir Talai as a proud, tongue-in-cheek Pontius Pilate. Larry is feeling down being under the shadow of the Messiah, while his family and friends offer comfort. Joseph explains that family is all-important and that he needs to find his own way. Larry takes this advice to heart and sets out to find someone to share his life with. He runs into Mary (vocally way-too-uber-strong Katherine Von Till), daughter of mortal enemy Pontius Pilate.
They fall in love but naturally Mary is already betrothed to a Roman soldier and her parents would never let her marry a Jew. That headache, combined with all-consuming guilt over the villagers choosing to free his best friend Barabbas (Christopher Dean Briant) over his own brother Jesus Christ, forces Larry to stage a resurrection in order to keep Jesus' image alive.
Incredibly offensive as this might seem to some, the creators push the envelope even further with a dancing Jesus as well as a dancing crucified Roman soldier. Jesus' actual resurrection supposedly redeems his brother Larry but the sight of Christ in a phony beard only takes the mockery to another level. (Costumer Shon LeBlanc might want to rethink that look.).
A special note should also be made to Lighting Designer J. Kent Inasy not to leave chorus members in the dark.
The entire story is not worth retelling as it not a tale worth recounting. Suffice to say, there is a lot of poor story-telling, bad music, bad jokes, bad puns, obvious humor, little originality and never any true parody. You would be much better off spending the ticket price for this fiasco on purchasing Monty Python's brilliant social satire Life of Brian ( a convenient link can be found below...). Read more!
Jesus' Kid Brother
a kate west favorite
For those of you already familiar with the series, you know Psychiatrist Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) used to hang out in the Bostonian bar at Cheers (of the hit show of the same name) and then moved back home to Seattle, Washington to star in his own radio program. Spin-offs can be annoyingly lame corporate marketing attempts, but this one was really superior. Great writing, great characters and great acting sell it all. You may see a few familiar "Cheers"faces too.
The basics: Crane bonds with his estranged father, Martin Crane (John Mahoney), and fussbudget little brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce). His assistant Roz Doyle (Peri Gilpin) offers lots of sassy comedic moments, along with Dan Butler's neurotically overcompensating Bulldog Briscoe. Crane hires a kooky housekeeper, Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves) from Manchester, England, who inspires Niles to a true romantic ideal. I won't go into details here as most people have seen the show. And if not, do Netflix it.
What I really want to know is - how, in eleven whole seasons, did Niles never waver for his love for Daphne? C'mon, do guys really pine away like that? Is it really possible - the whole torch-carrying thing? I'm sorry, I don't want to be bitter, but every time a guy breaks up with me, he immediately starts dating again and 80% of the time finds his true love. Right after me. So does that make me easy to get over or just really good practice? O.K. that sounded a little bitter. And maybe a bit off the subject. Didn't mean to, just trying to figure guys out. And I don't get asked out all that much. I know, go figure. In real life, you know how it is - the guys you like don't like you back or you don't like the ones that like you. The trick is in two people liking each other at the same time. And then liking each other for a while. What are the odds.
But I guess that's part of the show's appeal. It's idealized romance, or what you want to be true. The characters are silly and flawed and still manage to find happiness. Granted, after a long, long time. Kudos, though, to the writers for leading us to hope that it can happen for us too.
So we'll see.
Kelsey Grammer - (Frasier Crane)
David Hyde Pierce - (Niles Crane)
John Mahoney - (Martin Crane)
Jane Leeves - (Daphne Moon)
Peri Gilpin - (Roz Doyle)
Dan Butler - (Bulldog Briscoe)
Moose the Dog - (Eddie, the dog)
Series Directed by:
David Lee (41 episodes, 1993-2004)
Kelsey Grammer (38 episodes, 1996-2004)
Pamela Fryman (33 episodes, 1997-2001)
James Burrows (32 episodes, 1993-1997)
Sheldon Epps (22 episodes, 1998-2004)
Philip Charles MacKenzie (21 episodes, 1995-1996)
Jeffrey Melman (19 episodes, 1995-1998)
Katy Garretson (11 episodes, 1999-2004)
Scott Ellis (9 episodes, 2000-2004)
Andy Ackerman (8 episodes, 1993-1995)
Wil Shriner (8 episodes, 2000-2003)
Robert H. Egan (5 episodes, 1999-2001)
Jerry Zaks (4 episodes, 2002-2003)
Rick Beren (2 episodes, 1994)
Gordon Hunt (2 episodes, 1996-1997)
Cynthia Popp-Landsberger (2 episodes, 2002-2004)
Series Writing Credits:
David Angell (53 episodes, 1993-2002)
Peter Casey (53 episodes, 1993-2002)
Glen Charles (51 episodes, 1993-2002)
Les Charles (51 episodes, 1993-2002)
David Lee (51 episodes, 1993-2002)
Joe Keenan (24 episodes, 1994-2004)
Danita Jones (23 episodes, 2002-2003)
Lori Kirkland (19 episodes, 1998-2004)
Christopher Lloyd (18 episodes, 1993-2004)
Anne Flett-Giordano (17 episodes, 1993-1997)
Chuck Ranberg (16 episodes, 1993-1997)
David Lloyd (15 episodes, 1994-2001)
Bob Daily (15 episodes, 1999-2004)
Sam Johnson (15 episodes, 1999-2004)
Chris Marcil (15 episodes, 1999-2004)
Jon Sherman (15 episodes, 1999-2004)
Rob Hanning (14 episodes, 1997-2002)
Rob Greenberg (11 episodes, 1996-1999)
Jeffrey Richman (10 episodes, 1997-2004)
David Isaacs (9 episodes, 1994-2004)
Suzanne Martin (8 episodes, 1996-1998)
Jay Kogen (8 episodes, 1997-2000)
Eric Zicklin (8 episodes, 2000-2003)
Ken Levine (7 episodes, 1994-2004)
Linda Morris (7 episodes, 1994-1996)
Vic Rauseo (7 episodes, 1994-1996)
Dan O'Shannon (7 episodes, 1999-2002)
Saladin K. Patterson (7 episodes, 2000-2003)
Heide Perlman (7 episodes, 2001-2004)
Sy Dukane (5 episodes, 1993-1994)
Denise Moss (5 episodes, 1993-1994)
Steven Levitan (4 episodes, 1994-1996)
Mark Reisman (4 episodes, 1999-2001)
Patricia Breen (4 episodes, 2002-2004)
Michael B. Kaplan (3 episodes, 1996-1997)
Jack Burditt (3 episodes, 1996)
Janis Hirsch (3 episodes, 1998-1999)
Gayle Abrams (3 episodes, 2000-2002)
Leslie Eberhard (2 episodes, 1993)
Don Seigel (2 episodes, 1994-1995)
Elias Davis (2 episodes, 1995)
David Pollock (2 episodes, 1995)
Dan Cohen (2 episodes, 1996-1997)
F.J. Pratt (2 episodes, 1996-1997)
William Lucas Walker (2 episodes, 1997)
Charlie Hauck (2 episodes, 1999-2000)
Alex Gregory (2 episodes, 1999)
Peter Huyck (2 episodes, 1999)
Frasier - The Complete First Season
Seinfeld - The Complete Series Read more!
The musical parody of “The Fellowship of the Ring”
a Kate West review
directed by Joel McCrary
written by Kelly Holden & Joel McCrary
El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91601
Running the month of December 2004, Tickets (323) 960-7774
“Fellowship!” is a delightful little parody of the J.R.R. Tolkein “Fellowship of the Ring,” the first volume of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and the mega popular hit movies by Peter Jackson. Written by Kelly Holden and Joel McCrary, it chronicles the classic story of Frodo Baggins, winsome Hobbit (a furry little creature of Middle Earth) inheriting the one ring of power and embarking on a journey to the fires of Mordor in order to destroy it. Aided in his quest are eight other inhabitants of Middle Earth: Gandalf the Wizard; Sam, Pippin and Merry, fellow hobbits; Strider, rightful heir to Gondor; fellow warrior Boromir; Gimli the Dwarf and Legolas the Elf. A very serious business. Except in this version, when it is actually a silly and ridiculous saga of song and dance.
The happy ensemble is obviously overjoyed to entertain us with this gentle mockery of Frodo’s mighty trek. With lighthearted fun, Bilbo Baggins, the kindly older hobbit who first discovered the evil ring, begins the piece with his big birthday celebration. Dressed like a bad lounge singer, Steve Purnick aptly plays Bilbo, complete with cummerbund and ruffles, rattling off terrible puns, and thus sets the perfect tone of hilarity. This is perfectly illustrated as the cast joyfully launches into song at every opportunity. In addition, in between numbers as background to the zaniness, there are slide projections of sketch drawings depicting a map following their progress.
Cory Rouse is an excellent Frodo, reminiscent of the touching innocence of Elijah Wood in the film epics and Edi Patterson is spunky and effervescent as Legolas and later Arwen, Strider’s elfin love interest. Peter Allen Vogt is immensely likeable as Sam, the barely suppressed homosexual sidekick to Frodo and is irrepressibly funny as the headliner demon, the Balrog, especially in his show-stopping number “The Balrog Blues”. The rest of the ensemble is quite strong as well: Brian D. Bradley as Gandalf, Kelly Holden as an almost-too-cutesy Pippin, Ryan Smith as the tragically unmemorable Merry and El Rond, the Matrix-inspired Elvish King, Matthew Stephen Young as the dude-like Strider and Lisa Fredrickson as the fiercely proud Gimli. Each actor seems to have the time of his or her life paying homage to the beloved story.
Some deliciously original ideas include Legolas (Edi Patterson) and Gimli (Lisa Fredrickson), evolving from bitter Elf-Dwarf enemies to fast friends singing “I always thought,” an amusingly satirical ballad. Edi Patterson also contributes a very Stevie Nicks/Cher attitude to “One Moment (with you)” singing a love duet as Arwen with Strider (the very funny Matthew Stephen Young). Joel McCrary must be credited with putting together an excellent ensemble and unfolding such a strong concept in a very loving way. The audience happily follows along with each inside joke, thrilled to be so in the know. There are no weak spots or actors and every minute is as enjoyable as the next. The entire cast, crew and producers all deserve warm congratulations for such a fun experience. Of course, it helps to read the books or see the movies first so be sure to do that and then call the box office immediately to be part of the hippest show in North Hollywood. Afterwards, you’ll all clamor for a sequel. Guaranteed. Read more!
A Gift from Heaven
A Kate West review
Written by David Steen, Directed by Jim Holmes
At the Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Tickets (310) 855-1556, Playing through December 2004
Beth Grant, accomplished Hollywood character actress, (featured in a slew of movies, including “The Rookie” and “Speed”, not to mention countless television appearances), next tackles the psychologically complicated role of an Appalachian mother in “Gift from Heaven.” Running for a short time at the Beverly Hills Playhouse, this dark piece encompasses all that is dysfunctional and wrong in stereotypical hillbilly folk.
Grant, as the domineering matriarch, runs her small household like a veteran general, evoking awe and subjugation in her family. Messy (heartwrenchingly portrayed by Tara Buck) is the hopelessly unloved daughter of the clan, begging for any random scrap of affection. Charlie (Michael Petted) is the golden boy who, in spite of being a bit backward, can still do nothing wrong. Life in that southern abode remains pretty much the same until a distant cousin Anna (played deliberately wide-eyed by Tara Killian) visits, bringing optimism to Messy, love to Charlie and despair to the mother. Upon learning she is the real biological child of her mother and not just adopted, Messy is even more desperate to win her affection. It is too late, alas, as the mother, entrenched in incestuous possessiveness of her son, strikes out at the two girls, when she realizes her beloved boy-man is about to leave her.
The resulting climax of the story is violent and bleak as all the characters clash in an emotionally turbulent free-for-all. Messy’s desperate need for affection has governed her whole life and she can no longer stand inactive. Anna is horrified at the sickness rampant throughout the bloodline, Charlie realizes he can escape his current fate and actually have a future. Only the mother does not have a clean revelation, choosing instead to remain in her delusion of perverted religious fervor.
The two younger actresses are strong (Tara Buck and Tara Killian) and Michael Petted stays more or less on one note, although this is partly the fault of the extremely withdrawn character he portrays. Beth Grant, however, is dynamic, forceful, and equally as awe-inspiring as her fearsome character. Director Jim Holmes gleans good performances from everyone, vitally necessary in keeping with the stark, sometimes too-heavy-handed writing of David Steen. The original music by Christomos D. Argerakis highlights the alienation of such a backward family and on this past Saturday night, the audience was treated with a live rendition after the performance.
Be prepared for severe intensity and if you have the stomach for a glimpse at a bonafide Appalachian household, take a gander. Go especially for Beth Grant, a phenomenally talented lady; it is always a pleasure to watch her expert grasp of multi-dimensional women, a rare find in Hollywood. Read more!
The Ten Commandments
a Kate West review
directed by Robert Iscove
songs by Patrick Leonard and lyrics by Maribeth Derry
Contact (323) 308-6363 or www.the10com.com or Ticket Master (213) 480-3232
Extended December, 2004
Hollywood’s recent production of “The Ten Commandments” stars
The famous parting of the
In short, the overall impression is that of a slick film studio machine churning out entertainment for the visiting tourists but with no real soul. The production does not work as a whole but seems to merely serve as a vehicle for
Terrific Anniversary Edition:Read more!
Sex and the City
a kate west favorite
From 1998 to 2004, American women everywhere were riveted to HBO's bold new ultra feminine series, "Sex and the City". Sexy Manolo Blahnik heels and cosmopolitans abound in this sensually fulfilling indulgence (better than a box of chocolates and a night of "Desperate Housewives"). American style indulgence, of course. We all know Europeans are more sophisticated. But then again, this is New York, our most suave city, so maybe we do have a leg up after all, so to speak. And we want to believe in the magic that helps those girls walk the Big Apple in those impossible shoes.
Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) writes a column on sex and relationships. Her three friends are as single as she is and have apparently extravagant career and lifestyles enabling them to live in fabulous New York apartments. Miranda, the lawyer (Cynthia Nixon), Charlotte, the graceful housewife (Kristin Davis), and Samantha, the sexy PR lady (Kim Cattrall). They all want love, pretend they don't, and then decide they do. We've all seen the show. And it's a fun fantasy. But is it one to emulate?
On the one hand, they were four fabulously single and carefree ladies in New York, but on the other, the series ended with everyone successfully paired up with a man. Does this mean they are only complete with a man in their lives or that they each finally grew up and were finally mature enough to handle a relationship? I choose to think it's the latter. And because while all the guys come and go in their lives, the friendship foursome remains intact. At least that's what the creators wanted to leave us with. That and the burning desire to recreate some of that mojo in our own lives. We all want to be Carrie, but we're probably more a Miranda or a Charlotte. Or maybe some of us are lucky enough to be the uninhibited Samantha. In spite of all the risqué talk, these girls were fairly standard for their generation - my generation. And much of that bold talk often made them quite uncomfortable (again, with the notable exception of no-holds-barred Samantha). I get them, unlike the brash twenty-somethings these days who really do want to talk about anything and everything. Ugh.
So there's nothing wrong with being any of those four stylish ladies, all different sides of a single gal. If only reality was so fab. Guess we'll all just have to keep being our boring old selves. Thank God for reruns, Netflix and Amazon.
Based on the book by
Sarah Jessica Parker
Who Could Resist?
Sex and the City - The Complete Series (Collector's Giftset)
Speaking of Indulgences:
Desperate Housewives - The Complete First Season
(Felicity Huffman being the one consistently elevating this show.)
And yet another modern twist on dating - men in the kitchen, cooking for women:
Cooking to Hook Up: The Bachelor's Date-Night Cookbook (Cookbooks)
Caroline, or Change - a new musical
a kate west review
book and lyrics by Tony Kushner
music by Jeanine Tesori
directed by George C. Wolfe
at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 North Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90012
playing November 6 – December 26, 2004; contact 213-628-2772 or www.CarolineOrChange.com
Gordon Davidson, Artistic Director and Producer for the Center Theatre Group, has been bringing innovative and direct-from-Broadway hits to the Los Angeles theater audience for 37 years. Now in his final year of reigning supreme over such local powerhouses as the Ahmanson Theatre and the Mark Taper Forum, he kicks off the season with “Caroline, or Change.” Coming from the creators of the acclaimed Tony award-winning Broadway hit “Angels in America”, Tony Kushner and George C. Wolfe, this new musical should be a runaway hit and indeed has garnered many accolades on Broadway. Unfortunately, the current production does not fully match the majesty and unique brilliance of an acclaimed piece like “Angels in America.”
Fairly heavy-handed, the story revolves around a bitter, yet stoic black maid named Caroline (Tonya Pinkins) working for a Jewish family in Lake Charles, Louisiana, 1963. Her daily labor is accompanied by a Greek chorus of appliances: the Washing Machine (Capathia Jenkins, alternating), the Radio (Tracy Nicole Chapman, Marva Hicks and Kenna Ramsey) and the Dryer and an arbitrarily mobile Bus Stop (currently both played by Chuck Cooper). Although amusing, these devices do not really add much to the play, other than endlessly repeat Caroline’s inner struggle of conscience.
Noah Gellman (in this performance, strongly played by Sy Adamowsky) is the only child of the household. After his mother dies, Rose (Veanne Cox) moves in and tries desperately to be his surrogate mother but he only finds comfort down in the hot basement watching Caroline do laundry. Caroline is “implacable” his mother once said, and in spite of her roughness, Noah adores her until his stepmother’s plan to teach him a lesson results in driving a wedge between him and Caroline. Caroline struggles with her own stubbornness and is aided in achieving some sort of peace by her children, especially her eldest daughter, Emmie (the vibrantly talented Anika Noni Rose), who tries to drag everyone kicking and screaming into a more optimistic future.
The supporting cast is strong, including Veanne Cox as Stepmother Rose, Larry Keith as her argumentative father and Aisha de Haas (alternating) as the Moon overseeing the Louisiana neighborhood on the verge of entering the civil rights struggle. Regarding the title character of Caroline, the inherent danger of playing someone so unemotional and reticent is that she comes across as unsympathetic, on top of which Tonya Pinkins suffers from vocal problems, at times sounding raspy while straining her voice in the more bluesy tunes.
Be warned, if you are expecting a light-hearted musical, Jeanine Tesori’s music is not your snappy, hummable sort as the tone is more somber and not typically melodic. More “Sweeney Todd” than “West Side Story.” And although Musical Conductor Kimberly Grigsby leads a solid orchestra and the entire production is professionally mounted, from the Choreography of Hope Clarke to George C. Wolfe’s direction, overall it lacks real soul. The musical is more lackluster than impressive and what should inspire, merely depresses. The title itself is confusing. Does Caroline really change or does it refer to the power of currency? It is all a bit unclear. Perhaps the touring company lacks the fire of performing on the actual streets of Broadway. At any rate, the audiences seem to love it as demonstrated by their overwhelmingly positive response and the inevitable Los Angeles standing ovation after every performance. Read more!
Kith and Kin
a Kate West review
by Oliver Hailey
directed by Matt Kelley
at the Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood
(corner of Santa Monica and Hudson)
contact (323) 960-7753
playing November 12 – December 18, 2004, Thurs, Fri, Sat. 8pm, Sunday 7pm
There is no dysfunction quite like southern family dysfunction. Oliver Hailey’s West Coast premiere of “Kith and Kin” at the Hudson Guild Theatre paints a picture of a disharmonious white trash clan. Drawn together by the death of their parents, one after the other, three brothers, Tommy Joe, Darryl and Big Boots, mercilessly brawl and torture each other into a state of semi-understanding. Thrown into the mix are two long-suffering women, Sarah, a surly pregnant widow and Charlene, a hardened four-time divorcee vamp. Each redneck is more socially repugnant that the next, ruthlessly competing in a twisted family feud of hilarious inappropriateness.
Tommy Joe (winsomely played by Nathan Brooks Burgess) is at first glance the most sympathetic. Enamored of classical music, he philosophizes and attempts to fight hysteria with reason. Yet he falls short of his potential. In one example, he longingly pretends to play the piano, but never actually learns it, although clearly devoted to the musical art and determined to teach it to his nephew Little Boots (whom we never see), giving him a more sophisticated route of escape from his roots. Though unseen, the child is pivotally important to each character in different ways. He represents everyone’s future and each character wants to manipulate it to suit his/her own needs.
Meanwhile, Big Boots (Drake Simpson), recently out of jail, is torn between escaping his responsibilities as a dad and embracing a new family. After murdering his wife for cheating on him, he may not be the ideal father figure but prison has seemingly refined him and softened his overall perceptions and prejudices. The middle brother, Darryl (Jeff Kerr McGivney), proudly renowned for introducing his two brothers to sodomy, and used to being the one in charge, is in the end reduced to pathetically depending on everyone else.
Sarah (played by Dawn Burgess, a saucy Toni Collette look-alike), is the closest thing to a mother figure the boys have. Never receiving affection from their own parents, they cannot appreciate Sarah’s loyalty as a housekeeper, who feeds them and holds a torch for Tommy Joe. Though fertile, she apparently drove her husband to suicide. Charlene (the deliciously sexy Kara Greenberg) sleeps with each brother periodically but never loves anyone. Thus the women are equally as toxic and flawed as the men and the actual actresses are a bit stronger than the men.
Matt Kelley (in his Los Angeles directorial debut), skillfully guides his actors into relatively strong performances. Despite some early nervous line flubs on opening night, it is more or less a sold ensemble, each actor taking turns to outrage, insult and entertain. In the end, each character is redeemed after confronting personal demons but this is no happily-ever kind of story. Life doesn’t work that way. It’s just life in Texas, folks. So no one gets what they think they want but all are able to ultimately live with their choices, having been forced into maturity. So if you have the stomach to dirty yourself a little on the wrong side of the tracks for a while, by all means go have a look-see. It’s not for everyone.
“There but for the grace of God go [I].” [John Bradford] After all, we are all a few degrees away from primitiveness ourselves. Read more!