The Break Up Notebook

The Break Up Notebook: The Lesbian Musical
a kate west review
written by Patricia Cotter; music/lyrics by Lori Scarlett
directed by Sue Hamilton
at the Hudson Backstage, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A. 90038
contact (323) 960-5563 or
running Friday and Saturday nights through February 2006 – EXTENDED!

The Hudson Backstage presents “The Break Up Notebook: The Lesbian Musical” which tells us that lesbians have the same relationship frustrations as the rest of us do. Who knew? Patricia Cotter wrote the original crowd-pleasing script of “The Break Up Notebook” back in 2002 (which was also nominated for a GLAAD award) and then turned it into a musical. While the first incarnation definitely had its charm, the new version works even better as a musical.

Helen (Heidi Godt) was just dumped by the love of her life and is slowly picking up the pieces, with the help of her well meaning but interfering friends. She makes all the classic mistakes we all do: she calls her ex, repeatedly hanging up, spies on her, asks all her friends about her, moans “why doesn’t she love me anymore?” and generally drives everybody nuts. To snap her out of her self-indulgence, her weary friends set her up on a series of disastrous dates. She finally meets someone she is excited about, but despite her friends’ warnings, goes way overboard, making her new love her whole world and refusing to see her faults. Thankfully, she achieves enough growth that she realizes she is better off alone than begging for scraps at the pathetic mercy of a selfish someone else.

Throughout this well-toned, well-timed production, Lori Scarlett (composer of the wildly popular “Sneaux!” local musical) accompanies Patricia Cotter’s witty dialogue with equally beguiling music and lyrics. One of the funniest moments in the show comes during one of Heidi’s many tedious dates, when the cast sings “It Takes A Nail”, mimicking embarrassing small talk (“Ex-girlfriend, la la la …”). “The Polynesian Dance” seems a bit overkill, although a sure-fire hit with the audience every time. In general though, the musical numbers are snappy, fun and clever. Director Sue Hamilton contributes greatly to the professional atmosphere, including smooth scene transitions and overall staging.

Heidi Godt as Helen is the perfect self-deprecating but still likeable protagonist and Patrick Bristow, is the perfect gay best friend Bob, playing silly and poignant at the exact right levels. Whitney Allen as Frances, the new love, was not a strong singer on opening night, but the rest of the cast is fine, including friends Monica and Joanie (Melody Butiu and Jacqueline Maloney) who are great fun as the couple about to go through a commitment ceremony. The whole show is delightfully entertaining and the truths are universal for everyone, straight and gay alike. Patricia Cotter could have given us a happy ending, but she doesn’t go for that cliché, giving us an open ended closing, so to speak, yet still managing to fill us with optimism. We applaud the heroine’s new found-confidence and we root for her (and our own) future success.

For further information, check out Read more!

Do You Fear What I Fear?

Do You Fear What I Fear?
a kate west review
written and performed by David Jahn
directed by Ian and Robert Tucker
at the Elephant Asylum Theatre
6322 Santa Monica Blvd. L.A. 90038
running Fridays, Saturdays & Sundays;
January 6 – February 12, 2006
contact (323) 960-4412 or; tix $18

David Jahn, alum of the famous Groundling troupe (, pulls off the amazing feat of gaining the audience’s sympathy even as they feel slightly uncomfortable in his riveting one-man show “Do You Fear What I Fear?” Originally premiering at the Groundlings Theatre, as part of a 30th anniversary celebration, the show now performs at the Elephant Asylum, not too far from its first location.

As in similar shows, Jahn bears his soul, confronting childhood fears while entertaining us at the same time. And he does such a marvelous job at it too. We watch him cope with his angst in many engaging ways: by always counting in “fours” as a child (which he constantly refers to throughout the show), by burying himself inside a prison of fear, escaping into the world of theater and finally learning how to be an adult in Los Angeles and in life.

During all this insight, Jahn is accompanied on keyboard piano as he bursts into song and dance at key points in the story. This contributes wonderfully to his character since his background actually is musical theater, another aspect he refers to in comic detail. Musical Director Cindy Warren sets this all up very well.

In one hour, Jahn deals with family, relationships and his homosexuality in a funny, wistful, endearing, enjoyable as well as mature way. He conquers his fear bravely (by mounting a public play, first of all), causing us to wonder what we are all so afraid of. Why can’t we approach a stranger at a party - what’s the worst that can happen? It’s nice to know we don’t suffer alone. For a one-act he covers a remarkable bit of ground. His show seems a little like a preview to a bigger revelation and it would be nice to see a longer version in the future. Hopefully, he will come up with a part two which would certainly be as well attended. As it is, it is definitely a show worth watching and one which will stay with you for a very long time. Read more!

700 Sundays

700 Sundays
a kate west review
starring Billy Crystal
directed by Des McAnuff
additional content by Alan Zweibel
producers Janice Crystal, Larry Magid
at the Wilshire Theater
8440 Wilshire Blvd, LA 90211
running Jan 6 - February 18,2006
contact or Face Productions

When Comedian Billy Crystal was only fifteen, his father Jack unexpectedly died of a heart attack in 1963. Young Billy was devastated and angry. He finally came to a kind of resolution by pooling his memories into a one-man show called "700 Sundays", referring to the total number of Sundays he actually spent with his dad. Originally on Broadway, Tony Award winner Des McAnuff ("Big River", "Tommy") directs Crystal's opus once again, here in Los Angeles.

We learn many fascinating thing about Crystal's life, including his famous love of baseball and his surprising family involvement in jazz history. Crystal has often mentioned the beauty of baseball in interviews, his first glimpse of the green, green field so different from the picture in black and white television, as well as his experience directing a warm and loving tribute to his idols, Yankee greats Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris (HBO's seamless "61"). Ken Burns even captured Crystal's baseball stories on film in his "Baseball" PBS series. And doesn't Crystal don a New York Mets baseball hat in "City Slickers"?

More interesting still is that Crystal's family owned the Commodore Record Label and had their own store in Manhattan for a while, meaning Billy grew up with jazz greats like Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. In fact, Uncle Milt Gabler was the only man brave enough to record Holiday's controversial "Strange Fruit", a mournful jazz ballad reflecting on the unfortunate still prevalent lynchings in the south at the time. An unusual childhood indeed.

Crystal spends much of the show impersonating relatives such as an eccentric aunt ruminating on lesbianism, pointing out the real deal in 8 millimeter home movies and making typical crude one-liners. For the most part, it is a heartfelt love note to his quiet and unassuming father, and, as many one-person shows seem to be, a therapeutic catharsis for the mourner. Jack worked hard for his family and always reserved Sundays to spend with them, no matter what, taking Billy to baseball games and hosting the odd and end jazz legend. We learn a lot about his family along the way and understand how Crystal got into comedy in the first place, so much of it holds audience interest, but the show does run too long.

Scenic Designer David F. Weiner creates a cozy set with a screen door porch, replicating Crystal's Cape Cod cottage, (actually in Long Beach New York), helped out by Lighting Designer David Lee Cuthbert, Projectionist Michael Clark and Sound Designer Steve Canyon Kennedy. Director Des McAnuff creates an interesting stage picture, but Crystal is obviously the focus here and the main creative hand. As when hosting the Oscars, Billy Crystal is funny at first, but grows a little tedious after a while. If you are a Crystal fan, by all means, don't miss the show; otherwise, you may just want to borrow his book in order to cull the meatier bits of the family history, which really are quite absorbing.

Billy's Book:
700 Sundays Read more!