The Pee-wee Herman Show - NOW ON BROADWAY (click here for latest dates)

a kate west review
written by Paul Reubens & Bill Steinkellner (John Paragon)
directed by Alex Timbers
at Club Nokia/LALive, 800 W. Olympic Blvd. LA 90015
contact 213-765-7000, or
running January 12 - February 7

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls! He's back! The 80's icon man-child known as Pee-wee Herman (a.k.a. Paul Reubens) is settling in for a limited time only in the land of La-La, downtown Los Angeles. Catch him now at LA Live's Club Nokia in the newly renovated downtown (a la the Disneyfication of New York's Times Square).

Originally created by Paul Reubens as a character for the world-renowned Groundlings Theatre, Pee-wee Herman became a cult-like figure after Tim Burton's surprise hit "Pee-wee's Big Adventure". His tailored grey suit, white shoes, crew-cut hair and red bowtie made nerdom, if not cool, then hipper for not being cool. "Pee-wee's Playhouse" had a nice little run on television and won a few Emmys, appealing to children and adults alike. What really catapulted him into fame was the endless repetition of lines (and that unmistakable laugh) from the show and movie by enraptured fans, who weren't able to tell you exactly what they loved, except that Pee-wee made them laugh. Hard.

The current show brings back characters from the Playhouse, such as Miss Yvonne (Lynne Stewart), the most beautiful woman in Puppetland, Cowboy Curtis (Phil LaMarr, replacing the original buckaroo Laurence Fishburne), Mailman Mike (John Moody), Chairry (now Lori Alan) and Jambi the Genie (John Paragon). Surrounded by a cacophony of relics from 1950's t.v. shows, Pee-wee merrily jabbers on to both neighbors and inanimate objects, like the chair, the clock, the globe, fish, flowers, a mechanical robot and a flying Pterodactyl. Addressing the audience, he pulls us in right away, announcing the secret word, our only role having to scream loudly every time a cast member uses it. Each entrance is more exciting than the last (except for the grand entrance by the man himself), the crowd going wild at every memorable line and reference. Notably missing from the very first cast is, of course, the late Phil Hartman, a great friend of Reubens.

In this episode, based on the HBO special of the same name, Pee-wee finds out a secret about Miss Yvonne and very much wanting a wish of his own, selflessly gives it away so she can have her heart's desire. His friends rally to give him a happy ending, gently poking fun at each other and gleefully citing pop cultural references all the while (and sing and dance!) Interspersed with a cartoon, fan mail and the endlessly fascinating old time film about how not to be a Mr. Bungle (you'll have to see it to believe it), everyone has a grand old time, especially the audience. There is an out-of-character scene with a Bear (Drew Powell) which is almost jarring, but even that Reubens pulls off effortlessly in the end.

The real success behind this character is his ability to interest small children and adults of every age with simple plots and morals, peppered with more sophisticated innuendoes. The campy reverence for the nostalgic era of children's shows is quite endearing. While making fun of himself in a way, Pee-wee remains an innocent, truly joyful in his performance, but winking at the crowd all the while. Not an easy feat. It's a big show with big heart and Reubens and cast (especially Lynne Stewart, Phil LaMarr and John Paragon) do have a terrific time up on stage so it's almost impossible not to be swept away in the feverish acclaim. Unless you're already familiar with his work, it is difficult to explain the cult status. Personal indiscretions aside (get over it already), this guy is often underrated as a versatile, multi-talented and sometimes brilliant character actor and comedian. But hopefully this show will produce more Pee-wee awareness. Give him a chance folks, he (his laughter anyway) is infectious. Hope you remember your Pledge of Allegiance. I know you are, but what am I?

Anyone else have "Tequila" stuck in his/her head?

Paul Reubens (Pee-wee)
John Moody (Mailman Mike)
Drew Powell (Bear)
John Paragon (Jambi)
Jesse Garcia (Sergio)
Phil LaMarr (Cowboy Curtis)
Lynne Marie Stewart (Miss Yvonne)
Lance Roberts (King of Cartoons)
Josh Myers (Firefighter)
Lori Alan, Josh Myers, John Paragon, Drew Powell, Lance Roberts (Voices)

Watch the original Mr. Bungle here:
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Alice In Wonderland

a kate west review

directed by Lynn Olson, produced by Amy Blum
choreographed by Kimiko Broder
musical direction by Wendy Caldwell

music & lyrics by Sammy Fain & Bob Hilliard,
Oliver Wallace & Cy Coban, Allie Wrubel & Ray Gilbert,
Mack David, Al Hoffman & Jerry Livingston
music & book adapted by Bryan Louiselle & David Simpatico
from the Walt Disney 1951 animated film & the Lewis Carroll novels

at South Pasadena High School
1401 Fremont Avenue, South Pasadena 91030
contact South Pasadena Educational Foundation (SPEF)
(626) 441-5810 or (626) 441-5820
February 5, 6, 7 only!

An amazing 5th Grade Musical "Alice in Wonderland" now appears at the South Pas High Auditorium. And who doesn't love a good rendition of Alice? Best of all, the production is on the professional level of the best adult community theater around. 70 kids (s-e-v-e-n-t-y students) from Arroyo Vista, Marengo and Monterey Hills dance and sing their little hearts with a joy not to be denied. To coordinate that many ten and eleven year olds is a remarkable enough feat on its own, but the creative output on top of it is truly impressive.

We all know the story, so here are the Cliff Notes: There are three Alices, (small, medium and tall Alice) and they each take turns wandering through a more and more perplexing land of nonsensical creatures. She falls through the rabbit hole chasing the White Rabbit, grows smaller and larger eating and drinking prop cookies and colorful liquids, dances with seafood, argues with valley girl flowers, talks with caterpillars and cats, has an Un-Birthday, plays Simon Says with the Red Queen and survives a death sentence, returning to the real world, just as her older sister finishes reading to her.

Director Lynn Olson and Choreographer Kimiko Broder do a fantastic job organizing this potentially unruly brood. Complicated dance numbers are completed with the finesse of "Dancing with the Stars" competitors and children wander on and off stage with impressive precision. Talent runs rampant throughout the cast. Eric Kuo has a nice turn with the White Rabbit, ever late for important engagements, three Cheshire Cats (Olivia Feldman, Wayne Monical and Lorie Meza) make up a mischievous trio, Charlotte Emerson does a super goofy March Hare and Sandra Moore is hilariously imperious as the Red Queen. All the Alices are fine (Analisa Bribiesca, Cynthia Warren and Faye Witherall) and while not everyone can sing or dance perfectly, each and every child in the play gives it his and her all. This is an obviously well rehearsed production, up to any consummate professionals standard.

The music is upbeat and fun, even with the out-of-context "Zip-A-Dee-Dooh-Dah" (isn't that from "Song of the South"?), and the lines are delivered surprisingly clearly and well (how many elementary school plays have you understood in its entirety?) The costumes and set are all cute and quite befitting a school play. All in all, this is an excellent show. Maybe SPEF should think about taking it on the road, pending revamped child labor laws? Good, clean fun for all.

So go. Please support children in the arts. All ticket proceeds go directly to the students at the South Pasadena Unified School District. And tell YOUR kids.

Full Cast
Analisa Bribiesca, Caroline Becronis, Eric Kuo, Olivia Feldman, Wayne Monical, Lorie Meza, Charlie Primuth, Sandra Moore, Declan Chin, Lucy Loken, Alana Carmona, Jake McCurdy, Kevin Foster, Aaron Salinas, Jane Lian Wang, Clara Wong, Megan Wong, Owen Calvin-Smith, Cynthia Warren, Faye Witherall, Anissa Santos, Isabel Barbera, Haley Peters, Ariana Woodworth, Jessica Lopez, Madison Hirano, Charlotte Emerson, Cristo Nava, Sykler Ramirez, Katie Lam, Gunther Vaden, Matthew Wright, Yee-Sum Make, Hailey Newton, Grace Kull, Ella Wilson, Parker Crumley, Lauren Zableckis, Earyn Smith, Alice Stearn, Rebecca Daley, Finn Hadsell-Florin, Vaughn Huelsman, Callum Kuo, Ruben Nava-Landeros, Reed Pickering, Andrew Son, Randy Zhou, Vanessa Chai, Katherine Conte, Sara Jaime, Matthew Kramsch, Jesse Newman, Cindy Tsai, Sara Bellusci, Alison Cordano, Josie Friesen, DJ Myer, Inesh Rathi, Leo Sonner, Mia Tanner, Ryan Vargas, Talia Baker, Pearl Bang, Spencer Gurley, Katia Hise, Sarah Ohta, Grace Privett-Mendoza, Perah Ralin, Yuna Yamazaki
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