Jelly’s Last Jam May 29-June 23, 2024 at Pasadena Playhouse



When Jelly’s Last Jam was getting ready to open at the Mark Taper Forum in March 1991, I was part of the publicity team. This was a world premiere musical with a large cast and many moving parts … as the date of the first preview performance approached, it became apparent the show would not be ready. That first preview did happen on schedule, but without second act lighting cues and a scattershot curtain call. Eight performances later, we opened a huge hit! Jelly’s Last Jam has a book by George C. Wolfe, lyrics by Susan Birkenhead, and music by Jelly Roll Morton and Luther Henderson. The show opened on Broadway in the spring of 1992, won four Tony Awards, and ran for 569 performances. It’s based on the life and career of Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, better known as Jelly Roll Morton, who is generally regarded as one of the primary driving forces behind the introduction of jazz to the American public in the early 20th century.

Thirty-two years later, The Pasadena Playhouse is presenting a new production of Jelly’s Last Jam! Directed by Kent Gash with music direction by Darryl Archibald and choreography by Dell Howlett, the cast features John Clarence Stewart, Cress Williams, Jasmine Amy Rogers, Karole Foreman, Wilkie Ferguson III, Grasan Kingsberry, Summer Nicole Greer, Doran Butler, Cyd Charisse Glover-Hill, Naomi C. Walley, Janaya Jones, Hannah Yosef, Joe Aaron Reid, Eric B. Anthony, Davon Rashawn, Amber Liekhus, and Chante Carmel. Don’t miss it!

For tickets and more information, click here.

George Bernard Shaw’s Misalliance May 12-June 9, 2024 at A Noise Within in Pasadena (Trisha Miller / Photo Daniel Reichert)



Pasadena-based theater company, A Noise Within, closes out its 2023-24 season with George Bernard Shaw’s satirical comedy Misalliance.  The play is clever, insightful and shines a light on the ways of courtship and the aristocracy in Edwardian England.  Must women always do the pursuing and men be the one solely pursued?

Misalliance takes place during one chaotic afternoon in the magnificent country estate of undergarment tycoon John Tarleton and his wife who are celebrating the forthcoming engagement of his very proper daughter, Hypatia ensuring the family’s entry into Edwardian aristocracy.

But all soon goes array when unexpected guests arrive…wild antics occur, hidden truths come to light and a hilarious clash of class, gender, and generation ensues.  Add to the madness eight marriage proposals and a plane crash and Shaw’s farce is off and running and never lets up.

Per Director Guillermo Cienfuegos, “This is not the Shaw you think you know, it’s a lot about class and a lot about marriage…and a lot about sex.”  Added co-artistic directors Geoff Elliot and Julia Rodriguez-Elliot, “Shaw’s plays often tend to be very controlled and this one is very youthful and carefree in a way that you don’t often see Shaw.”

Ideally the set and costumes appear classically period, but just when the audience thinks it knows about Edwardian England, Shaw subverts everything and turns it all into a lot of wild fun.

For tickets, click here.

Topsy Turvy, written and directed by Tim Robbins, May 9-June 8, 2024, at The Actors’ Gang Theater in Culver City



One of the theater groups I missed most when the theaters closed during the pandemic was The Actors’ Gang (founded in 1981 by eight ‘punk rock theater’ UCLA students). Led by Artistic Director, Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption,Mystic River, and Bull Durham), the company presents unconventional plays and reinterpretations of the classics in additional to running nationally recognized theater and educational programs.

Topsy Turvy (A Musical Greek Vaudeville), written by Robbins, his first original work since 2015, comes from his personal reaction to the closing of the theaters during the pandemic – something innately like a Greek tragedy. “There was something tragic and wrong about the theater being closed, something ominous and unsettling,” noted Robbins. “This turmoil was indeed the stuff of Greek tragedy…and comedy.”

Set in a hybrid world of classical Greek theater and a raucous vaudeville show, the unity of a Greek Chorus of mortals is shattered by a mysterious illness. The chorus evokes the Gods seeking divine interventional to help restore order. There are visits from Bacchus and Cupid, an Aztec goddess, Dionysus and Aphrodite plus magicians, hypnotists, an acrobatic monkey, and The Great Distracto. 

Music plays a key role in Topsy Turvy with original songs by Robbins accompanied by a small orchestra and chorus. The show is at times ridiculous, funny and serious but mostly a raucous and entertaining celebration of the power of the human heart to heal even the deepest divides.

For more information, click here.

Ballet Jazz Montreal Dance Me – Music by Leonard Cohen May 10-11, 2024, presented by The Wallis in Beverly Hills

Ballet Jazz Montréal

  • By AC Remler

Fans of the iconic Leonard Cohen will be thrilled to hear that Ballet Jazz Montréal is bringing its celebration of the musical maestro, called “Dance Me – Music by Leonard Cohen,” to The Wallis May 10 and 11.

The show is an 80-minute homage to the man and his art, which puts his songs, his distinctive gravelly voice, and prolific words on humanity all on display through dance.

The amazing 14 Ballet Jazz Montreal performing artists bring to life some of the most profound words of the last generation.

Leonard Cohen songs in the production feature “Suzanne;” “So Long, Marianne;” “Famous Blue Raincoat;” “Lover, Lover, Lover;” “First We Take Manhattan;” among many others, including perhaps his most covered hit song, “Hallelujah.” Initially rejected by his record label for being too controversial, “Hallelujah” became a hit only after it was made famous by the movie, Shrek.

The energetic choreography by Andonis Foniadakis, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, and Ihsan Rustem, presents a varied perspective on the legendary artist’s work, set in five seasons (the grand cycles of existence) as described in Cohen’s deeply reflective work.

Dramaturge /stage director Eric Jean ensures that the dance, music, lighting, scenography, and videography deliver a synchronized vision of Cohen’s tremendous impact as an artist.

Dance Me had its world premiere in Montréal in 2017, and the Montréal-bred artist gave the production a thumbs-up before he died in 2016. 

For tickets, click here.