2008 IN THE REARVIEW

Unforgettable musicals, comedies,
And a visit to 'This Beautiful City'

The number of quality productions attended by Theatertimes in 2008 was higher than usual, which made the 'Rearview' recognition process both easier and more enjoyable.

Spring Awakening Photo: ©2008 Paul Kolnik

It was a big year for attending musicals, and they were largely enjoyed. Not surprisingly, the Ahmanson Theatre, with its imported road shows and direct-from-New York reliables, led the field. Because it was the most thrilling and envelop-pushing for me, Spring Awakening (above) gets top honors in the Musical category, but John Doyle's celebrated staging of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd was as exciting in its way, with actors performing the music on an array of instruments. However, that show had been covered extensively, and Sondheim is such a predictable entry that we salute Awakening's Steven Sater and Duncan Shiek.

Theatertimes Rearview Trophy

The other outstanding musical's do manage a mention in other categories: 9 to 5: the Musical took something that felt fairly unimaginative as a film and ramped up the creativity with Dolly Parton's songs and fine lead performances, all played out on a magnificent multi-location set designed by Scott Pask, who gets the nod in that category.

Up there in the realm of thrilling and groundbreaking was Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. It is honored with favorite lighting for Jeff Croiter, which added greatly to the stylish mood of this piece. The Civilians also had a musical debut at Douglas, and with so much to commend their This Beautiful City, we tip the hat to the marvelous ensemble work.

And the final musical to get honored by other means is Open Fist Theatre's revival of Joe's Garage. This was a revival and much more as it took what had only been a theatrical concept presented on a recording by composer Frank Zappa and brought it to life with the cooperation of the controlling, and now late Gail Zappa Credit to adapters Pat Towne and Michael Franco.

Julie White in Douglas Carter Beane’s “The Little Dog Laughed,” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre Photo by Craig Schwartz

For the acting Rearviews, a well-deserved nod to Julie White (right) for her hilariously brazen agent in Douglas Carter Beane's The Little Dog Laughed at the Douglas, the incredible Richard Kind as a hilariously brazen producer in Daniel Goldfarb's Adam Baum and the Jew Movie at the Hayworth Theatre, Tom Fitzpatrick as an unforgettable Fagin in A Noise Within's Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, and the heartbreaking Diana Elizabeth Jordan in Julie Marie Myatt's powerful and important Someday for Cornerstone Theatre (presented at the Bootleg).

And, last but far from least, are the premiere of Paul Oakley Stovall's As Much as You Can at Celebration Theatre. Seven years later, Stovall revisited the script and had a higher-profile production at the Mark Taper Forum, with Immediate Family. But the ingredients were all there, and successfully rendered back in 2008. The directing award goes to Ethan McSweeny for Stephen Drukman's In This Corner at The Old Globe. It just confirmed McSweeny's vision, which we'd seen the previous year at the Glove with A Body of Water and a few years earlier with Noah Haidle's Mr. Marmalade at South Coast Repertory, when I was still on staff. Speaking of which, a deserved nod to that theater's production staff for the imaginative renderings of Angela Balogh Calin's costumes for Doug Cooney's Imagine, one of SCR's Theatre for Young Audiences productions.



PREMIERE: 'AS MUCH AS YOU CAN'
by Paul Oakley Stovall | Celebration Theatre

REVIVIAL: 'JOE'S GARAGE'
by Frank Zappa, Pat Towne, Michael Franco | Open Fist Theatre

MUSICAL: 'SPRING AWAKENING'
by Steven Sater and Duncan Shiek | Ahmanson Theatre

DIRECTOR: ETHAN McSWEENY
In This Corner | The Old Globe

FEMALE LEAD: JULIE WHITE
The Little Dog Laughed | Kirk Douglas Theatre

MALE LEAD: RICHARD KIND
Adam Baum and the Jew Movie | Hayworth Theatre

FEATURED FEMALE: DIANA ELIZABETH JORDAN Someday | Cornerstone Theatre Company
FEATURED MALE: TOM FITZPATRICK Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist | A Noise Within

SET DESIGN: SCOTT PASK
'9 to 5: the Musical' | Ahmanson Theatre

COSTUME DESIGN: ANGELA BALOGH CALIN 'Imagine' | South Coast Repertory

LIGHTING DESIGN: JEFF CROITER
'Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson' | Kirk Douglas Theatre

SOUND DESIGN: DAVE IWATAKI
'Be Like Water' | East West Players

ENSEMBLE: 'THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY'
The Civilians: Brandon Miller, Brad Heberlee, Alison Weller, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Stephen Plunkett and Emily Ackerman / Kirk Douglas Theatre

2008 REVIEWS

9 to 5: The Musical   /  Ahmanson Theatre

Adam Baum and the Jew Movie /   Hayworth Theatre

Alexandros /  Laguna Playhouse

The American Plan /  Old Globe Theatre (Carter)

As Much as You Can / Celebration Theatre

Be Like Water / East West Players

Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson / Kirk Douglas Theatre

Body Politic / Echo Theatre

Brownstone / Laguna Playhouse

Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist /  A Noise Within

Culture Clash in AmeriCCA /  South Coast Repertory (Argyros)

Don Juan / A Noise WIthin

Don't Talk to the Actors / Laguna Playhouse

The Dying Gaul / The Elephant Theatre

The End of the Tour / The Road Theatre

For All Time / Cornerstone Theatre Company

Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune / International City Theatre

Great Expectations / Odyssey Theatre

Hamlet /  A Noise Within

The Heiress / South Coast Repertory

Henry IV, Pt 1 /  A Noise Within

The Hiding Place / Attic Theatre Ensemble

Imagine / South Coast Repertory

In This Corner / The Old Globe

An Italian Straw Hat / South Coast Repertory

Joan Rivers: A Work in Progress by a Life in Progress / Geffen Playhouse/p>

Joe's Garage /  Open Fist Theatre

The Lady With All the Answers /  Pasadena Playhouse

Leaving Iowa / Laguna Playhouse

The Little Dog Laughed / Kirk Douglas

Mask /  Pasadena Playhouse

Memphis / La Jolla Playhouse

The Merry Wives of Windsor / The Old Globe

Nevis Mountain Dew / Towne Street Theatre (Stella Adler Theatre)

No Child / Kirk Douglas Theatre

Orson's Shadow /  Pasadena Playhouse

Our Town / Rude Guerrilla

Post Mortem / Insight America

The Rainmaker /  A Noise Within

Red Herring / Laguna Playhouse

Sea of Tranquility /  The Old Globe

The Seven /  La Jolla Playhouse

Some Girl(s) / Kirk Douglas Theatre

Someday /  Cornerstone Theatre Company

Some Kind of Love Story / Hayworth Theatre

Spring Awakening / Ahmanson Theatre

Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street / Ahmanson Theatre

Taking Steps /  South Coast Repertory (Segerstrom)

This Beautiful City /  Kirk Douglas Theatre

Tranced / Laguna Playhouse

Two Unrelated Plays /  Kirk Douglas Theatre

Vanities /  Pasadena Playhouse

Voices from Okinawa / East West Players

What They Have / South Coast Repertory