Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: PARADISE, a Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy Made Great Again at Ruskin Group Theatre

Review: PARADISE, a Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy Made Great Again at Ruskin Group Theatre

The small coal mining town of Paradise has seen better days and its citizens are facing hard times after the town's only mine shut down. Can a charismatic new preacher, Rev. John Cyrus Mountain (the remarkable and versatile Jon Root who originated the role at the Ruskin in 2013) who has arrived in town with his bombshell sidekick Chastity Jones (Nina Brissey, also the originator of the role), who he rescued from the stripper pole in Las Vegas, save the day? Given her pole dancing antics during her suggestive "Jesus is Deep Inside Me" number, there is no doubt the men in town will follow her anywhere, while the women may find her spiritually disturbing or just want to be like her.

This satirical musical hoedown about living the American Dream tells the tale of what happens when the town gets invaded by the Preacher who says he is their "For Profit Prophet." Review: PARADISE, a Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy Made Great Again at Ruskin Group Theatre In cahoots with Peter Martinez (Jamie Daniels), the son of a reality TV producer from Hollywood, the two soon convince the citizens of Paradise that the way to its salvation, fame and fortune is through being the subject of a new "Reality TV" show so the Preacher can raise funds to build a new "Mega-Church" in town to spread the gospel and bring more citizens into his flock. After all, he claims, "If they believe 'The Bachelor' is real, they'll believe anything."

But will Paradise's riotous group of citizens be convinced Review: PARADISE, a Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy Made Great Again at Ruskin Group Theatre to go along with the idea? We get to know them through music and book by Bill Robertson, Tom Sage and Cliff Wagner with updated songs and a tighter storyline that flows as smoothly as the band's many talents (musical director Jim Doyle, John Groover McDuffie, Gregory Boaz, and Devitt Feeley) keep the audience's toes tapping throughout. There's the town's blind watchman, Ezra Johnson (Dave Florck), a gruff but lovable character who celebrates his roots in the song "Hillbillies."

Review: PARADISE, a Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy Made Great Again at Ruskin Group Theatre Paradise's only shop owner, Louanne Knight (Kelsey Joyce) is trying to carry on in her mother's footsteps, beautifully letting us know how much she misses her during the tender "I Miss You."

Mayor Gayheart (the hysterically funny Chip Bolcik) is a closeted germaphobe and his hand-protecting rubber gloves got more colorfully outrageous with each scene. A devoted lover of all things Broadway, he has been grooming his mixed-race adopted son, Tater (Randy Taylor) to make a career singing and dancing on the Great White Way, Review: PARADISE, a Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy Made Great Again at Ruskin Group Theatre a dream that Tater comically shatters with "I Don't Want to Sing on Broadway." The two men shine during their soft shoe duet at the end of the number, complete with top hats and canes! This number totally captivated the audience as did their "The American Way" number with the Preacher in which they each claim "mine is bigger" since bigger is always better in the USA. All swagger and innuendo, this number was definitely an audience favorite.

And then there is madcap, itinerant pig and chicken farmer Review: PARADISE, a Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy Made Great Again at Ruskin Group Theatre Cyndi (Paige Segal) who celebrates getting back at those who have mocked her with the comical "The Missing Link" during which she celebrates her excellent revenge antics by lighting a flaming bag of shit. I must admit, Segal's enthusiasm got me singing and laughing along with her. Such fun! And kudos to the band for bringing the essence of bluegrass to this number and more during the show.

By the time this highly entertaining and politically incorrect show wraps Review: PARADISE, a Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy Made Great Again at Ruskin Group Theatre and the real truth about the Preacher and Chastity is revealed, awash in red lighting designed by Edward Salas, you will be sorry to see this tale of Southern pride and gullibility come to an end. Kudos to director Michael Myers for his brilliant direction of a show destined to take the country by storm when it goes out on its first national tour! So if life is overwhelming and things just don't seem to be going your way, lighten up and forget your troubles for a few hours and I guarantee you will leave the Ruskin Group Theatre knowing they have made Paradise great again!

Review: PARADISE, a Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy Made Great Again at Ruskin Group Theatre PARADISE - A Divine Bluegrass Musical Comedy runs Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm through September 23, 2018. Ruskin Group Theatre is located at 3000 Airport Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90405. Free parking is available at the theater. Tickets are $30 - $35 (group discounts with 6 or more) and can be purchased in advance online at www.ruskingrouptheatre.com or by calling (310) 397-3244. Available tickets are sold at the box office prior to each performance, which sold out during its first run. So get yours soon!

Photos by Ed Krieger and Michelle Hanzelova



Review: Gleeful GREASE Revs Up Nostalgia in La Mirada Photo
Despite outdated, cringe-inducing tropes, McCoy Rigby Entertainment's new production of this ubiquitous rock-and-roll stage musical---now on stage at the La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts through February 12---manages to still entertain thanks mostly to the superb musical numbers energetically performed by its talented cast.

REDCAT Presents The Wooster Group/Bertolt Brecht: THE MOTHER, February 8-12 Photo
From Feb. 8 to 12, 2023, Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater (REDCAT), CalArts' center for contemporary arts in downtown Los Angeles presents The Wooster Group with a new production of Bertolt Brecht's 1932 play, The Mother.

Illustrator/ Storyboad Artist Janet Kusnick To Be Honored With Lifetime Achievement Award  Photo
The Art Directors Guild (ADG, IATSE Local 800) has announced that Illustrator/Storyboard Artist Janet Kusnick will be presented with an Art Directors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award by the Illustrators and Matte Artists (IMA) Council. The celebration will take place at the 27th Annual ADG Awards on Saturday February 18, 2023, at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown. Making the announcement was Guild President Nelson Coates, ADG and Awards Producers Michael Allen Glover, ADG and Megan Elizabeth Bell, ADG.

Photos: First Look At The Cast of SELLING KABUL At Ensemble Theatre Company Photo
Ensemble Theatre Company (ETC) begins the new year with the third show of its 2022-23 Season, the suspenseful thriller, SELLING KABUL, written by Sylvia Khoury and directed by Nike Doukas.


From This Author - Shari Barrett

Shari Barrett, a Los Angeles native, has been active in the theater world since the age of six - acting, singing, and dancing her way across the boards all over town. After teaching in secondary sc... (read more about this author)


Interview: Peter Noone Talks Touring with Herman's HermitsInterview: Peter Noone Talks Touring with Herman's Hermits
January 25, 2023

Herman's Hermits featuring lead singer Peter Noone formed in Manchester in 1964 and then took the world by storm during the Beatles-inspired British Invasion era. The group's success continues internationally, with the group touring to entertain not only fans from the 1960s but their children and grandchildren as well. So when I heard Herman's Hermits was set to appear at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on January 27, I decided to speak with Peter about the group's beginning and how life on the road has kept the band going for so many years.

Interview: Deborah Robin on Portraying Doris Day in DAY AFTER DAYInterview: Deborah Robin on Portraying Doris Day in DAY AFTER DAY
January 18, 2023

The DAY AFTER DAY musical shares the dramatic personal life story of Doris Day through her music, including many of her hit songs: Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered, Sentimental Journey, Secret Love, It’s Magic, A Guy is a Guy, and Que Sera Sera. Since her popularity turned Doris Day into America’s Sweetheart in the days before the ever-present internet and cell phones, were you ever as curious as I was as to who the real Doris Day was after the cameras stopped rolling? And what does it take to bring such a beloved and well-known icon to the stage? I decided to speak with Deborah Robin about her devotion to the star and the role to find out.

Interview: Writer/Performer Anzu Lawson on the L.A. Debut of her Solo Show THE RUBInterview: Writer/Performer Anzu Lawson on the L.A. Debut of her Solo Show THE RUB
January 17, 2023

Anzu Lawson is gearing up to debut her second one-woman show, The Rub, inspired by her 30-minute single camera comedy pilot about her life as a stand-up comic who secretly pays her bills by being every Asian mother's worst nightmare... a masseuse. I first met Anzu when she was performing as Yoko Ono during the 2014 Hollywood Fringe Festival, a role she inhabits with her entire body, heart and soul. So it makes perfect sense that The Rub debuts on Yoko Ono’s 90th birthday on Saturday, February 18 at 8pm as part of Whitefire Theatre's Solofest 2023. Here's my interview with her about the show.

Interview: Playwright Lester Probst on VOLUN-TEARS, A World Premiere Play About Sexual Harassment in the MilitaryInterview: Playwright Lester Probst on VOLUN-TEARS, A World Premiere Play About Sexual Harassment in the Military
December 10, 2022

ArtsUP! LA is presenting the world premiere of Volun-Tears, a powerful play by Korean War Veteran Lester Probst, based on the true experiences of women who have suffered sexual harassment and sexual abuse while serving in the United States Armed Forces, performed by U.S. Veterans. I decided to speak with Lester Probst on what inspired him to write the play and what message he hopes to instill in audience members to start the road to achieving equality within the ranks of our military, especially for women.

Interview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLESInterview: Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves, Creator and Director of SHAMBLES
December 7, 2022

The Actors' Gang is excited to present their family friendly holiday show, Shambles, an unbridled concoction of seasonal charm and sassy cunning all rolled up in a cirque-infused panto, blurring the lines between audience and performers. When I read that this immersive experience will drop theater goers into a 60's NASA holiday party complete with alien abductions, ugly Christmas sweaters, and free-flowing champagne offered as theatergoers meander through curated rooms of wonder, I knew I had to speak with the production's creator and director, Cirque du Soleil's Stefan Haves about his vision to bring such fun family fare to the stage.