BWW Reviews: ILove99 THE MUSICAL! Offers A Cabaret To Save Los Angeles Intimate Theatre
Due to the enormous success of their first show, Sixth Avenue presented an encore of its National Tour "ILove99 The Musical!" cabaret event to save Los Angeles intimate theatre on Tuesday, March 24 at the Dragonfly on Hollywood's Theater Row. Produced by Adam Silver and directed by Alan Smithee (wink wink) featuring returning and additional performers, the event proved to be a real meeting of the minds for both union and non-union audience members.
And what a show it was, giving both AEA union members as well as non-members a chance to enjoy great entertainment while rallying everyone to go out and encourage all union member to vote NO on the proposed union changes that could wipe out intimate theater in Los Angeles. With ballots due in the mail the next day, the fervor was high to get the word out and secure the future of Los Angeles intimate theatre. A NO vote is being requested so that Equity and its members can work on proposal changes that better serve its members rather than shut down intimate theater by making them pay Equity members a salary. Look for a full page ad in the L.A. Times today.
Host Nicole Parker began the evening by sharing stories about auditioning for television and how different it is from being involved in theatre. She echoed the comment made by many during the evening that intimate theatre gives actors a place to shine and develop their skill in an environment where casting is certainly more color blind than on television or in movies. And with more than 6,500 Equity members in Los Angeles, non-profit intimate theaters offer the best opportunities for actors to keep their skills sharp and find creative fulfillment by doing work not available elsewhere to so many.
Standout performers included the soulful singer Constance Jewell Lopez who belted out a selection from "Dreamgirls" that literally blasted paint off the walls. She emotionally shared how intimate theaters have allowed her to play characters she would never have the chance to portray anywhere else, being a woman of color. "Just how many times do I have to play the maid with attitude?" she asked, greeted by thunderous applause from the supportive audience.
Deborah S. Craig, who created the first Korean American character on Broadway, "Marcy Park" in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, wowed the audience with her marvelous vocal skill and absolute stage presence. Actress Kirsten Vangsness, who currently stars as FBI Technical Analyst Penelope Garcia on the CBS drama series Criminal Minds, shared how she has become known as the "one-take wonder" on set, which she attributes to her intimate theater training.
Indian actor Parvesh Cheena also shared how most casting directors only considered him funny when he spoke with an accent, limiting him in the media but allowing him to take on color blond roles in intimate theater productions. "It's what makes 99 seat theater vital to all actors, not just actors of color."
Many songs were presented with new lyrics promoting the cause, all greeted with laughter and applause, as were skits about an actor's life presented with humor and sarcastic wit. Each was more entertaining than the last, especially French Stewart sharing his experience of attending 3 auditions on one day, changing in his car between each one, then dashing off to rehearsal that evening after consuming questionable studio food. His solution to its aftermath was graphically hysterical.
I wondered why the program listed the director as Alan Smithee, a well-known pseudonym used during the blacklist era when directors who feared for their safety or were being blackballed hid their identities in order to work. Producer Adam Silver addressed the issue, saying AEA told "producers" that we should be careful about what we say or do because we could be brought up on labor law violations.
Another great addition to the show was Doug (sorry I did not catch his full name), who sat at the edge of the stage providing sign language interpretation throughout. He added in much humor, most notably when his signing involved topics of a sexual nature which generated much hilarity!
"ILove99 The Musical!" featured performances by: Tisha Terrasini Banker, Jake Broder, Burglars of Hamm, Parvesh Cheena, Deborah S. Craig, Frances Fisher, Sandra Mae Frank, Tom Lenk, Kelly Lester, Constance Jewell Lopez, Austin McKenzie, Rebecca Metz, Nicole Parker, Amy Pietz, French Stewart, Kirsten Vangsness and Dan White.This FREE show is part of a National Tour is using AEA actors. More information may be found at www.6avenue.org. Equity members please take their message to heart and rock the vote!Pro99 is a collection of thousands of individual theatrical artists that have become a community choosing to work in intimate theatres (under 99 seats) in Los Angeles. The community includes professional actors, directors, writers, designers, stage managers, and producers. Many are proud members of Actors Equity Association and most are members of other unions as well. The Pro99 community believes it has the right to perform its crafts in an intimate and non-commercial setting and volunteer its talents in search of creative fulfillment. To learn more: www.ILove99.org.