NEIL SIMON'S MUSICAL FOOLS Comes to Open Fist Theatre Company
Dumb... dumber... dumbest? Open Fist Theatre Company presents the world premiere of Neil Simon's Musical Fools, an adaptation of the Simon play Fools, with book and lyrics by Neil Simon and music and lyrics by Phil Swann and Ron West (deLEARious, The People Vs Friar Laurence). West also directs, with music direction by Jan Roper and choreography by Louisa Kendrick Burton. Neil Simon's Musical Fools opens Oct. 12 at Atwater Village Theatre, where performances will continue through Nov. 17; pay-what-you-want previews begin Oct. 4.The musical version of Simon's play, like the original, is set in Ukraine in 1893. A young tutor arrives in Kulyenchikov following a harrowing journey - only to discover that the village is cursed, rendering every resident as dumb as a bag of rocks. Will Leon fall victim to the curse, or can he save himself and the village too? Just how dumb are the villagers? Let us count the ways: smart-dumb, naïve-dumb, bully-dumb, literal-dumb, professionally dumb, bureaucratically dumb... and just plain old stupid. "This simple allegory has a certain, perhaps unfortunate resonance in today's political and cultural climate," laughs Open Fist artistic director Martha Demson. "But what I really love are the creative tunes and choreography and the incredible imagination that Ron brings to the storytelling. It's theatrical, charming, entertaining... and very funny." According to West, who may be best known for his work with Chicago comedy troupe The Second City, "People are really going to enjoy Phil's melodies. And yes, it is very, very funny!" The Open Fist ensemble features company members James Byous (Netflix series Westside), Parvesh Cheena, Cat Davis, Nina Genatossio, Ben Goldberg, Bruce Green, Juliane Hagn, Demetris Hartman, Hank Jacobs, Derek Manson, Brendan Mulally, Jason Paige (known to millennials world-wide as the voice of the Pokémon theme song), Diane Renee, Beth Robbins, Robyn Roth, Bolor Saruul, Jack Sharpe and Clare Snodgrass. The creative team includes scenic designer Jan Munroe, lighting designer Matt Richter, sound designer Tim Labor, costume designer Mylette Nora and prop master Bruce Dickinson. Writer/director Ron West and composer Phil Swann also co-authored the musicals deLEARious (which West directed for Open Fist in 2008 and again in 2017) and The People Vs. Friar Laurence, which debuted at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. West has written and directed many shows for The Second City including the Jeff Award-winning Curious George Goes to War, Sex and the Second City and Disgruntled Employee Picnic, which toured internationally. His adaptation for Chicago Shakespeare of The Comedy of Errors, set in London during the Battle of Britain, won Jeff Awards for Best Adaptation and Best Production. West was a consultant to the improvisation TV series Whose Line Is It, Anyway?, a writer for Politically Incorrect and a producer for the syndicated KwikWitz. He has occasionally appeared on television in shows like Third Rock from the Sun, King of Queens and Key & Peele. Other directing credits include Open Fist's Welcome to Your Alternative Reality, which he co-wrote with Catherine Butterfield; Life Expectancy, for the Hollywood Fringe; The 39 Steps at the Malibu Playhouse; and Twist Your Dickens at The Goodman Theatre in Chicago, where he also appeared as Ebenezer Scrooge, and at the Portland Center Stage. Neil Simon (1927-2018) is widely regarded as one of the most successful, prolific and performed playwrights in the world. His plays include Come Blow Your Horn, Little Me, Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Sweet Charity, The Star-Spangled Girl, Plaza Suite, Promises, Promises, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, The Gingerbread Lady, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, The Sunshine Boys, The Good Doctor, God's Favorite, California Suite, Chapter Two, They're Playing Our Song, I Ought to be in Pictures, Fools, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Lost In Yonkers, Biloxi Blues, The Odd Couple (female version), Broadway Bound, Rumors, Jake's Women, The Goodbye Girl, Laughter on the 23rd Floor, London Suite, Proposals, Hotel Suite, The Dinner Party, 45 Seconds from Broadway, Oscar and Felix and Rose's Dilemma. In addition to the film adaptations he has written of many of his plays, his screenplay credits include After the Fox, The Out-Of-Towners, The Heartbreak Kid (original 1973 version), Murder by Death, The Cheap Detective, Seems Like Old Times, Only When I Laugh, Max Dugan Returns, The Slugger's Wife, The Marrying Man and The Odd Couple II. Other motion pictures based on stage plays include Come Blow Your Horn, Sweet Charity and The Star-Spangled Girl. For television Mr. Simon has written series, teleplays and motion pictures including The Tallulah Bankhead Show, The Sid Caesar Show, The Phil Silvers Arrow Show, The Phil Silvers Show, The Garry Moore Show, The Trouble with People, ABC's Broadway Bound and Jake's Women. He was a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize (for Lost In Yonkers), Emmy Awards for The Sid Caesar Show and The Phil Silvers Show, and Tony Awards for The Odd Couple, Biloxi Blues, Lost In Yonkers and a special Tony Award for Overall Contribution to the Theater. Open Fist Theatre Company is a collective, self-producing artistic enterprise with all facets of its operation run by its artist members. The company's name combines the notion that an open spirit, embracing all people and all ideas, is essential, with the idea that determination, signified by a fist, is necessary if the theater is to remain a vital voice for social change and awareness.Neil Simon's Musical Fools opens on Saturday, Oct. 12 at 8.p.m. and continues through Nov. 17, with performances on Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 4 p.m. (except Sunday, Oct. 13) and Mondays at 8 p.m.. Five preview performances take place on Friday, Oct. 4 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 5 at 8 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 6 at 4 p.m.; Monday, Oct. 7 at 8 p.m.; and Friday, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $30 with advance purchase, $35 at the door on Saturdays and Sundays (except Sunday, Oct. 13); and $25 with advance purchase, $30 at the door on Mondays. Student tickets are priced at $15. Tickets for children 12 and under are $10, and a family four pack (two adults and two kids) is available for $65 with advance purchase. Tickets to previews are Pay-What-You-Want. A fundraising gala will take place on Sunday, Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. for which tickets are priced at $100 and include both pre- and post-performance receptions in the courtyard. Atwater Village Theatre is located at 3269 Casitas Ave in Los Angeles, CA 90039. On-site parking is free. For reservations and information, call (323) 882-6912 or go to www.openfist.org.Neil Simon's Musical Fools is family friendly: appropriate for ages 8 and up.