Podcast: West of Broadway is On the Red Carpet of The Father at Pasadena Playhouse Starring Alfred Molina
It's curtains up on a special episode of West Broadway! I'm Los Angeles publicist and Broadway veteran Will Armstrong. This episode is a bit of a departure from our normal shows at west of Broadway, but as I think of it, maybe it's less of a departure and more of an evolution. After all, as I see it, a podcast about musical theater on the West Coast is great. But what is musical theater without... Theater?
The Pasadena Playhouse is a pretty special theater in the heart of Pasadena. And over the past couple seasons they have really upped their game when it comes to the shows that they produce. And it sounded like this production was no different. As the official state theater of California, their mission is to enrich people's lives through theater, community programs and learning. With over 100 years of experience they are one of the most prolific theaters in American history with the legacy of profound theatrical impact and courageous new work
Molina, who I've adored since Raiders of the lost Ark back in 1981. Made his Broadway debut as Evan in the production of Art and received critical acclaim in the play Red. And musical fans know he also starred in Fiddler on the Roof as Tevye. His laundry list of theatrical and television accomplishments is nothing short of impressive and opening night of The Father was full of fans and dear friends who were there to support and celebrate Mr. Molina
The play The father is a dark journey down the tragic one-way tunnel of dementia from French playwright Florian Zeller. This intense drama was adapted in English by Christopher Hampton originally starring Frank Langella who won the Tony Award for his performance of Andre and I knew that Mr. Molina was going to impress.
While covering the red carpet, I wanted to ask the celebrity guests three questions. One: "Why is theater special to you." Two: "What makes theater in Los Angeles so different" And lastly, "How excited are you to see Alfred Molina in this production?"
Veteran Actor, Stacey Keach, Marisa Echeverria of Goliath, Actress Wendie Malick who mentioned the work she does with Playfest in Durango Colorado, Film and stage actress Amy Aquino, Actress and Producer Cindy Fernandez Nixon, Pasadena Playhouse Board member Jane Kaczmarek, Okieriete "OAK" Onaodowan from Hamilton and ABC's Station 19, Actress and Educator Brenda Banda of Gentefied talks about her relationship with PSArts, Michael Nathanson from Netflix's The Punisher talks about his callback for this production, and the charmingly brilliant Suzanne Cryer, who you may know from All Rise or Silicone Valley, talks about her love of theater, her family and crying
After the red carpet wound down, we made our way into the theater I'm always so impressed with how quaint and nostalgic The Pasadena Playhouse is. I've seen several productions there now and it seems like every seat is a great seat. I was immediately struck with how beautiful the set design was of the first scene and I was anxious for the show to begin but honestly, I didn't know what to expect.
Alfred Molina's portrayal of Andre and aging father who is faced with advancing dementia is navigating his relationship with his daughter while trying to assert his independence.
What struck me instantly about the play was that we weren't just spectators watching a scene from the audience we were getting all of our information from the perspective of Molina's character. It wasn't very long into the play that we realize, not everything we see and hear and learn can be excepted as fact.
The scene transitions were all jarring and unsettling, as were the subtle adjustments of set pieces throughout the entire play causing you to question your own mind and memory.
The entire ensemble was, as expected in a Pasadena production on par with the exceptional abilities of Alfred Molina. Working scenes that took you from uncomfortably laughing at the dark comedy writings of Zeller, To the unsettling accusatory frustrations of a child or family member that is forced to deal with the onset of such an uncomfortable and debilitating condition.
I'm not sure what other audience members left with as we exited the playhouse but for me, I was sad to think that this story is probably not that unique, and households across the world were probably forced to face the same situation in their own way. Molina's portrayal of this once commanding and confident successful businessman and father who devolved into an almost childlike confused patient was both heartbreaking and poignant.
So, in closing this is not your standard musical theater Romp of a boy meets boy or, will everybody finally let that green girl go to school in peace? or will they open their show in time for their premier. but what I appreciated was the talent that went into mounting this beautiful production and the love of a craft that is meant to inspire and entertain and take you away from our own lives for just a moment.
Thanks so much for listening. I hope you enjoyed learning about my experience at The Pasadena Playhouse for more episodes you can find us at Broadwaypodcastnetwork.com/westofBroadway. And you can find me on social media @WillArmstrongPR. Special thanks to my talented audio tech/husband and theater companion Bill Shepard and the team at Broadway Podcast Network, if you have some time poke around on their homepage they've got some other really great programming and I'm sure you'll enjoy.
So that's all for now, thanks so much enjoy the rest of your day and remember if you're ever looking for us you can find us just west of Broadway.
ABOUT WEST OF BROADWAY
Theater veteran Will Armstrong and theater enthusiast Lara Scott discuss the vibrant musical theater scene on the West Coast, covering movie musicals, region productions, national tours, and more with the cast, crew, producers, and supporters who make it all happen. If you want a lighthearted celebration of musical theater, you can find it all West of Broadway!
When she's not co-hosting West of Broadway can be heard on the radio in Southern California on K-Earth 101. Lara is also the host of The World Chart Show, an internationally syndicated Top 40 countdown, and her voice has been used on programs for Bravo, VH-1, the Olympic Encore on Universal Sports, and in-flight programming for Delta Radio and Air Force 1. She is also a weekend lounge host on Martin In the Morning, where she plays Standards from The Great American Songbook.
Born in Southwest Florida, Lara headed to Oregon after high school. She got into radio in Bend, Oregon, after calling a local station on a dare from a friend, and then continued her broadcasting career in Portland. After graduating with a B.S. in Philosophy from Portland State University, she moved to San Francisco to become the music director and nighttime air personality at KZQZ/95.7. She then spent almost seven years as the midday host at KYSR/Star 98.7 in Los Angeles, followed by almost a decade in mornings and middays at KFSH/95.9 The Fish.
Her passion for preservation and history led her to Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo, a historic theater that shows classic films on the big screen every weekend, and she now serves on their advisory board. The theater was also featured in her first book, From the Corner of Hollywood and diVine: Your Guide to 30 Old Hollywood-Inspired Spots in Southern California. She is the co-host, along with Oscar-winning filmmaker James Moll, of the Classic Movie Recall podcast, and reviews films from the Golden Age of Hollywood every week.
Lara was a 2008 President's Volunteer Service Award winner, which was presented by recording artist Michael W. Smith on behalf of President George W. Bush for her charity work. In her free time, she can be found hanging out with her young son and daughter, snowboarding, shopping at vintage and thrift stores, chanting at yoga class, and attending lots of concerts and films.
Will Armstrong started dancing at the age of 2. He started working professionally at Walt Disney World fresh out of High School. After several years in Orlando he set sail with Norwegian Cruise Lines performing in Will Rogers Follies, Greese, Crazy for You and 42nd Street.
When he returned to land, he joined the 1st national tour of Victor/Victoria with Toni Tennille of Captain and Tennille fame. At the end of his 52-week American tour, Will traveled east to perform at Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea in various stage productions where he danced, sang and made wonderful friends.
Will's Broadway debut was in 2002 as a chorus member in the Broadway revival of 42nd Street with Tom Wopat of The Dukes of Hazard and Tony Award winner Beth Leavel from the Drowsy Chaperone. After 42nd Street closed, Will filmed Susan Stroman and Mel Brooks movie musical The Producers before taking his final performing job as an ensemble member of The World Famous Radio City Christmas Spectacular. After Will stepped away from performing he joined the support team of the 1st National tour of Wicked before bringing it to the Pantages Theater for a 5 year residency.
Will now owns his own public relations agency where he puts the skills he learned in the entertainment industry to work creating exciting and original strategies that put smiles on his clients faces.