Review: THE OUTSIDERS at La Jolla Playhouse

Extended through April 9th at the La Jolla Playhouse, see this show before it's gone!

David Ellenstein Named Artistic Director & Bill Kerlin Named Managing Director of Laguna Playhouse

When you walk into the theatre, PonyBoy is already there, watching and waiting to tell his story. The new musical adaption of THE OUTSIDERS at the La Jolla Playhouse brings all of the restless energy and the building tensions of the novel, written by S.E.Hinton to the stage with dynamic performances and choreography. Extended through April 9th at the La Jolla Playhouse, see this show before it's gone!

The musical is an exciting adaption, that is a nice blend of the novel, and the 1983 Francis Ford Coppola film, while also feeling like a fully theatrical experience. It is 1965 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and 15-year-old PonyBoy (Brody Grant) and his best friend Johnny (Sky Lakota-Lynch) try to take a shortcut through a park and quickly find themselves in some trouble. PonyBoy and Johnny as Greasers, from the poor side of town, and the rich and entitled Socs, don't want them in the park or really anywhere. After a narrow escape, the tensions between the two gangs continue to build until everyone's lives are forever altered.

PonyBoy is the youngest of three siblings who were suddenly orphaned after their parents died in a car accident. The oldest Darrel (Ryan Vasquez) is 20 and gave up a football scholarship for a job so he can keep everyone in the family home. SodaPop (Jason Schmidt) is a lover and a fighter but is heartbroken over his ex-girlfriend. They, like many other Greasers like Dallas (Da'Von T. Moody) who is a tough ex-con, are barely scraping by and really only have one another to depend on.

David Ellenstein Named Artistic Director & Bill Kerlin Named Managing Director of Laguna Playhouse

One night at the drive-through, the Socs led by Bob (Kevin William Paul) take offense to PonyBoy discussing books with Cherry (Piper Patterson) and go after him and Johnny to teach them a lesson. When the events of that fight turn deadly, PonyBoy and Johnny run away in panic, and with the help of Dallas find a hideout in an old abandoned church in another town.

Directed by Danya Taymor the show is imaginative and sets the scene quickly. The audience walks into a theatre resembling a movie theatre from the time period, ready to play "Cool Hand Luke" for the audience, including PonyBoy and Johnny.

Grant is excellent as PonyBoy, and balances the character's vulnerability and the frustrations of spoiling for a fight. He is highly expressive and vocally soars in "Great Expectations". Lakota-Lynch as Johnny is battered but not yet out of hope, and his friendship with PonyBoy brings out the best in them both. Vasquez as Darrel is very strong vocally, though the show's emphasis on his domestic frustrations makes his character seem a lot older than his 20 years old.

David Ellenstein Named Artistic Director & Bill Kerlin Named Managing Director of Laguna Playhouse

The choreography by Rick Kuperman and Jeff Kuperman, is physical and visceral, with all of the barely restrained energy and frustration that fuels these characters coming out in their movement. The dances include lifts, fight choreography, and both dancing on and using set pieces. Tilly Evans-Krueger is a standout dancer and is also the assistant choreographer and dance captain of the show.

The rumble between the two groups is an outstanding piece, combining dance and fight choreography with Isabella Byrd's lighting design, Jeremy Chernick's special effects design, projections design by Tal Yarden, and Justin Ellington's sound design to create a moment that you will be talking about well after you have left the theatre.

The music by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance) and arranged by Justin Levine range from high energy to beautiful ballads, and the songs are incredibly well placed to both move the story along and plumb the hidden emotional depths of these characters. Some standout numbers include the hopeful "Great Expectations," the dark and desperate "Run, Brother, Run," and "Death's At My Door" in the church hideout.

This is a new musical and therefore does have some areas that could use some revisions. The initial hand-holding between PonyBoy and Cherry that throws the fighting into high gear isn't necessary and feels wrong for both characters. The Socs could use more character-building to avoid being just one-note bullies. The replacement of Cherry's friend Marcia (Kiki Lemieux) in the second act with Randy (Daniel Marconi) may be how the book is written but is confusing in the stage world they've built since Randy seems to suddenly appear. The second act is not nearly as strong as the first, and the climactic event in the church that drives the rest of the events feels rushed and inadequate.

Overall this is an impressive new musical, with a talented cast, dynamic performances, and choreography. You'll want to see THE OUTSIDERS now, the tickets will be much harder to get once it goes to Broadway.

THE OUTSIDERS is playing at the La Jolla Playhouse through April 9th. For ticket and show time information go to

Photo Credit: La Jolla Playhouse and Rich Soublet II



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