By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
GO FIDDLER ON THE ROOF Following hard on the ruby-encrusted heels of Broadway’s greatest 21st-century’s phenom Wicked, the Pantages returns to this equally significant Broadway hit from the middle of the last century (nearly a decade as longest-running musical) in a spectacular revival. Sholem Aleichem’s tale of life in a Jewish shtetl under the thumb of Russia’s czar, dramatized by Joseph Stein with a glorious score and lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick respectively, still generates laughs and other emotions. This production remains loyal to Jerome Robbins’ original staging, with expertly re-created direction and choreography by Sammy Dallas Bayes. You won’t find any flying or other magical machinery so expected in contemporary Broadway fare. It feels like time-traveling 50 years back — yet there’s no sense of museum theater here. Leading the way is, of course, Topol, the Israeli star who first played the lead tole of Tevye on London’s West End when he was far too young, then in the 1971 film at the perfect age, now in this “final tour,” when he is too old but still enormously effective as the faithful but constantly God-questioning milkman who sees his Jewish traditions and way of life falling apart. Upon Topol’s first entrance he is greeted as a rock star — but the production doesn’t rest on his laurels alone; it earns its standing ovation from the merits of the ensemble, musicians and designers. Pantages Theater, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 7:30 p.m.; through August 9. (213) 365-3500. (Tom Provenzano)
GO HELLZ KITCHEN ABLAZE
Tommy Carter’s hard-hitting drama delves into the sadly familiar terrain of police brutality and corruption. After a drug raid in which a team member was shot and killed, a clique of New York City’s finest rendezvous in an abandoned, graffiti-pocked warehouse, ostensibly to commiserate about their dead partner. Robert Mangiardi, Michael Camacho, Sal Landi, Phil Parolisi, Charles Taylor and Gary Werntz turn in harrowing performances as gritty, streetwise narcotics officers whose psychological and emotional black holes are nothing short of terrifying. It isn’t long after the team assembles that the real reason for the “party” emerges, and we learn that a bond has been made to split nearly $1 million in confiscated drug money, which is to be retrieved by this gang-in-blue’s only black member, Dash (Tim Starks). It’s while waiting for the payoff to arrive that a toxic stew of racism, fear, suspicion, paranoia and undiluted greed start to erode alliances, causing insurmountable conflicts that culminate in crushing betrayals and murder. In addition to chillingly realistic characters, Carter’s blunt writing and gallows humor propel this 90-minute drama, which, in spite of its dearth of action, is never boring or tedious. And director Barry Sattels and his cast excel in opening up the explosive tension of the plot. Pan Andreas Theatre, 5125 Melrose Ave. L.A.; Thur.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through August 15. (213) 712-5021. (Lovell Estell III)
GO THE NUCLEAR FAMILY
As they’ve been doing since 2007, the company of three actors (Stephen Guarino, Jimmy Ray Bennett and John Gregorio), and pianist Matthew Loren Cohen, staggered through on wit and a prayer to create a 90-minute musical-theater piece off-the-cuff, sprung from the core characters of a generic American family: Mom, Dad and Daughter (some nights it’s Son). The piece and even the characters’ names are different every night, thanks to the unpredictability of audience suggestions, and the trio play different roles at each performance. Every show, however, starts in the “kitchen” — four wooden chairs, two with broken crossbeams — and from there, spirals in and out of control, spinning the dual mythologies of The American Family and The American Musical around and around on a spit. It’s ribald, insane and great fun. Meta Theatre, 7801 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; through August 9; needtheater.org. (323) 852-6963. A NeedTheatre production (Steven Leigh Morris) See Stage Feature.
GO ONE NIGHT STAND: AN IMPROVISED MUSICAL
Seven young actors don’t use wigs for a musical parody concocted in the spur of the moment — this is the improv equivalent of performing without a net. On the night I saw them, they concocted a father-son conflict that parodied the literary convention of young people arriving in L.A. from the hinterlands to become stars. The lanky Quinn Beswick portrayed a kid in Tennessee confronting his dad (Jonah Platt) about not wanting to live out his father’s failed dreams, about not wanting to be a star, but wanting instead to escape to L.A. to pursue his dream of cleaning up after other people who do want to be stars. (No shortage of employment opportunities in that field.) The fresh-scrubbed ensemble showed wit aplenty and boasted bona fide musical theater chops, particularly though the sharp energy and even sharper voices of Samantha Martin and Mollie Taxe. Musical Director Andrew Resnick did piano-accompaniment duties. Hudson Theater Guild, 6539 Santa Monica Boulevard, Hollywood; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sat., 9:30 p.m.; through August 22. (323) 960-4429. (Steven Leigh Morris) See Stage Feature.