This week's stage feature takes a look at current shows at the Broad Stage and Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and how such multi-purpose performance venues are the architectural wave of the future.
NEW THEATER REVIEWS, scheduled for publication Dec. 19, 2013:
PICK OF THE WEEK: ALADDIN AND HIS WINTER WISH Wit and the magic of a well-designed spectacle combine in the beguiling, interactive adaptation, embellished with comic characters, polished performances and colorful tech and costumes. Directed by Bonnie Lythgoe, Kris Lythgoe's engaging script preserves the basic story of a penniless youth (Jordan Fisher) who garners wealth and the hand of a beautiful princess (Ashley Argota) via a dusty old lamp and a genie (Ben Vereen). It elaborates on this with zany subplots involving the boy's humongous, man-crazed mom (Bruce Vilanch); his clueless, clownish brother, Wishee Washee (Ben Giroux); and his narcissistic evil nemesis (Josh Adamson), whose dastardly stratagems provoke the audience simultaneously to boos and laughter. When his luck runs low, Aladdin turns to the Slave of the Ring, a captivating siren portrayed by dancer Vanessa Nichole. If this sounds like appropriate fare for the kiddies but perhaps not for you, a mature adult, be assured: This is family entertainment in the best sense. In fact, a few of the jokes may sail over the youngsters' heads. Designer Chris Wilcox's dazzling lighting augments a storybook set nearly as vivid as any Disney cartoon. An on-the-mark company of dancers, including children, execute Spencer Liff's snazzy dance steps. One caveat: The vocals are fine, but the inclusion of popular songs from other sources (e.g., "You Don't Know Me," sung by Fisher's Aladdin) struck an odd note; I would have preferred something more original. Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena; Thurs.-Sat., 3 & 7 p.m.; Sat.- Sun., 11 & 3 p.m.; Tues., Dec. 24, 3 p.m.; through Dec. 29. (626) 356-PLAY, pasadenaplayhouse.org (Deborah Klugman)
If any production inaugurating a new stage company is tantamount to the raising of an aesthetic flag, the banner flying over newly minted Eleventh Story Productions' crack revival of Neil LaBute's harrowing, 1999 triptych of modern morality plays is the blackest of Jolly Rogers. Originally subtitled Latter-Day Plays, the one-acts use twin prisms of true blue American Mormonism and bleak Euripidean tragedy to refract LaBute's tales about acts of supreme savagery committed by otherwise blandly unassuming individuals. In "Iphigenia in Orem," John Delbarian plays a traveling salesman who matter-of-factly regales an unseen listener with the story of the apparently senseless death of his infant daughter. "A Gaggle of Saints" features a pair of betrothed college students (Zach McFarlane and Yelizaveta Rybalchenko), who relate how a romantic weekend road trip consummated their engagement with a brutal Central Park attack carried out by the fiancé and several frat brothers. In "Medea Redux," Shanté DeLoach plays a single mother in police custody methodically recounting the shocking chain of events that led to her unthinkable crime. Under Abanoub Andraous' austere but sensitive direction, an outstanding ensemble skillfully hits all of LaBute's poisoned nuances to realize the playwright's profoundly disturbing meditation on the thin line that separates Apollonian rationality from the basest of Dionysian passions and violence. Asylum Lab, 1078 Lillian Way, Hlywd.; closed. (323) 962-1632, theatreasylum-la.com. (Bill Raden)
CABURLESQUE CHRISTMAS: HOLIDAYS AT THE KNOCK SHOP If you can imagine what a Yuletide stag party would be like, you'll have a good idea what's offered in this high-octane, irreverent Xmas show. Featuring a cast with names like Madame Mistletoe, Side Pipin' Sally, Ditzy Dreidel and Ming Long Dong, it's an hourlong mix of burlesque, cabaret and bawdyhouse humor and hijinks, with a dash of soft striptease and a tasteful bit of lap-dancing tossed in. The host/emcee for the evening (or is he a procurer?) is Papa Clause, decked out in Santa-suit red, who despite his best efforts often fails to keep his "gals" in check when they troll the audience for willing participants; and they don't share their attentions with just the guys, either. The eight-member cast's vocal skills aren't quite as stimulating as their attire or physical assets, but they jiggle and bounce their way through traditional numbers like "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "White Christmas." It's certainly a reasonable way to ease holiday boredom. Archway Studio/Theatre, 305 S. Hewitt St., dwntwn.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 pm.; though Dec 22. (213) 237-9933, ArchwayLA.com. (Lovell Estell III)