UCLA and USC Spring Musicals 2015 - Easter weekend sings in LA
THOROUGHLY MODERN MILLIE
both score with talented companies
and Standing O Productions!
Top pic Grease and below the cast of Mille
I spent the spring Easter weekend in the SoCal visiting both USC and UCLA’s Theatre arts programs to see their spring musicals - I did expect both Universities to have outstanding stage productions. I was not disappointed.
The Cast of Millie
The only red flag was the fact that UCLA’s Hooligan company is entirely student run, so I expected the “lets do show in the barn for the kids” type of production. But the Hooligan student producers Aaron Fish and Kelly Lennon bring a professional crew to the Freud Playhouse stage at UCLA. MILLIE was one of Hooligans first shows in 2005, and to celebrate 10 years they re-staged it.
The cast of Grease featuring Sidne Phillips
Across town at USC - their reboot of GREASE is not a student run production and the quality of the set and craft of the performance was expensive. Professionally directed by Jeff Maynard, and staged at the Bing Theatre, this “Greased Lightnin” was one of the best casts I have seen.
USC School of Dramatic Arts and UCLA Department of Theatre spend a nice budget on their shows, its the same at UC Berkeley, and their home base for Musicals, UC Irvine. Rarely do they need to do any marketing for their productions. They all sell out. Both campus’ have a number of stages and productions up during the same dates. Also at USC is their black box production of THE WAY OF THE WORLD, and UCLA, BAT BOY. I chose the two musicals when I visited the first weekend of April 2015.
Millie with leads Maddy Lauritzen, Jon Perl, Oscar Tsukayama and Brandon Sumida
MILLIE is a great dance show and choreographer Katherine Page opens the first act with the classic tap extravaganza “Thoroughly Modern Millie”. Directed by a senior at UCLA Anna Rudolph, keeps the show moving. Rudolph cast two talented actors to play the asian leads Ching and Bun. Oscar Tsukayama and Brandon Sumida, their chinese dialect and comic timing was perfect. Other leads include Maddy Lauritzen as Millie, she has a wonderful voice and the perfect timing for the every girl.
Marnina Wirtschafter as Mrs Meers
MILLIE is a perfect musical for female leads, Mrs Meers, the villain of this story is well played by Marnina wirtschafter. Vanessa Magula as Muzzy is excellent. The other two male leads Jimmy Smith and Mr Trevor played well by Jonny Perl and Alex Levy. Perl has a great voice and was impressive during this solo “What do I need with Love”.
Sidne Phillips is Sandy
Over at USC Director Jeff Maynard cast his GREASE company “color blind casting”. The best way to show off a more diverse talent base. USC freshman, Sidne Phillips plays the wholesome girl next door Sandy Dumbrowski. Austin Humble plays the hot shot icon Danny Zuko. Austin plays Danny as we all know him, but he does bring that swagger to the role and he has a great voice. Phillips outshines most of the cast and is a true future star soon to follow the many other “A listers” who have played the USC Bing stage.
The other cast I want to mention include: Jackson White as Danny’s side kick Kenicke has a great voice and worked the stage well. The class clown Roger “Rump” well played by Andrew Acosta, has perfect stage presents, who sang the classic ”Mooning” and fit the role. Rizo played by Perry Mattfeld had the best bad girl timing, and Bella Hicks as Frenchie the “drop out” was very funny. Tucker Aust was the perfect Eugene, the only gay subtext of the classic musical. Erik Hu as Vince Fontaine shined in the cast, and my hope one day is to see an Asian or black “Zuko”. Erik Hu strong stage presents could, I hope one day, keep the light on for “color blind casting”.
All the classic GREASE numbers were well danced by the troop and Dana Solimando s choreography made “Born to Hand Jive” one of the best numbers, along with “Greased Lightnin” featuring an actual car on stage for the boys to slip and slide off. This version of Rydell High was the latest that features “You’re The One That I Want” that was created for the movie version.
Both Universities produced great shows and its easy for each department to boast about their programs. My take - UCLA Student produced MILLIE gets a standing O for the fact - this show is truly student run and features some heavy talent not even majoring in their Arts program. USC production of GREASE gets a huge applause from me, its classy professional production and the highlight was the “color blind casting”.
GREASE has one more weekend 4/10 at USC and Hooligan at UCLA is up and running their next show THE WEDDING SINGER - that opens April 10th 2015.
USC AND UCLA
Theatre Arts Departments
http://www.hooligantheatre.org/ https://dramaticarts.usc.edu/ https://www.facebook.com/USCSchoolofDramaticArts?fref=ts