Theatre in Hollywood this season is bursting like a joyous explosion. Beginning with "West Side Story" and extending into February and beyond, theatre goers are in for a real treat.
The national tour of the recent Broadway production of Leonard Bernstein's and Stephen Sondheim's musical revival leaps onto the Pantages stage with a youthful exuberance that leaves us almost breathless.
"Rock of Ages" will rock Hollywood in February. © Copyright 2001-2010 Broadway/LA -Nederlander.Inc - All rights reserved. Photo by Joan Marcus.
The young leads and energetic cast bring new life to this beloved favorite that belies its age. Timeless themes set against an urban landscape are as familiar to a new generation of theatre goers as they were over 50 years ago.
The lead roles of Tony and Maria are played by Southern California Kyle Harris and Ali Ewoldt from Pleasantville, New York. Both in their 20's, they are a perfect match for this production.
Kyle is happy to be home for the holidays. Although he sang in the high school choir to get his art credit, his main interest was soccer. He was hopeful of heading to college with an athletic scholarship when he saw a high school production of "Into the Woods" and got bitten by the theatre bug. Following his girlfriend at the time to the University of Arizona, he auditioned for its Musical Theatre Department and to his surprise was accepted. Returning as a sophomore after a summer of voice lessons, he landed the first of many lead roles. After graduation, Kyle was off to New York where one of his first auditions was for the Broadway revival of "West Side Story." Instead he landed an alternate slot in "Sondheim on Sondheim" on Broadway. At the close of that production, the call came for the national "West Side Story" company which has played in Detroit, Omaha and San Francisco before arriving in L.A.
"West Side Story" - Original Broadway Revival Company. © Copyright 2001-2010 Broadway/LA -Nederlander.Inc - All rights reserved. Photo by Joan Marcus.
"It's a fantastic company of young actors who are fresh and excited. We love what we're doing and it seems like we aren't even doing it for the pay check," Kyle noted. "If you've made it to the Pantages, you've made it! We want to blow it out of the park." Spoken like an actor with athletic roots.
Unlike Kyle's late blooming interest in theatre, Ali saw her first New York show at age 8 ("Chorus Line") and was on the stage at 10. She knew that she wanted to pursue a theatrical career and performed in productions in middle school and high school. Still, she weighed her decision and opted to study psychology at Yale but also performed in the university's productions. As she grew up in Westchester County, following college she was able to commute to auditions in the city landing a slot in "Aladdin" at Disneyland followed by a world tour in the Disney Broadway Review. Soon it was onto Broadway and the part of "Cosette" in "Les Miserables."
The Pantages Theatre
"'West Side Story' has so much for everyone," Ali commented. "There's the conflict, the fights, the love story and the wonderful music. It really relates to a young audience, it's about teenagers trying to find their place in the world and dealing with authority." She continued, "I've played Maria before, but this production is true to the original intention of the play. I was given such amazing freedom to make the character my own-smart, funny and warm."
Both Kyle and Ali noted what a thrill it was that Arthur Lawrents, who originally wrote and directed the show, worked with them, and gave suggestions to develop their characters. At 93, he provided motivation and encouraged the cast to bring their own insights into the process to give the show new life to make it relevant to today's audience.
The production of "West Side Story" is followed by another youthfully exuberant musical "Hair", the Public Theatre's new Tony®-winning production about a group of young Americans searching for peace and love in a turbulent time that took Broadway by storm. Then in February Tony Award® nominee "Rock of Ages", an arena-rock love story set in 1987 on the Sunset Strip arrives at the theatre.
Wayne McWhorter, Director of Marketing, at the Pantages is delighted that ticket sales are brisk. He speculated that perhaps a renewed interest in the musical theatre genre that could be a result of the popular success of the TV series "Glee" which focuses on young theatre hopefuls and musical numbers. As well, films such as "Nine" and "Burlesque" are introducing musical plays to a new generation.
This season theatergoers will also be treated to "Traces", a brand new theatrical entertainment that combines an awe-inspiring acrobatic experience with infectious urban energy that the Nederlander Organization is bringing to the Ricardo Montalban Theatre. "It's breaking all records in Chicago right now," said McWhorter. "I'm excited to bring it to our L.A. audience."
Not to be overlooked in this season's lineup, the Blank Theatre Company will bring back its hit "The Cradle Will Rock," starring Broadway and pop-star Rex Smith which opens at the Stella Adler Theatre on February 5th and is part of the celebration of the Blank's 20th anniversary. "I am very excited to revisiting this groundbreaking musical with such an exceptionally talented cast. Although written in 1937, this hysterically funny musical feels like it was written today," said Daniel Henning, artistic director of The Blank.
Rex Smith to star in The Blank Theatre Company's "The Cradle Will Rock".
Whether it's hit TV shows, films, Lady Gaga or Disney's Cinderella that brings you to the real musical theatre, a veritable feast awaits at the spectacular Pantages, the Montalban or the intimate Stella Adler. Dive in and enjoy! Theatre has arrived in all its glory and it's lights up in Hollywood.DH