Calendar: Holiday preview 2014
FRI | NOV 28
“THE COMEDIC GENIUS OF RODNEY DANGERFIELD”
Have some respect! Curated with the help of Rodney Dangerfield’s widow, Joan, this temporary exhibit offers an intimate look into the iconic career of a comedy favorite. Featuring the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album, “No Respect,” the federal ruling in favor of Dangerfield over Star Magazine, the robe from “Easy Money” and more, fans can get close to some of the precious things that have become part of one man’s legacy. Fri. 11:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. (Mon.-Fri.), 10 a.m.-7:30 p.m. (Sat.-Sun.). Through February 2015. $12.95 (general), $11.95 (students and seniors), $10.95 (ages 6-17). The Grammy Museum, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 765-6800. SAT | NOV 29
If you like your arts a little abstract, consider taking your comedy the same way! Brent Weinbach has appeared on Comedy Central and HBO and offers a smart, deadpan, little-bit-weird approach to stand-up. Whether he’s wondering what right-wing slam poetry might sound like or deconstructing music in classic video games, he’s providing a unique kind of consciousness. Winner of the 2007 Andy Kaufman Award, Weinbach started as a jazz pianist and substitute teacher. Now, he’s landing jokes. Sat. 10 p.m. $15. The Improv, 8162 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 651-2583. TUE | DEC 2
“INTO THE WOODS”
Are you tired of having your fairytales sold separately? Tonight, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production of Stephen Sondheim’s and James Lapine’s Tony-winning musical is coming to town. Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack (we’re talking beanstalk), a baker and his wife all cross paths in this modern twist on a Brothers Grimm type production. With witches, wolves, giants and mysterious strangers, our familiar storybook characters discover that wishes come at a price, and sometimes happily-ever-after doesn’t come at all. Directed by Amanda Dehnert. Tue. 8 p.m. $39-$99. Through Dec. 21. The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 746-4000. ” target=”_blank”>hollywood.improv.com.
THU | DEC 4
Sometimes, photographers are just as rock ’n’ roll as the musicians they photograph. Deborah Feingold, whose career has included teaching photography to troubled youth in a Boston prison as well as snapping the book-cover photo of then-senator, now-President Barack Obama, is a force in the world of photos. In her new book, “Music,” Feingold shares some of the most dazzling moments from her sessions with artists over the last 40 years (such as Madonna and Billy Joel, to name a few). Her lecture tonight will focus on the challenges of working with stars who don’t always want to be captured. Thu. 6:30 p.m. Free. RSVP required. The Annenberg Space for Photography, 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Los Angeles. (213) 403-3000. ” target=”_blank”>jewishwomenstheatre.org.
SAT | DEC 6 / SUN | DEC 7
“SEASON OF WONDER”
Artistic Director Sue Fink and the Angel City Chorale present a two-day vocal extravaganza. In a nod to pan-religiousness, there will be a mix of Christmas and Chanukah favorites coming to you in all shapes and sizes: From classical to choral to gospel and R&B, you’ll recognize the style even if you don’t know the song. Attendees will also have an opportunity to join the more than 150 members of the choir in a sing-along portion of the concert. If the songs don’t satisfy your sweet tooth, there will be a dessert reception following the program. Get into the spirit. Sat. and Sun. 7 p.m. $22-$50. Wilshire United Methodist Church, 4350 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 943-9231. MON | DEC 8
Perhaps it’s easier for an outsider to reveal the complexities and leveled horror of race and race crimes in the South, even someone as outsider as a young, white, Jewish-Australian documentarian. In his new book, “God’ll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi,” John Safran chronicles what ultimately became his own odd investigation into the 2010 murder of notorious white supremacist Richard Barrett by a young black man named Vincent Mcgee. What unfolds is a haunting, hilarious story about the American South from an outsider’s point of view. Mon. 7 p.m. Free. 8818 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. (310) 659-3110. WED | DEC 10
The national tour is back in L.A. (Don’t pretend you’re sick of it.) With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, “Wicked” is the prequel to “The Wizard and Oz” we all know and love. Following the friendship between two young women in the land of Oz, audiences will come to learn the story behind the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda the Good. Winner of a Grammy and three Tony Awards, “Wicked” is powerful, clever and hits all the right notes. Catch it before it’s swept away. Wed. 8 p.m. Through March 15. $35-$195. Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 468-1770. THU | DEC 11
This renowned vocalist, composer and performance artist has a new solo exhibition of mixed-media installations. “Dawn of the Cold Season” is a multi-level artistic journey that will showcase Deyhim’s saturated photographs, videos, haunting vocals and music. Inspired by Forough Farrokhzad — the 1950s Iranian literary heroine — Deyhim explores potent feminist existential poetry. A recent artist-in-residence at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, Deyhim’s work is fully realized and wholly unique. Enjoy a ticketed performance by Deyhim tonight as she brings her exhibition to life. Thu. 7 p.m. Free. Must RSVP. Exhibition through Jan. 10. Shulamit Gallery, 17 N. Venice Blvd., Venice. (310) 281-0961. SUN | DEC 14
CHANUKAH FAMILY FESTIVAL (LUZ Y LIBERTAD)
Welcome to Chanukah, everyone. The Skirball’s annual festival is back, and with a Latin twist. Highlighting two major themes — light and freedom (apropos, no?) — there will be storytelling, art workshops and even brisket empanadas available at Zeidler’s café. If you just want to sit back and have the entertainment come to you, there will be live performances throughout the day from Pasatono Orquesta, a nine-piece ensemble blending Mexican folk and Dixie; Mariachi Guadalajara, offering classic mariachi tunes with holiday favorites; and later in the day, actress Anna Dresdon will perform a retelling of the Chanukah story. Local Jewish reggae-rock band Moshav will close out the day. That’s basically eight gifts right there. Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $10 (general), $7 (seniors, students), free (members, ages 12 and under). Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500. THU | DEC 25
Director-writer team Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg offer up an action comedy that takes us all the way to North Korea and back. When tabloid TV duo David Skylark (James Franco) and Aaron Rapaport (Rogen) land an interview with Kim Jong-un, the two are recruited by the CIA to assassinate the North Korean dictator. With the pair completely unqualified, their success is questionable — but your enjoyment is a guarantee. Also starring Lizzy Caplan and Randall Park. Thu. Check local listings. WED | DEC 31
“WAR AND PEOPLE: ART, EXILE AND THE MIDDLE EAST”
It’s closing day of an exhibition you don’t want to miss. The Levantine Cultural Center presents an exploration into the First Persian Gulf War, the Israel-Palestine wars, the Lebanese Civil War and the Syrian Civil War. Focused on contemporary art and artifacts gathered from artists, war refugees and their children, the exhibit features Muslim, Christian and Jewish contributors. With such vast and important themes, the show is bound to impress. Now through Wed. 10 p.m. Free. Levantine Cultural Center, 5998 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 657-5511.
‘Assisted Living’: Connections and transformations
The surprising ways in which people can connect is at the heart of the play “Assisted Living,” written by and starring the husband-and-wife team of Winnie Holzman (Tony nominee for the book of the Broadway musical “Wicked”) and Paul Dooley (co-star of the Robert Altman films “Popeye” and “A Wedding”). The two play all four characters in this work about a fading soap opera actor (Dooley), his girlfriend (Holzman), an adoring fan (Holzman) and her curmudgeonly father (Dooley). The vehicle is a guest production at the Odyssey Theatre in West Los Angeles.
As the story begins, Frank, the actor, is working on his lines and is being cued by girlfriend Emily, who notices a pile of his fan mail. She reads a particularly touching and worshipful letter from Heather, who pours out her heart, exposing her sense of worthlessness and insecurity. Emily is deeply affected by the fan’s pain and urges Frank to respond, but he is dismissive.
Frank has his own problems. He keeps complaining about getting less and less to do on the soap opera.
“Having been on the show for 36 years,” Dooley explained, “Frank is very cynical. Now he’s finding that the younger, better-looking people coming in are taking over his turf, and he’s being relegated to the sidelines.
“So, it’s kind of about how a man is declining in his view of himself or in his success.”
In the second scene, we meet Edgar, a crotchety, dissatisfied elderly man living in a senior facility. In comes Heather, his daughter, and it soon becomes obvious that Edgar denigrates her and favors his son. But Heather receives a very understanding reply to her fan letter and is so heartened by the response that she is moved to tell her father that she loves him. The two open up to each other, and Edgar admits that he also watched Frank’s soap opera. He and Heather begin to bond over a discussion of the program, which has gone off the air.
The third and final scene has Frank, alone, out of work, and contemplating selling his New York apartment. Heather shows up at his door, a completely changed woman. The response to her fan letter has enhanced her self-image, motivated her to improve her appearance and given her confidence. She brings Frank a script she and her dad wrote about what might have happened to the characters had the program survived. At first, Frank is uncaring, but he slowly warms to her interest and her admiration.
Dooley said he and Holzman started the piece some 28 years ago, around the time they got married, then put it aside for a long time. “Every five or 10 years, we’d say, ‘Let’s finish that,’ but we never did. She’d be busy, or I’d be busy. She took about four years to write ‘Wicked,’ different drafts, and she did television shows, and I was off doing my things, and it just didn’t seem to have the window of opportunity until, some time in the last six months, we finished it up.”
As to the title, he said, “It’s not only that the father in the second scene is in an assisted living facility, but, as Winnie and I saw it, it’s the ways in which people assist other people in living.”
Holzman expanded: “You don’t live by yourself. We’re all connected and interconnected, but it’s the ways in which we do connect that are sometimes not what you’re expecting. And I think in the play help comes in ways that are unexpected, but they are almost like little blessings.”
Holzman points to the change in Frank when Heather shows up at his door, not asking for anything. “She brings him something that she wrote, that she wanted him to see, and it lifts him up. It gives him something. … I’m not saying that it takes away all his problems, but she becomes a ray of light in his life at that moment. And it’s a person that he completely dismissed.”
In Heather’s case, Holzman added, the response to her fan letter meant that somebody noticed her and took the time to say that she mattered. It was a catalyst for her total metamorphosis.
“I believe in transformation. I believe people can change, but it just happens in very mysterious ways. It’s not always something that you can plan. It’s mystical, and that’s what we’re trying to show in the play”
Holzman, who is Jewish, says her work is influenced by her parents’ sense of social responsibility, a core value in Judaism. “They were very much into helping people achieve equality, in the spirit of tikkun olam, how can I be of service?”
Holzman and Dooley have injected their script with a great deal of humor, especially in their sendup of soap operas. “My favorite thing is to entertain and have people laugh,” Holzman concluded, “but also feel like they’re touched, like their hearts are touched. If I had that, I would be very, very thrilled with that response.”
“Assisted Living” is at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles, through May 12. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m. For tickets or other information, call (310) 477-2055 or go to AssistedLivingThePlay.com.
“Wicked” producer Platt flies across another bridge
Producer Marc Platt has crossed a number of bridges in his life, and the inside of his bungalow offices on the Universal Studios back lot certainly reflects it.
On the Hollywood side, a pink-covered “Legally Blonde” script rests on a glass coffee table and a framed poster for the HBO miniseries, “Empire Falls,” hangs on the wall; on the Broadway side, a large playbill in Japanese for the Tokyo production of “Wicked” is accompanied by a 2004 Drama Desk Award for outstanding new musical.
That musical, “Wicked,” was born on the Universal lot in 1999, nurtured by the Hollywood-turned-Broadway producer who has a soft spot in his heart for stories of outsiders. And as the Tony-winning, megapopular tale of the Oz witches prepares to return to the Pantages this month, after performing to sold-out crowds there in 2005, Platt seems happy enough to defy gravity as he talks about the musical’s Hollywood homecoming.
“When we were here briefly on the national tour, there was such an excitement, if not a frenzy over it,” said Platt, 49. “The [MGM] movie that is based on L. Frank Baum’s book obviously is so closely associated with Hollywood.”
But had Platt followed through on his original plans for “Wicked,” the renowned musical that tells the pre-Dorothy story of Glinda “the Good Witch” and Elphaba “the Wicked Witch of the West” would have had a similar Hollywood treatment as its Baum counterpart — but sans musical numbers. As the former head of production for Universal Studios in the late 1990s, Platt had acquired the rights to Gregory Maguire’s best-selling book, “Wicked,” fully intending to adapt it for the big screen.
Composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz (“Godspell”) and writer Winnie Holzman (“Thirtysomething”) wanted to turn Maguire’s tale into a musical and contacted Platt in 1999 with the hope of securing the rights from Universal. The three met to discuss the benefits of turning the witch’s story into a musical, and what emerged became the 2003 blockbuster Broadway hit.
“When we did our first reading here on the lot of Act 1 and 2 [in 2001], we expected it to be fun and charming and witty,” Platt said. “I don’t think anything prepared any one of us — Winnie, Stephen or me — for the overwhelming, passionate, emotional response from the 50 to 60 people that were sitting in the room that day. And it sort of made us think, ‘You know, I wonder if we get this right … maybe we really have something.'”
That “something” includes a Platinum-certified album (which has maintained No. 1 on the Billboard Cast Album chart almost every week for more than a year), a makeup line with Stilla cosmetics (in pink and green, of course) and the online Ozdust Boutique, which sells everything from “Defy Gravity” T-shirts (named for the goosebump-inducing Act 1 closer) to “Wicked” golf balls.
Platt notes that the grandfather of a friend even has the lyrics “I have been changed for good” from the song “For Good” engraved on his headstone.
Another song from the show, “Thank Goodness,” which exposes how Glinda deals with getting everything she thought she always wanted, touches a chord with Platt, who grew up in a Traditional-Conservative home in Maryland with a family that he says was always involved in some form of tikkun olam: “It has some of the most brilliant lyrics I think written in a long time. For example, ‘There are bridges you crossed you didn’t know you crossed until you crossed.’ To me it is very meaty in terms of thematically what the show is about.”
Platt has crossed more than a few bridges himself. After he graduated from Penn, where he produced a small off-Broadway musical titled, “Francis,” about St. Francis of Assisi, Platt studied entertainment law at NYU, while interning with agent Sam Cohn at International Creative Management, Inc. in New York.
Platt moved with his wife, Julie, to Los Angeles around 1986.
“[I was] nervous about being in a Hollywood community,” he said.
But by 1990, he was head of production at Orion. He held a similar position at Tristar, starting in 1992, and Universal in 1996. He now heads his own company, Marc Platt Productions.
Since the success of “Wicked,” Platt’s theater division has produced the drama, “Three Days of Rain,” which starred Julia Roberts and Paul Rudd, and he is currently backing Matthew Bourne’s ballet version of “Edward Scissorhands.” Platt is expected to bring Rogers and Hart’s “Pal Joey” back to Broadway with a new book from “Three Days of Rain” playwright Richard Greenberg sometime this year.
While he’s now as inside as most people can hope to get in Hollywood, Platt maintains a large place in his heart for the stories of the outsiders, like “Wicked’s” Elphaba, a sensitivity he attributes to his Jewish upbringing.
“The notion of someone who is fitting in or trying to become part of a larger family…. It’s hard to separate that from my own Jewish roots,” said Platt, a member of Sinai Temple. “Some of the metaphors you find in ‘Wicked’ — how those in power can exploit fear in others to maintain their power — I think, as Jews, we’ve seen that historically on more than one occasion.”
In addition to having been a Wexner fellow, Platt recently joined the board of Birthright Israel and co-founded The Federation’s L.A. Couples gift division with his wife.
“If we members of the Jewish community don’t support the Jewish organizations, nobody else will,” he said.
As for the idea that Hollywood Jews distance themselves from Israel, Platt told The Journal, “I think too many people in Hollywood perhaps fail to make a distinction between the political side of Israel and the notion of the country. And they can be separate things. In recent years, there have been members of the community who are supportive — they give their time and money. It’ll never be enough … but I do feel it is there.”
While there are no plans to bring “Wicked” to the silver screen, Platt said there is one more bridge he’d like to see the show cross: “I’d love to bring [‘Wicked’] to Israel. But it’s such a small market, unfortunately, and such a big show. I hope someday to do it, even if I have to do it on my own.”
7 Days in the Arts
Saturday the 21st
TV stars perform bonafide rock ‘n’ roll at a Ben Gurion Society
Panelists include former “Grey’s” writer Mimi Schmir, cancer survivor and health advocate Selma Schimmel and genetic counselor Joyce Seldon. TV and film writer and director Linda Shayne moderates.
7 p.m. $25. University of Judasim, 15600 Mulholland Drive, Bel Air. R.S.V.P., (310) 276-0036 or (818) 343-9316.
benefit this evening. Battle of the Network Stars Band features current and former TV actors, or “actors.” Bob Guiney aside, however, you’ll also catch James Denton of “Desperate Housewives,” Greg Grunberg of “Heroes,” Hugh Laurie of “House” and Brad Savage of … ummm … yeah, he falls into that “former” category. They rock it out for ya post cocktails, dinner and a silent auction.
7 p.m. $125 (tickets). Attendees must be current members of the Ben Gurion Society, which requires a minimum 2006 gift of $1,000 to The Jewish Federation Annual Campaign. Bernard Milken Jewish Community Campus, 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (818) 464-3219.
Sunday the 22nd
Monday the 23rd
Tuesday the 24th
The dazzling compositions of Miriam Wosk come to the Santa Monica Museum of Art. Wosk’s first solo museum exhibition, “Euphoria,” features three large-scale pieces. The crafty works, paintings embedded with a bevy of everything from pearls, to crystals to starfish, walk the line between excess and exactitude. They are on view through Nov. 25.
Bergamot Station G1, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 586-6488.
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The ambitious Arpa Film Festival aims to forum “films exploring Diaspora, war, exile, genocide, multiculturalism and dual identity,” according to founder Sylvia Minassian. Two such films featured in this year’s fest (both documentaries) have Jewish perspectives. “Awake Zion” explores the relationship between reggae culture and Judaism, and “Young, Jewish and Left” focuses on radical Jewish communities.
Oct. 25-27. Egyptian Theater, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. (323) 663-1882.
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Thursday is looking up as UCLA Live welcomes Fes Festival of World Sacred Music to Royce Hall. “The Spirit of Fes: Paths to Hope” features world artists including early music singer Susan Hellauer from Anonymous 4, South Indian vocalist Aruna Sairam, Lebanese American percussionist Jamey Haddad and Moroccan Sufi ensemble Daqqa of Taroudant, performing Judaic, Christian, Muslim and Hindu sacred music.
$15-$45. 8 p.m. UCLA Royce Hall, Westwood. (310) 825-2101.
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The uplift continues today with the opening of the film, “Conversations With God,” based on the 1996 book by Neale Donal Walsch. The movie stars Henry Czerny (“The Pink Panther”) and is produced and directed by “What Dreams May Come” producer Stephen Simon. The film tells Walsch’s true journey from homelessness to best-selling author and spiritual guru.