Saturday, 28 March 2015

Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea

I don't often write reviews, and I hope this doesn't become a trend, but to all who will read I must say this: See the play Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea.

Notwithstanding that a friend of mine was in it, and notwithstanding that another friend cast the show, this was the finest piece of theatre I believe I've seen in Los Angeles. (Last year's Pope: An Epic Musical was very good, and it's a show I'd like to revisit, but that production didn't have the same polish at Dontrell does. Not by a long shot.) Dontrell is a play that needs to be Off-Broadway. It's a play that needs to be seen and heard by millions; it's a play we all can relate to and, hopefully, glean some inspiration from. Dontrell is a coming-of-age story in a way, but it's also a story about connecting with something deeper, connecting with your ancestors. Sure, that would be enough, but what startles me is how remarkably well-written Dontrell is. The words are more than prose, more than poetry. They are that divinely-inspired thing which only theatre can be; a stream of reality and fantasy and spirituality poured out on stage by seven actors with a minimal set and costumes (which, by the way, are expertly executed—it doesn't feel like minimalism).

Dontrell is a dreamer. The whole play starts with a dream. He talks to the audience via a tape recorder (old-fashioned) to the bemusement and annoyance of his associates. He is us. We are him. The adversity he faces is a family he feels will reject him for seeking something deeper in his family line, in (perhaps) his destiny. He almost drowns, but is saved by a lifeguard who becomes his companion. She has her own quest, her own hang-ups and so on, but in this regard they are perfect for each other. They support each other's mission.

Key to the success of the entire piece is the use of music; specifically, drumming, singing, and rapping. Percussion begins and ends the piece, envelops the piece. Music draws us in and forces us to feel what this piece is about, in our chests. The room moves with us.

We are left with a beautiful feeling, an aura of enlightenment, and a sense of something larger than ourselves. Its premiere rolls on into cities beyond Los Angeles, but I hope sincerely it gets a chance in the big spotlight somewhere in the theatrical pantheon that is Manhattan.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

2014: The Year of Les Miz

One of the first shows I ever saw on Broadway was Les Misérables, and ever since then, it was my dream to play Valjean. What a blessing it was last year, then, to not only play the role, but to play it in two different productions. It couldn't have come at a better time for me personally and professionally, and it's been great to reflect on the changes that have come from filling those shoes, even for a short time.

In the dressing room at the
California Theatre with Javert
(Quentin Garzon)
My first run, we played at the California Theatre in San Bernardino and the Gardiner Auditorium in Ontario. It was two short weekends after only two weeks of rehearsal, and we played for well over 5,000 people. An agent came out of the deal, and I have been blessed to be working with Todd Eskin at Across the Board since then, such a great supporter and advocate.

The opportunity then arose for me to go to Anchorage, Alaska, to reprise my role. What a beautiful city, and such great people! We played at the Atwood Concert Hall, a behemoth 2,000-seat theatre in downtown Anchorage, for thirteen public performances over two weeks. In addition, we went on radio shows, performed at benefit concerts, and held talkbacks with high school and college students.

Setting up in Anchorage, at the Atwood Concert Hall.
All in all, finding Valjean and bringing that story to life has been, for me, life changing. Here is a man who nothing is working for. He steals some bread to stave off his family's hunger, only to be imprisoned for twenty years, then assumes a new identity to create a new, enlightened life. He becomes a light for his world, all the while still running from his past. The story is inspiring, and it's no wonder that it has endured all these years, and that the musical version of it has touched so many lives. What an awesome thing to be a part of, and I hope to be a part of it again throughout my life.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Turning

The month of March was highly successful for this young performer. For one, I got to play my dream role in a professional, non-union production of Les Misérables. (Hint: I stole some bread, became the mayor, adopted a daughter....) For another, I got signed by an agent for theatre (and potentially commercial and film/t.v.). My doo-wop group The Flashbacks has been slowly picking up little gigs here and there. And, generally, I feel pretty good about life, which hadn't been the case for a while.

The marriage that brought me to Los Angeles is no more. (Such a cliché!) There was a period of time where I wondered what I was even doing here, why I'd left a nice position in New York (the "center of the universe", according to Rent) to be thirsty in this desert. Last month showed me the what and the why.

"Happiness is a fleeting thing, Charlie Brown." So... hang onto it as long as you can. Happy spring.

Friday, 20 December 2013

"Passing Faces"


A song written nearly ten years ago, which, with a slight lyrical tweak, is featured in the musical Lady Sunshine, co-written with Travis Leland.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Contemplation on Ram Dass

There is this feeling which exists between presence and transcendence where the world is real and unreal at the same time. The mind is bigger than the brain that holds and beholds it, its consciousness reaching just beyond to where we cannot see in order to call and recall, to create and recreate. Some meditate to get there; some medicate, or somewhere in between. But to be seen on that level, to be grasped by someone else in that moment and share the word "believe"—there lies God. (6 May 13)