Lena Hall at the Catalina Bar & Grill

First published on Discover Hollywood.  

By Kathy Flynn

Lena Hall, Tony-winning Broadway star and rock diva, brought her cabaret stylings to the Catalina Bar and Grill for the West Coast premiere of “Art of the Audition: From Falling Apart to Nailing the Part.”

Hall started the night off running to the stage from the audience, as her name was called to be the next to audition, and then treated the crowd to a 90-minute performance that was more one woman show than straight cabaret. Hall’s hilarious tales of the awfulness of auditioning punctuated her sometimes absurd and inappropriate song choices, such as “Lost and Found,” which featured the memorable line “If you’re not celibate, we could raise hell a bit.”

The evening highlighted Hall’s range and versatility as a performer, deftly swinging from Broadway baby to opera to rock heavy hitter.

Hall ended the evening with three incredible numbers, a moving and gorgeous rendition of Wicked‘s “I’m Not that Girl,” followed by a powerful rendition of “Memories” from Cats, which brought tears to the eyes of several audience members. She then culminated with Hedwig and the Angry Inch‘s “Midnight Radio” and the audience lifted up their hands for Lena once again, ending the evening on an incredibly moving and uplifting note.

While Hall regularly performs both rock and cabaret shows in NYC, the last time Los Angeles was blessed with her voice, she was making history in Hedwig and the Angry Inch at the Hollywood Pantages, starring as Hedwig for 4 incredible performances, while playing Yitzhak, the role she won a Tony for in 2014, the rest of the week.

Lena Hall has spent 2018 working on her Obsessed series, an EP of cover songs featuring a different artist every month. She started off with her take on Hedwig, and has since released Obsessed EP’s covering Peter Gabriel, Elton John, the Cranberries, and P!nk, with a new EP scheduled to drop each month in 2018.

 

School of Rock – The Musical at the Hollywood Pantages – Theatre Review

First published on Discover Hollywood.

By Kathy Flynn

The kids are the stars of the show in this lightweight but fun musical featuring 14 new songs from Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Dewey Finn is a loser. Overweight and underemployed and mooching off his best friend Ned, whose girlfriend is fed up and not having it anymore. And who can blame her? She wants Dewey to either contribute rent or get out, which isn’t an unreasonable request.

Fired from his band and desperate for money, Dewey intercepts a call for Ned offering a substitute teaching job at prestigious Horace Green Academy, and in he strolls, an hour late with absolutely nothing to offer. When he overhears the students playing classical music he realizes that they too have the spirit of music inside them, and he dreams up a plan to turn them into a rock band to compete in the upcoming Battle of the Bands.

At first, it’s almost uncomfortable watching Dewey manipulate these kids, but once the kids start to loosen up and enjoy themselves, everything starts to gel and the play finally comes alive. The kids take the spotlight with “You’re in the Band,” where they first pick up their instruments and learn what they can do, and Dewey’s deception takes a backseat to the growth and freedom that the students start experiencing. “If Only You Would Listen”  is a genuinely touching number where the kids’ personal lives briefly take center stage.  “Stick it to Man” is the showstopper, where the kids fully embrace their talent and absolutely shine on stage.

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Theodora Silverman and Rob Colletti in the School of Rock Tour. 
© Matthew Murphy. 

The joyful exuberance that the kids bring to their roles is what really saves this production from mediocracy. They are so fun to watch and each of the kids is a standout performer, particularly Grier Burke who plays shy Tomika, Vincent Molden as guitar shredding Zack, Gilberto Moretti-Hamilton as Freddy,  Theodora Silverman as Katie, andTheo Mitchell-Penner as Lawrence the nerdy keyboard player.

School of Rock’s Dewey Finn is so imbued with the spirit of Jack Black, who played Finn in the 2003 movie, that it’s hard for anyone else to wholly own the role. Rob Colletti seems to be trying a little too hard to be Jack Black at first, but once he is with the kids he fully embodies the role. He brings a strong physicality along with serious vocal chops to the part.

The primary missteps in the story are with the adult females. The subplot making the school principal Ned’s love interest is as unnecessary as it is implausible. And I wish Ned’s girlfriend Patty had a bit more dimension, as the character is needlessly uptight and shrewish. But in School or Rock everything is played in broad strokes; there’s not a lot of subtlety going on here.


Theo Mitchell-Penner in the School of Rock Tour. 
© Matthew Murphy. 

School of Rock is a great family outing, funny and uplifting and showing the power that music has to transform all of our lives.

School of Rock – The Musical opened on Broadway in 2015 and was nominated for 4 Tony Awards: Best Musical, Best Score, Best Book, and Best Leading Actor in a Musical. It was awarded the 2017 Oliver Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music.

School of Rock – The Musical is at the Hollywood Pantages through May 27th.

 

Bad Samaritan

First published on Discover Hollywood

By Kathy Flynn

Small-time thief Sean (Robert Sheehan) gets more than he bargains for when he breaks into Cale Erendreich’s urban mansion in this taut, well-paced thriller from director Dean Devlin.

Sean and his best friend Derek (Carlito Olivero) are valets at an upscale restaurant, who burglarize the homes of the restaurants patrons while they are dining. When Sean enters Cales’s home, he finds a brand new credit card and a little something more…a tortured woman bound and gagged in an office. Sean’s decision to rescue the woman leads to a tension-filled cat and mouse game between him and Erendreich with ever increasing stakes.

Cale is played by beloved Doctor Who actor David Tennant, who has avoided the stigma of typecasting with successful roles inBroadchurch and Jessica Jones, where he plays supervillain Killgrave, a character that is quite similar to Cale in many ways. But chameleon Cale is in some ways even more terrifying; what he lacks in superpowers he makes up for in pure malevolence and the lack of even a shred of empathy. You can feel Cale’s eventual delight as he matches wits with Sean, and finds a foil worthy of his attention. Every step of the way Sean makes the smart move, avoiding the horror movie cliché of bad or dumb choices. He constantly tries to do the right thing, making him a likable and relatable protagonist.

Both the violence quotient and tension are high, and this is not a film for the squeamish, but lovers of suspense will find this film smart and entertaining.

Bad Samaritan is the latest offering from Legion M, the first fan-owned and funded production company. Legion M launched in 2016 and has raised over $3.5 million from 7,000+ investors.

 

Fall Out Boy at the Forum

Fall Out Boy may have started off as emo darlings, but their maturation into a fully-fledged arena band was on fine display at their stop at the Forum as part of their Mania tour.

The Mania tour is an odd beast.  It was initially the tour for their new album but when the album was delayed until January, they gamely pushed forward, touring a greatest hits show with a few brand new tunes sprinkled in. 

The show started off with the buoyant “The Phoenix,” a song about rising from your own ashes, something Fall Out Boy know a thing or two about, triumphantly reuniting in 2013 after a four-year hiatus.  The stage included a long catwalk that extended halfway through the crowd, which all of the members (except drummer Andy Hurley) used throughout the night to bring their performance deep into the crowd. 

Their 22 song set was divided pretty evenly between pre-hiatus classics and post-hiatus hits.  “The Phoenix,” was followed by 2015’s “Irresistible,” and “Hum Hallelujah,” a thrilling choice for fans of the bands 2007 album “Infinity on High.”

Singer Patrick Stump’s voice remains one of the best in the business, and he has matured into a confident and charming frontman, miles away from the emo kid who would try to hide under his green trucker hat.  His solo turn at the piano, where he brought new tune “Young and Menace,” to new life with his soulful vocals, was one of the highlights of the evening.

Midway through the show, drummer Andy Hurley appeared on top of a cube-shaped platform in the audience for the traditional rock concert drum solo, where he showed his range on a variety of musical styles.  He was then joined by guitarist Joe Trohman and a second cube appeared, lifting Stump and fan-favorite/bassist Pete Wentz high into the crowd to sing directly to the fans in the risers, for “Dance Dance” and “Wilson (Expensive Mistakes)” a fabulous new song sure to become their next hit. 

More hits were played and fans young and old screamed and cried and were utterly charmed by the band.  They closed their 90 minute set in the traditional way, with, “Saturday” off of 2003’s Take This to Your Grave.  Wentz ventured into the crowd to commune with his fans and hold the hands of the lucky few, and the audience were given memories that will last a lifetime. 

Adam Ant // Greek Theater // Los Angeles, CA

Originally published on The Photo Ladies.

The original dandy highwayman, Adam Ant, concluded his US Anthems tour at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, CA.

While earlier in the year he brought the phenomenally successful Kings of the Wild Frontier tour to America, Ant’s current tour concentrates on the hits, along with a few well-loved b-sides and deep cuts.  There was never a dull moment during the course of Ant’s set, as hit after hit kept the audience singing along.  “Antmusic,” “Dog Eat Dog,” “Friend or Foe,” “Puss ‘n’ Boots,” “Viva Le Rock”….. each tune even more adored than the one that came before.  

Back in the 80s, Ant was my favorite of the British “new wave,” but now, 35 years later, you realize just how timeless his songs really are.  They don’t sound dated in the least, each one as fresh and unique as the day it was released.   And Ant himself looked fantastic, he was obviously having a terrific time on stage, and it was hard to believe he was old enough to have been making music for as long as he has.  

If Adam Ant comes to a town near you on a future tour, do yourself a favor.  Antmusic is just as flavorful as it was in 1980.

Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls// Wiltern Theater // Los Angeles, CA

Originally published on The Photo Ladies

Three years ago someone gave me a ticket to see Frank Turner at the Fonda Theater in L.A, and my life was forever changed.  I watched from the balcony as Frank poured his heart into the audience, and they poured it all back, singing along as one to each and every song.  I wondered how I had missed him until then, and vowed to never watch Frank from the balcony again.

Since then I have seen 13 shows, including three I travelled out of state for.  When you travel out of state, you sometimes think you are a big deal, “Oh, I travelled a long way for this.”  With Frank Turner, you realize most of the crowd has travelled a long way for it.  Travelling from show to show is a thing Frank Turner fans do.  His audience is fervidly devoted, and after your first show, you understand why.  No one, except possibly Springsteen in his prime, puts on a show like Frank Turner.

At the Wiltern, Frank Turner took the stage alone with his guitar for his newest song, “Sand in the Gears.” It’s a powerful protest song, turning despair and escapism into action, and, even though the song is brand new, and only played live on this current tour, most of the audience already knew the words, and sang along.

After the simple opening, the Sleeping Souls, Frank’s longtime backing band, bounced on stage, bring the energy up to 11 as they ripped into “The Next Storm,” off of Frank’s most recent album, Positive Songs for Negative People, followed by “I Still Believe” which featured opening act and all around ace songwriter Will Varley joining Frank on stage for a harmonica solo.   Frank then proceeded to power through high energy renditions of all his best-known songs for the next 90 minutes, while the crowd danced and sang along to everything.  The set varies somewhat every night, and the Los Angeles crowd was treated to a brand new rendition of “A Silent Key,”  Frank’s ode to Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who died in the Challenger space shuttle explosion 31 years ago to the day.
Opening acts were John K. Samson from the Canadian band The Weakerthans, the Arkells, and Will Varley.  All were absolutely wonderful and worth showing up early for.

 

The Bye Bye Man Tour of Haunted Los Angeles

Originally published on Press Pass L.A., January 11, 2017

In honor of the upcoming film The Bye Bye Man, Haunted OC  invited Press Pass L.A. to join them on a tour of some of L.A.’s most haunted locations.

The three-hour bus tour, hosted by Mario J. Becerra, author of Haunted East Los Angeles, began at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, where guests were told tales of JFK and the Beatles before learning of its connection with Elizabeth Short, aka the Black Dahlia

From there, guests boarded a luxury bus to travel to the most haunted locations in East Los Angeles.  First up was Evergreen Cemetery in Boyle Heights, which was founded in 1877, making it the oldest nondenominational cemetery in Los Angeles.  Under a picturesque sky, guests toured the grounds where films like Nightmare on Elm Street and Mask were filmed, while being regaled with anecdotal tales of ghost sightings though the years.   As we left the cemetery, guests squealed with excitement at the unscheduled appearance of two coyotes cruising the grounds.

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As the sun began to set, we headed off to the next location, Hubbard Street where Richard Ramirez, the Night Stalker, was caught.  We watched a short video on his capture, before heading off to the next stop, Casa Del Mexicano.

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We weren’t allowed inside Casa Del Mexicano, but our tour guides showed us photos of the dark and disturbing murals inside while we gathered on the steps for tales of the ghosts inside.  Next up, Linda Vista Hospital, as well known for its paranormal activity as it is as a filming location.

Linda Vista has been the subject of several paranormal investigations, and is currently serving as a senior living facility, which is rather horrifying in a completely different way.  The renovations make it much less spooky from the outside than it used to be, but the ghost stories Mario shared still brought a chill to all gathered.

Finally, we drove to the Cecil Hotel, currently renamed Stay on Main, the infamous Downtown hotel where Richard Ramirez once lived, and where most recently, Elisa Lam was found dead in the rooftop water tank.

During the tour, guests were able to win The Bye Bye Man swag by answering trivia questions, and were given VIP passes to an upcoming screening.

The Bye Bye Man opens nationwide on Friday, January 13.