STAGE SCENE LA - SONGS FOR A NEW WORLD - RECOMMENDED Inland Valley Repertory Theatre celebrates the end of summer with Jason Robert Brown’s Songs For A New World, the song cycle that put the future Tony winner’s name on the map, and if not the inspired vision of Brown’s 1995 debut that I’ve seen previously, a number of fine performances (and one in particular) make this a mostly effective, ultimately affecting revival of the very first JRB hit. The now-renowned composer/lyricist (Parade, The Last Five Years, 13, The Bridges Of Madison County) made his first big splash on the New York musical theater scene way back in the mid ‘90s with sixteen songs centering on a single theme, that of facing the “new world” that unexpected life changes can bring about. Brown had been a mere twenty when he arrived in NYC with a stack of songs and a dream. Five years later that dream became a reality when Songs For A New World opened at the WPA Theater under the direction of Daisy Prince, daughter of Broadway legend Harold Prince. The final product retained many of Brown’s original songs, revised some, and added new ones, including the show’s opening number, which ties them together: “A new world calls across the ocean. A new world calls across the sky.” More specifically, “It’s about one moment, the moment before it all becomes clear. And in that one moment, you start to believe there’s nothing to fear. It’s about one second, and just when you’re on the verge of success, the sky starts to change and the wind starts to blow and you’re suddenly a stranger.” Each of Songs For A New World’s “characters” is facing that one moment, whether it’s Man 1 Richard Bermudez’s sailor on a journey to find a “promised land” in “On The Deck Of A Spanish Sailing Ship, 1492” or Woman 2 Lisa Donahey’s angry wife taunting her philandering husband by threatening to take “Just One Step” off the ledge of their fifty-seventh story penthouse apartment. Then there’s Woman 1 Amanda Minano singing about a woman who feels “the calling of adventure” and the need to escape from the fearful people around her in “I’m Not Afraid Of Anything,” and Man 2 Patrick McMahon in “She Cries,” as a young man longing but unable to break free from a toxic relationship. For each of them, it’s a moment when “the surface cracks to reveal the tracks to a new world.” Previous productions have found particularly inventive ways of linking Brown’s sixteen Songs For A New World and connecting the cast of four. This time round, director Hope Kaufman mostly lets JRB’s songs work their individual magic, aided by Kim Eberhardt’s snappy, jazzy choreography and musical director Ronda Rubio’s sensational live accompaniment on keyboard with Brad Vaughn adding oomph on drums and percussion. Is there is a Southern California musical theater leading man with a headier combination of matinee idol looks, Men’s Fitness cover model physique, gorgeous tenor, and first-rate acting chops than Bermudez? Whether getting funky in “The Steam Train” as a young Latino who dreams of escaping el barrio by becoming a famous basketball player, or embodying a young inmate longing to break free from prison walls and fulfill his destiny in “King Of The World,” or as a man nearing the end of his life and ready to fly into his Father’s arms in “Flying Home,” Bermudez makes Man 1’s every song a stunner. The delightful Donahey gets to perform Songs For A New World’s splashiest numbers, demonstrating terrific comedic skills and a soprano as smooth as silk. She’s the pissed-off wife in “Just One Step” and a frustrated, German-accented Mrs. Santa in “Surabaya Santa” (think Marlene Dietrich or Lotte Lenya in vamp mode). On a more serious note, she sings of a woman who chooses material possessions over “The Stars And The Moon,” and in “The Flagmaker, 1775,” of a young woman on the home front sewing “one more star” onto the colonial flag as she waits for her beloved’s return from the war. Incandescent UCI senior Minano sings the exquisite “Christmas Lullaby,” to Woman 1’s unborn child, and joins McMahon in “I’d Give It All To You,” about a couple who’ve gone their separate ways only to discover that each would give it all to be back together again. “God knows it’s easy to run, easy to run from the people you love, and harder to stand and fight for the things you believe,” Minano sings in her lovely soprano, echoing the show’s leitmotiv of people at the crossroads. McMahon has a strong stage presence but is less successful vocally than his castmates in “She Cries,” “I’d Give It All To You,” and “The World Was Dancing,” about a man who’s run away from a dysfunctional family and from the woman who loves him. The evening concludes with the entire cast lending their voices in glorious harmony to the inspiring “Hear My Song,” a song which can “help you believe in tomorrow. It’ll show you the way you can shine. It’ll help us survive all the pain.” Costume designer Jamie Brown has come up with some fine New World Wear, with special snaps for keeping Mrs. Santa’s sexiest elf provocatively underdressed. Daniel Morefield lights Mark MacKenzie’s set modification quite strikingly. Andrew Piña’s sound design insures a clear mix of vocals and band. (Another design team takes over for Songs For A New World’s upcoming Fontana transfer to Tibbies Center Stage.) Leading the IVRT staff are producing artistic director Frank Minano, executive director Donna Marie Minano, artistic director Terre Gunkel, and associate artistic directors Kaufman and Bobby Collins. Collins is production director. Having just won his second and third Tony awards for The Bridges Of Madison County, and with Honeymoon In Vegas scheduled to begin Broadway previews in just a few months, Jason Robert Brown is hotter than ever nearly twenty years after Songs For A New World first saw the light of day. IVRT’s latest reminds us of how it all started. –Steven Stanley August 26, 2014 Photos: DawnEllen Ferry
I've been to many community melodrama's and dining adventures/shows but when it came to talent...... man, I got WAY more than I expected at this one! A girlfriend I work with and I had a last-minute opportunity to attend a packed performance of "Welcome to the Rat Pack Revisited" here at the FCLO (http://www.fclo.com/) in June. It was dubbed 'an evening of music and memories under the stars...... " but it was way more than that, it was talent equaled to those Rat Packers of long-ago! We walked in a bit early and had our names checked on the guest list and continued to the bar area for a drink before the show was to start. The beer and wine prices were very reasonable, then we made a bit of chit-chat with other Rat-Pack fans in the reception area. The stage area opened and we were seated at a great round table with a beautiful centerpiece, candle and table cloth. Almost immediately there was a delicious sit-down dinner served by candlelight as Lettie and I sat at our table with 2 couples in the Skyroom's costume-department-provided fur coats and suit jacket's (to keep warm through the evenings performance). Bread was brought out before the salads, delicious lasagna dinners were followed by coffee and sinfully amazing chocolate fudge and raspberry dessert, it was DEVINE! The dishes were being cleared when the stage lit up and the entertainers for the evening were in front of us in amazing gowns and suits. The girls were in their first costumes for the night, black evening gowns with satin gloves and the men in tux's --- the elegance of the 1960's and the Rat Pack was INSTANTLY REVIVED! Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr were there in spirit AND on stage! Don Lucas, Randy Gianetti and Desmond Newson were the Rat's and their lovely lady pack consisted of Lisa Donahey and Leslie Scott accompanied by an awesome LIVE 9-piece band. I have to say, Lisa Donahey, impressed me with her CD She's Got It Covered - http://www.lisadonahey/... - but she BLEW ME AWAY with her rendition of Mr. Bojangles..."I knew a man Bojangles and he'd dance for you, In worn out shoes, With silver hair, a ragged shirt, and baggy pants, The old soft shoe, He jumped so high, jumped so high, Then he lightly touched down..." her voice and those lyrics gave me goosebumps and watery eyes, it was beautiful! Lisa was adorable dancing on stage with Desmond (young Sammy Davis Jr) and left a great little red lipstick kiss print on his cheek..... Desmond's voice was perfect in the Candy Man! He opened his mouth and out of nowhere this voice came belting out of that young man and ........ wow, just WOW! Newcomer to the stage was Leslie Scott, she was new to the FCLO but has many popular roles behind her -- her voice is rich and flowing and both she and Lisa danced and sang around the guys as arm candy for the handsome versions of Frank, Dean and Sammy ;) Don Lucas sang "I did it my way" at the end of the evening and it made me think of Frank AND Elvis, powerful notes coupled with his suave appearance, yes he played this lady's man role PUUUUURFECTLY! Randy was hilarious in the Dean Martin role, stumbling around like Dean used to .... cracking jokes and one liners to the drummers ba-dump-dump! Then singing tunes that would have made ol'Dean proud. As I looked around the Skyroom, I couldn't help but notice this was an older crowd, more like the original Rat Pack followers than I. The women were dressed in their 'date night' dresses like those elegant evening gowns, with jewels dangling from their earlobes, necklaces delicately placed, and bits of flashy jewels adorning their wrists, some of the men were in suits (as obvious companions to their evening dress adorned dates), there were a few 40'somethings like me, but it was nice....... everything about this evening was fun, lots of smiling and laughing, it was entertaining as well as relaxing, and it was very, very, nice to have felt, if but for just a couple of hours, that we had been magically transported back to those night clubs of the 60's and personal guests of the original Rat Pack! ******* standing ovation **********
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER -June 15, 2011, Eric Marchese Re-creating the style of entertainment forged by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and other members of the "Rat Pack" may be a lost art, but as long as performers like Don Lucas are around, fans of the genre won't have to say goodbye just yet. Lucas' show, "Rat Pack Revisited," happens to be a very good fit with FCLO Music Theatre's summertime series at its outdoor "Skyroom" facility where, appropriately enough, the evening begins with cocktails and dinner before progressing to what amounts to the floor show. Billed as "the timeless music of Frank, Dean and Sammy" and "an evening of music and memories," the compact, briskly paced yet relaxed show unfurls nearly three-dozen numbers that came to be associated with the trio during their "Rat Pack" days in the early 1960s – some of the best jazz, pop and musical theater songs of that era. The show's first half opens with some half-dozen numbers associated with Dean Martin, then segues into songs popularized by Sammy Davis, Jr. The second act celebrates "Swoonatra," including an entertaining nine-song medley. And while Lucas states that he and his cast won't impersonate the Rat Packers, Randy Gianetti jokingly graces us with several Dino-like quips and Desmond Newson offers touches of Sammy. What's crucial to note is that Lucas and company capture the spirit of the Rat Pack, with plenty of good-natured ribbing, bon mots, playfully naughty double entendres and self-deprecating humor. Gianetti often does indeed evoke the ultra-relaxed Martin. He delivers a dynamic "Something's Gotta Give," sings Italian lyrics for "Evening in Roma" and, in "Luck Be a Lady," shows Sinatra's command of the stage. Newson has the grace, charm and velvety-voice of a young Davis, Jr. or Nat King Cole, in fine form for "Candy Man" and "I've Got the World on a String." Leslie Scott's megawatt smile lends her a Julia Roberts-like persona that's put to good use for "That Old Black Magic" and an upbeat "A Foggy Day." Lisa Donahey has a larger-than-life personality visible in songs like "All of Me" and the intense, pathos-washed "Mr. Bojangles," and she and Scott create appealing duets of "Bye, Bye Blackbird" and "Almost Like Being in Love." Lucas has the earnest charm of all great stars, showcased in his many songs and epitomized in an at-first thoughtful and low-key, then resolute and defiant "My Way." More importantly, he's the dynamic, driving force of this show, working as director, musical director, master of ceremonies and conductor of the fine onstage nine-piece band that features the expert sax playing of Ed Peffer. The evening's best moments include all five performers with a Rat Pack-like synergy that's swingy and fun and loaded with class and elegance. The songs indeed take us to "different places," as Lucas notes, and with this show, they also take us back to a time of fun and frolic, when hearts were light and free of care.
NEW REVIEW - THE BLUNDERS - October 12, 2009 Jon Berstein's site-specific comedy with music about L.A. ditherers and sweet loons is set in an L.A. bar-cabaret - cleverly using the environs of the Vermont Restaurant's cabaret room. This provides the opportunity and context for Lorna (Leslie Beauvais), Gretel (Celina Stachow) and Suzy (Lisa Donahey) to croon musical director Mitchell Kaplan's original songs (with additional lyrics by Bernstein), as well as excerpts from Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music. Meanwhile the unrequited loves and stifled ambitions that play themselves out at the bar resemble a sitcom based on a Sondheim musical - unapologetically so. The parodies include Ezra (Marco Tazioli), a kind-hearted gravel-voiced sage perpetually frustrated in romance and by his over-the-limit credit cards, and who's mistaken for a Muppet character. We see him somewhat spinelessly or perhaps desperately duped by fly-by-night shrink Dr. Sylvia (Keli Daniels), a former canine psychiatrist who makes her living applying her doggy techniques to Angelenos. Heart-throb bartender Barry (Casey Sullivan) sends overweight Suzy's heart aflutter in what she thinks is a mutual romance but is merely Barry's attempt to exploit her job as a receptionist at Capitol Records. After about 30-minutes, the concept wears thin, because it's a dramatization of symptoms rather than underlying causes. Posing as an affectionate nod to life in our Industry town, it unwittingly provides grist to outsiders convinced of our city's superficial denizens. The sound design and/or actors use of mikes needs modifying in order to prevent distortion, though Donahey in particular has a gorgeous singing voice, and knows how to use it. Upright Cabaret at Vermont, 1714 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles; Wed., 9 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.; no minimum for dinner or drinks); through October 21. http//the blunders.com (Steven Leigh Morris)
Among other standouts, Lisa Donahey's radiant teapot Mrs. Potts, delivering a heart-rending rendition of the lovely title song.
The portrayals of the other minor characters were no less sparkling, including Lisa Donahey (a wonderful Mrs. Potts).
This is a really BIG BUDGET show by southland standards. You won't find this much flash for the cast anywhere west of the Jersey state line!! It's a fantastic story to begin with and the actors are up to the task of providing a complete replacement for the NY show that just closed. (Hey Disney, take these folks on the road and you'll sell out every show from coast to coast.) There are very strong performances by all the leads and the ensamble and dancers do themselves proud also. The only complaint I can give is that it's only running for 2 weekends with 13 performances!! BTW, the tickets are even being SCALPED online for 3 times the box office price!! That should tell you something!! THE WORD IS OUT....THIS IS THE HOT TICKET FOR THE WEEKEND!!
"Lisa Donahey Raises Her Voice to Raise Money for Deserving Children" On July 9, 2005, Lisa Donahey, hosted ‘An Evening with Lisa Donahey’ to benefit Hillsides Volunteer Network (HVN), a residential and community treatment center that creates safe places for children at risk and their families in Pasadena, CA. “Hillsides provides a safe, nurturing environment where children can prosper,” said Lisa. “I am honored and delighted to help support Hillsides’ mission through my music.” Over 130 guests arrived at the Wells Fargo Theatre at the Autry National Center to witness Lisa’s performance of classic hits such as “I Feel the Earth Move”, "Dance to the Music", “Not That Kind of Girl” and “True Colors,” amongst many other hits. The concert raised over $2000 which will go towards children's activities planned by HVN throughout the year. Nanci Garni, Director of Development at Hillsides, was kind enough to share her thoughts on the evening - "The ‘Evening with Lisa’ to benefit Hillsides was truly magical. Lisa Donahey is a gifted singer and spirited performer. Lisa’s compassion, joy and grace came through in every number performed and each personal experience she shared with the audience. I left the evening feeling energized, as well as feeling deep gratitude that we have such wonderful friends supporting Hillsides." Lisa, a Berklee College of Music graduate and “Outstanding Performer of the Year” has thrilled audiences through her live theatrical performances, television work and recordings. During her career, she has received many accolades, including being chosen to sing a musical tribute to pop singer Sting, jazz legend Nancy Wilson and The Manhattan Transfer.
"Lisa brings the music to life for me...her effervescent personality and incredible voice are truly magical."

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