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The Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles never disappoints. From great Christmas shows to innovative ventures into classical and contemporary music, they strive for quality mixed with lively entertainment. In this outing, they are presenting their first-ever, all-country music show with the added bonus of Lee Ann Rimes. Where they depart from the standard male chorus one expects to hear is in the Broadway-worthy production numbers delivered by the chorus members themselves.

The show begins with “This is Country Music,” (words and music by Chris Dubose and Brad Paisley, arranged by Madeline Myers). This sets the stage for a well-chosen group of standards by country artists like George Strait, Dolly Parton, and the like.

The program heats up, though, when Rimes delivers “Sixteen Tons” and “Blue.” Her voice is made for country, and she channels Patsy Cline in Rimes’ own hit “Blue.” She and the chorus have a natural charm together, and she offers both solos and shared selections. Since her debut as a child singer, her voice has matured, and, with age, she can present more believably sultry songs.

This show, albeit strong musically, packs a punch in the choreographed numbers (Billy Rugh and Michelle Benton) performed by chorus members. From country line dancing to work that is more contemporary in nature, the men stomp and kick up the dust to numbers like “Swingin’”(words and music by John Anderson, arranged by Darrell Brown) and “Swing.” (words and music by Frank Rogers, arranged by Matthew Brown.) Since this is a more casual style of music than is usually performed, the precise nature of the choral delivery is not as evident, whether by design or not. Artistic Director/Conductor E. Jason Armstrong, at the end of his first inaugural season, sets a more relaxed approach, and it seems to work for this concert. Several chorus members (Jason Frazier, Ryan Slattery, Joshua Skidmore, Adrian Ayala, PJ Celiz, Michael Alfera, Zach Gassoumis, Daniel Stewart, Charles Martinez) are featured in the numbers, along with an extended list of dancers from the group.

Adding poignancy to the offerings is Rimes' “Live Like You Were Dying,” (words and music by Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman, arranged by Bobby Buchanan). At the same time it is paired with “What I Cannot Change,” (words and music by Brown and Rimes) both mellow and heartfelt. Brown successfully collaborates with Rimes, including work on her successful album Family.

Acts I and II are well balanced with songs that reflect on life, love, and humor. The clear standout of the show, however, is Kenny Loggins and Dean Pitchfords'  “Footloose,” the iconic feel-good number of the concert.  The exuberance of the men and this rousing finale leaves the audience cheering for more. Wherever and whenever this gifted group performs, one thing is for sure...you get your money's worth.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.