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Theatre Review (LA): Hello Again by Michael John LaChuisa at the Alex Theatre

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The award-winning Musical Theatre Guild is known for resurrecting “forgotten” musicals. Some are more forgotten than others (Violet, 70 Girls 70) while others are just not done that often (Most Happy Fella, Brigadoon, Finian’s Rainbow). Michael John LaChiusa’s Hello Again lies somewhere in between. Because it is a relatively new musical, there have been productions in recent years (such as at LA’s Blank Theatre) and soon there will be a new one in New York.

Now I am not a huge LaChiusa fan, primarily because he often writes about unlikeable characters who are not my idea of good company for an evening; but then again, neither is King Lear. I was pleasantly surprised by this rendering, not only story-wise, but because the production and performers were first-rate.

Hello Again is inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, which has a circular structure about ten love affairs and sexual encounters using ten characters spread over ten decades of the 20th century. LaChiusa uses a wide range of characters: streetwalker, nurse, soldier, senator, etc. He uses various styles of music to tell the story. The cast, excellent all, consisted of Melissa Fahn, Cynthia Ferrer, Michael G. Hawkins, Kim Huber, Gordon Goodman, Lowe Taylor, Will Collyer, Rod Keller, Jake Wesley Stewart, and Kevin Symons. The director was Michele Spears who kept each scene flowing into the next and got some very sexy and thrilling performances out of the company. Same with the musical direction by Matt Smendal.

This production ranks with the best I have seen from this group. It was performed only once, at the Alex Theatre on Nov. 8th. I have seen other playwrights try to capture Schnitzler’s amazing script and this one comes closest. Next up is One Touch of Venus by Kurt Weill, Ogden Nash, and S.J. Perelman on Feb. 7th, again at the Alex Theatre in Glendale. I look forward to it. Check out this group, you won’t be sorry.

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