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Theatre Review (LA): Make Me A Song: The Music of William Finn at The Covina Center for the Performing Arts

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A few months ago I journeyed to a theatre that I had never heard of called the Covina Center For The Performing Arts, where I saw a beautiful production of a difficult musical, A Light In The Piazza, directed by a talented director named Phil Miller. The production was outstanding and I was particularly struck with the skill and care Mr. Miller had taken to stage this musical in the refurbished movie house, now a 99-seat theatre, in Covina. Therefore I looked forward to once again taking the drive to see a musical that has yet to play in Los Angeles, Make Me A Song: The Music of William Finn. I was not disappointed, and my admiration for Mr. Miller’s work was confirmed. This man is a gifted director who deserves more exposure.

Covina is a very conservative town, but Mr. Miller chose, once again, to push the envelope by introducing them to William Finn. Finn is primarily known for Falsettos (two Tony Awards), which is comprised of parts of March of The Falsettos and Falsettoland. Along the way Finn also wrote In Trousers and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, heady stuff for a conservative area. The musicals have a gay theme (except Spelling Bee) but also an overriding theme of compassion and understanding in the face of the devastation of AIDS. Finn tells stories about people we can care about, and with a great deal of humor and irony. The audience in Covina was, for the most, part quite accepting. After all, Finn is a good composer, and the show was being directed extremely well.

To top it off, the performers were incredible. They included Broadway talent, award-winning singers, and people with a string of credits. The women were Robin De Lano and Shawna Hamic. Ms. De Lano is a singer with great maturity and presence who can really deliver a song. Ms. Hamic was recently voted the New York Music Festival’s Next Broadway Sensation. She well deserves that award, and has a great sense of humor. Dennis Kyle is really the leading character man of the group; he has a strong voice and compassionate delivery. Michael Skidgen, a singer I had recently seen in The Most Happy Fella, is one of the best musical talents around, a really powerful voice and a calm, assured presence.

I hope this production finds another home because it well deserves attention. Make Me A Song; The Music Of William Finn played at The Covina Center for the Performing Arts in early May.

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