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 Posted:   Nov 19, 2017 - 2:07 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

Back in the early 80s the composing team of Robert and Richard Sherman (MARY POPPINS, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG) got together with cult director Larry Cohen (IT’S ALIVE, Q ,THE INVADERS), and his wife then Janelle Webb, to do a musical about Levi Strauss, the inventor of blue jeans. It never got off the ground. I can see why, It absolutely was meant for TODAY! Bruce Kimmel, who has become a good friend, has always had impeccable theatrical instincts. But his projects (THE BRAIN FROM PLANET X, LA THEN AND NOW) have had certain idiosyncrasies that may have limited their appeal for mainstream audiences. Certainly not for me. This time Kimmel (who has just been nominated this year for best director on Broadway World for DIAL M FOR MURDER) has kept alive the universality of this piece. Because limited budgets are now prevalent on the Great White Way it conceivably could be presented pretty much “as is” on Broadway. Sure it is a throwback but in the best sense of that word. It is solid.

The score is what the Sherman Brothers do best - melodic ballads and bouncy tunes abound. But what distinguishes this from all their other musicals is it is a sterling example of how the Sherman’s talents could step into the real adult world. There is a magical “word” song but instead of “Fortuosity” or “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’” it is “opportunity” – a real word. This whole piece is rooted in the real world and history which makes it that much more moving. Thanks to Cohen’s book there is little sugarcoated in this immigrant’s story – except their dreams. Racism is prevalent and in the mid 19th century the only choice was to work through it, not necessarily fight it straight on. And that notion is rearing it’s ugly head today more than ever. This is the Sherman Brother’s SOUTH PACIFIC to be sure but a bit harsher.

But lest you feel you will be bummed at this show, it is pure unadulterated optimism that is expressed - particularly in song. “Like A Man” is a comical instruction given to 3 immigrant Chinese girls on how to pretend to be males – who are the only ones allowed to come to America. Levi , straight off the boat, is given the “dos’ and “don’ts” of peddling – avoiding police, competitors, anti-semites and other obstacles out on those mean streets. Even the villains are given “Business is Business” their own anthem that the Trump administration could easily adopt. The musicality of this show takes us to a time when it was much more abundant in the musical theater.

All of these efforts would go for naught if the central role of Levi isn’t at the compelling center. Marc Ginsburg takes full command of that center. With theater credits that span the nation he has made this new character his own. BTW special note to the legendary LACC theater Arts department whose alumni include James Coburn, Robert Vaughn and Morgan Freeman (and the music dept. spawned Jerry Goldsmith). Many LEVI cast members are vets of Kimmel’s LA NOW AND THEN. The character Su-lin played wonderfully by Prisca Kim. Bedjou Jean plays the Blacksmith and a couple other walk-ons. Paolo Fregoso is the voluptuous lady of the evening. The cast of mainly LACC students really seem pro.

Everything seems to work like clockwork. Choreographer Kay Cole avoids anyone doing “dance numbers” which would take us out of the story and has everyone dancing out of their character and what they are doing in the tradition of Onna White of OLIVER! fame. The contributions of sets by Tesshi Nakagawa and Richard Allen as music director cannot be underscored.

I’ve seen many a workshop piece that went to Broadway and they were all shows-in-progress. This one was honed and polished in the early 80s. It is ready for presentation. Run, don’t walk to get tickets to this show that is practically flawless. It has a flaw you say? One early number has Levi drunk and revealing his personal dream of having 7 children. It is not “played” drunk. Playing it drunk not only opens up comic possibilities but reveals that it is a deep seated dream instead of just a wishful notion. That’s it. That is the one flaw and, believe me, I am constantly looking for flaws everywhere in everything.

Sherman Brother's LEVI the musical whose time has come. It hits America where it lives - in it's immigrant past - and future. See in it’s original engagement so you can say you saw it before anyone else.


https://www.facebook.com/events/368490220230276/


https://tickets.vendini.com/ticket-software.html?t=tix&e=b3d784085302c0056f5583711938c080&vqitq=ed8d5669-d51f-43f1-a272-4d0b5e2773c6&vqitp=66b9e839-9d90-4c60-898d-5b93529de659&vqitts=1511129833&vqitc=vendini&vqite=itl&vqitrt=Safetynet&vqith=aaa56575d03f1d3a8800b4f91fc18011


 
 
 Posted:   Nov 20, 2017 - 3:49 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

A review at Broadway World!


https://www.broadwayworld.com/los-angeles/article/BWW-Review-LEVI-A-NEW-MUSICAL-Gives-A-One-Of-A-Kind-Look-Into-The-Life-Of-A-Well-Known-Name-20171120

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 21, 2017 - 2:28 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

Another more expansive great review:


https://buckingtrends.me/2017/11/21/a-cut-above-the-rest-the-world-premiere-of-the-sherman-brothers-musical-levi-is-a-perfect-fit-for-l-a-c-cs-theatre-academy/

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 22, 2017 - 11:10 AM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

Maybe for the benefit of the bent of this board I should re-emphasize Larry Cohen, director-writer of such diverse items as Q THE WINGED SERPENT, RETURN TO SALEM'S LOT, IT'S ALIVE, THE PRIVATE LIFE OF J EDGAR HOOVER, THE STUFF, BLACK CAESAR and GOD TOLD ME TO. Also screenwriter on RETURN OF THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, PHONEBOOTH, EL CONDOR, DADDYS GONE A HUNTING, CELLULAR and many more. To add to these layers he created for television the series THE INVADERS and BRANDED as well as writing episodes of THE FUGITIVE, THE DEFENDERS, CHECKMATE and the list goes on.

If there has been a downside to the Sherman Brothers's work is that it could get a bit formulaic and syrupy at times. None of that really shows up here. Larry's book to LEVI shows a man with a set dreams that slowly go down like a sunset only to rise like a phoenix in a wholly different way. This show could even be called dark BUT with a ton of humor along the way, provided by the Sherman brothers AND Cohen's ascerbic wit. It makes for quite a unique story, closer to the only other true story Cohen has done J EDGAR HOOVER. And thanks to Bruce Kimmel's expert showmanship this flies along smoothly and tightly resulting in the best piece of theater in a long time. The link is above. Buy tickets for this final weekend NOW!



BTW I could go on about Cohen but the best way to understand Larry's overall contributions to cnema is to see LaLaLand's first feature film KING COHEN: THE WILD WORLD OF FILMMAKER LARRY COHEN showing December 2 at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood and elsewhere in the coming months.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 22, 2017 - 2:52 PM   
 By:   haineshisway   (Member)

The book to the show was revised (in some cases heavily) by me, but always writing in Larry's voice, especially in terms of the humor. The show as originally written wasn't producible - it was too unwieldy and too huge. Its opening was completely different to what you saw - it opened so weirdly and so off-puttingly that reading it you would have just scratched your head. That was the first thing I attended to, otherwise I just moved things around, added dialogue where it needed, cut a few of the crazier things - all with Larry's blessing. When he attended the reading we did in August, he was thrilled with the changes and delighted with the flow - he said to me, "I can't tell what's you and what's me" - which means I did my job well.

Both he and Richard loved the show and the production, which was all I needed out of this experience - to deliver their baby healthily. And yes, if you've never seen a Larry Cohen movie, you are in for a weird and wonderful treat.

 
 
 Posted:   Nov 24, 2017 - 1:26 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

THAT makes your contribution to this masterly presentation all the more impressive. I hope as many who can will come to see this timely musical drama before it leaves will. I would be there again if my budget wasn't so tight now. If you guys out there don't see this you will be missing out on something special!


And ANOTHER rave comes through. I have yet to see a disparaging word from any corner about LEVI!

Congrats!

http://itsnotaboutme.tv/news/theatre-levi-the-musical/


 
 
 Posted:   Nov 29, 2017 - 2:25 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

Seeing this again tomorrow! A limited number of complimentary seats have been made available on Goldstar: Grab them!

https://www.goldstar.com/los-angeles/search?q=levi




 
 
 Posted:   Nov 30, 2017 - 7:42 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

Saw this a second time and it remains as solid a piece of theater anyone could want.

Based on the non-response to this thread I am curious about something.

If this was about a CD recording of LEVI would the response be more fruitful?

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2017 - 2:03 AM   
 By:   crogrr   (Member)

I was there today with Morricone based upon his comments in Facebook and I definitely made the right decision! Very impressed with the cast, choreography, costumes, story and of course the Shermans' music. The orchestra is great and sounds much larger than it actually is. I highly recommend it! If a CD happens I'm buying.

GO if in LA area!!

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2017 - 12:28 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

I was there today with Morricone based upon his comments in Facebook and I definitely made the right decision! Very impressed with the cast, choreography, costumes, story and of course the Shermans' music. The orchestra is great and sounds much larger than it actually is. I highly recommend it! If a CD happens I'm buying.

GO if in LA area!!


Thank you!

My consolation is I have never even had one person who HAS gone to my recommendations yet come back with any disagreements. Not even one "meh!"

THIS one I especially want to push because it really deserves it on every level.

If you can - go. It is incredibly economical too.

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2017 - 12:39 PM   
 By:   Sean Nethery   (Member)

....If this was about a CD recording of LEVI would the response be more fruitful?

I contributed to the campaign for LEVI because I wanted to support it and I loved the 10-CD offer. But speaking as someone thousands of miles away from the production, I've not responded because I've tired of adding an "I wish I could go but I'm thousands of miles away" kind of post.

And yes, I am interested in reading about the production, so thanks for that. I for one would be interested in a CD recording - heck, I'd buy a copy (just as I got the last Sherman Brothers Kritzerland release). But I don't know that a thread focused on the CD for this would get much traction here either. Just doesn't hit the sweet spot for most of the fans here, for whatever reasons.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2017 - 2:49 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

....If this was about a CD recording of LEVI would the response be more fruitful?

I contributed to the campaign for LEVI because I wanted to support it and I loved the 10-CD offer. But speaking as someone thousands of miles away from the production, I've not responded because I've tired of adding an "I wish I could go but I'm thousands of miles away" kind of post.

And yes, I am interested in reading about the production, so thanks for that. I for one would be interested in a CD recording - heck, I'd buy a copy (just as I got the last Sherman Brothers Kritzerland release). But I don't know that a thread focused on the CD for this would get much traction here either. Just doesn't hit the sweet spot for most of the fans here, for whatever reasons.


You represent so many. Whenever I post about anything here, big or small, I get a plethora of "if I only were closer". You are actually in a more exclusive group like Mark Ford who help projects here and are a part of it vicariously. But in this town people not only have too much to do, they are now jaded. Appreciation of these rather special shows has more to do with "how far do I have to drive?"

Yet I have found if there is a will there is a way.


I actually can identify with this lethargy. When I heard about this show I added things up:

A musical about the guy who invented blue Jeans?

With music by the Sherman Brothers?

And a book by Larry Cohen, the guy who did IT'S ALIVE and Q THE WINGED SERPENT?

No thanks.


But I pushed myself off my ass, went to see it and was blown away - twice.

Who'd a thunk?

 
 Posted:   Dec 1, 2017 - 4:16 PM   
 By:   Sean Nethery   (Member)

Yeah, that happens to me even here in the Denver metro area. But if I lived where you do, I would have gone to this one. In fact, hearing it was written by Larry Cohen would have sealed the deal for me. The guy who is credited for the Columbo story "Any Old Port in a Storm" is good enough for me.

 
 
 Posted:   Dec 2, 2017 - 7:57 AM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

Yeah, that happens to me even here in the Denver metro area. But if I lived where you do, I would have gone to this one. In fact, hearing it was written by Larry Cohen would have sealed the deal for me. The guy who is credited for the Columbo story "Any Old Port in a Storm" is good enough for me.

Did not remember the COLUMBO credit! Some of his horror efforts had some clunky dialogue and all his films did not always plop together but this project must have been close to the heart and with Bruce's honing efforts has resulted in the best thing he has ever done.

Two last performances today.

 
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