Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts

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The Wallis is pleased to offer an opportunity for youth ages 12-18 to become a Student Arts Reporter. This program is designed for students interested in the arts and journalism or critical writing. The Wallis is proud to partner with the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle and other local media partners to help mentor students to view productions with a critical eye and write reviews for selected Wallis performances throughout the season. 
The reviews below were written by members of The Wallis Student Reporters.  For more information about the program please contact Debra Pasquerette at dpasquerette@thewallis.org.

Zukerman Trio Critique
by Izabella Paz
The Zukerman Trio used the beautiful sounds of the violin, cello and piano to entice the audience and capture them in what was a beautiful evening at the theater. The works of Pinchas Zukerman, Amanda Forsyth, and Angela Cheng provided an amazing escape from the busy life of Los Angeles. The music itself was flawless and seemed to calm down the audience, however, the whole production itself including tech, staging, and transitioning was casual and provided no extra elegance to a night out to the theater. Sitting down, I was ready to see an extravagant production honoring these three amazing musicians; unfortunately that was not at all what was brought before the audience that night. Out walked Pinchas Zukerman and Amanda Forsyth and as the murmuring came to a stop they started to play. I was very confused as they didn’t speak or even acknowledge the fact that they had an audience in front of them. However, the beautiful sound of the strings quickly made me forget and I slowly became captured by the first piece; Prelude. 
During the first 30 minutes, I was asking the same question, where is the third player of the trio I came to see. It seemed odd that they would start the show with just two players of the trio. Without any introductions whatsoever, the pieces continued and as Angela Cheng came on to complete this trio I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I do not recommend coming to see the show if you have a particular dislike for classical music as the production was all classical, as expected. I especially enjoyed Amanda Forsyth; her deep tones added a great depth to the music that I focused on. At some points in the night she nervously glanced at the audience, honestly, it felt weird to be acknowledged and I think she was a little confused on whether she could acknowledge her audience or not. Another distraction I found rather irritating was the man that came and helped Cheng with her music, such as flipping the pages. He kept smiling and bobbing his head to the music, this seemed very unprofessional. As the performance began to come to an end, the music became significantly dramatic; this was particularly enjoyable as I saw the gradual increase in speed. 
The audience on October 30th, the night I attended, was aged from about 50 and up; again I do not recommend it for children. If you enjoy clearing your mind and becoming carried away with the shifts of bows then I would strongly recommend this production. Seeing the music go through the bodies of these musicians was enough to calm a busy bee instantly. 
Zukerman Trio
by Canyon Clark
Pinchas Zukerman connects with fellow musicians and audiences alike. Before the trio performed there was a Q&A session with Zukerman and Rachel Fine, The Wallis Annenberg managing director, that captivated the audience.
Zukerman is a pro at warming up the audience. He set the tone for the whole night with his amazing stories about his childhood and ideologies. Many musicians could stand to learn from Zukerman, relative to how he connects with his audience.
Additionally,  it was obvious that Zukerman(violinist), Amanda Forsyth(cellist), and Angela Cheng(pianist) had a great bond with each other from the outset. Each one knew when the other would start, ritardando and end. The triad were so connected that the initial note of the concert came out of nowhere, which brought the audience into the performance.
There were no extravagant lighting or props. Neither were needed because the threesome captured the mood within their musicality. The venue, The Wallis Annenberg Center of Performing Arts has great acoustics for a performance of this sort. 
Zukerman along with Forsyth and Cheng all brought world class talent to a classical performance. All three of the musicians were connected to each other and to the audience, which made longer movements seem shorter, thus leaving the audience wanting more. 
Kyle Riabko
by Julia Maisel-Berick
In Kyle Riabko’s solo show, Bacharach Reimagined, he explores and performs the classic songs of Burt Bacharach. One might not expect a twenty something man to be playing 1960’s pop songs, however Kyle Riabko is an exception. The Broadway performer created and acted in Close To You, a musical piece that featured his takes on Bacharach songs and has worked with the man himself. In Bacharach Reimagined, the audience not only gets to hear Riabko’s renditions of these songs, but you also get to learn about his relationship with both Burt Bacharach and his music.
Riabko wasted no time in starting the performance and immediately delved into his rendition of “Close To You”.  From there he proceeded to play more of Bacharach greatest hits including “Don’t Make Me Over” and “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” Additionally, the concert features his unique medleys of Bacharch songs such as combination of “Look of Love,” “Say A Little Prayer,” and “Arthur’s Theme.” 
Kyle Riabko brought a modern twist to these vintage tunes with his singing approach of breaking down the lyrics, allowing the audience to experience the songs in a new way. He accompanied himself solely with a guitar and the occasional back track. These songs had members of the crowd, whether they were previously fans of Bacharach or not, were tapping their feet and nodding along to the beat in this show.

Zukerman Trio
by Chloe Clark
The Zukerman Trio stylistically played their set of classical songs through musical effects of layering volumes and rhythms, which effectively meshed together the violin, cello, and piano in a single harmonious sound. 
The performance began with only the violin and cello. Although the songs in Gliere were not accompanied by the piano, the performance was still powerful in sound.  In “Impromptu”, the musicians held out notes to complement each other’s sound and the violin maintained balance with the faster-paced cello. There was also volume differences that faded in and out, alternating from the loud violin to the quiet cello, which produced beautiful tones.  The crescendo and decrescendo added to the varying moods in the songs. Although the music was beautifully played, there were numerous awkward changed between songs while changing sheet music. This slightly took away from the performance because it seemed choppy.  At the start of Shostakovich, the piano player, Amanda Forsyth, joined the violist and cellist. The deep sound of the piano contrasted nicely with the lighter sound of the latter instruments.  The trio changed the pace of songs by smoothing transitioning to staccato notes which made a more forceful sound combined. It was interesting to see how the musicians used their instruments differently. Not only did the violin and cello stoke with the bow, but they also plucked the strings.  Plucking helped to build a pounding rhythm with the piano. The plucking method also produced volumes depending on if the plucking was harsh or subtle.  With the use of the bow, the steady beats emerged from the bow tapping lightly on the strings.  The musicians were in great unison, creating a simple musicality. In “Largo”, the song began with piano only, but the violin and cello caught on at different times which increased varying levels to the music.  There was shifts in mood depending on if notes were played softer and slower. This was displayed when the violin and cello played slowly while the piano softly accented in the background. In the last set, Schubert, the songs presented dramatic sound which was due to the alternating playing from the strings and the piano.  The precision of the violin and cello mimicked the decreasing volume of the piano.  In “Scherzo”, it was effective how the piano played a simple melody in the background while the violin and cello played in the foreground. The different volumes also were utilized to highlight a particular instrument. The final song was very powerful because it ended with a ringing sound from all the instruments in unison along with the thunderous applause from the audience. 

Harlem Quartet 
by Chloe Clark
The Harlem Quartet put on an amazing performance, incorporating different styles and moods with their strong technical abilities from many years of classical training. The style infused both classical and jazz music.  Throughout the songs, the musicians produced varying levels and volumes through their instruments, from subdued and mellow, to strong and forceful.  From these different levels, involved different moods like somber, vibrant, or intense. The performance created a good experience for the audience because of the different emotions created from the music. In the first song, Almendra, I especially enjoyed how the piano was the main highlight while the four other instruments played subtly in the background; the sounds complemented each other in harmony.  The musicians produced wonderful rhythms and smooth transitions in and out of each solo. The musicians were very well rounded in their music education, for they utilized their instruments to its full capabilities.  For example, the cello player played his instrument like a string bass by plucking the stings, while also using the bow. Also, the viola player emulates sounds of an alto sax, which is significant in adding a more stylistic sound to the music. Along with the musician’s technical abilities, they also were emotionally involved, putting so much passion in their performance.  The passion was driven from the connection between the two brothers, Ilmar and Aldo. Because the brothers were separated due to political circumstances between the US and Cuba, the music truly serves as a powerful connection between the brothers. This emotional connection comes across through the music and felt in the audience as well.  The musical performance overall illustrated a range of emotions and captured a state of mind- of love and intimacy.  I was in awe and captivated with not only the music, but also how the musicians used the music to illustrate a theme. 

For the Record: Scorcese American Crime Requiem 
by Jack Grazer
The genius of Italian mob screenwriting, directing and film producing that brought you Casino, Goodfellas, Taxi Driver, The Departed, Mean Streets and of course the unforgettably vulgar and ruthless Wolf of Wall Street, Martin Scorsese, has been greatly honored by director, Anderson Davis for presenting the insanely energetic performance of For The Record: Scorsese American Crime Requiem at the Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts. The For The Record Company has definitely proven themselves worthy of interpreting these great films for the stage with this home-run hit of a production! Before the show even began 60’s mobsters and 50’s hit-men walked about while Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and other classic crooners of the era wafted from every corner of the thrust and all the way into the theatre. A fun moment at the beginning of the show was an actor’s improvisational interaction with an audience member seated at a table blending perfectly into the scene.
As the lights slowly dimmed over the Italian restaurant dressed arena, actors and actresses begin their “no turning back” journey onto the stage and into the stories of Scorsese. Mobsters and gangsters grab a seat at their well-known bar. The legendary scene from Goodfellas begins. After Frankie, the Joe Pesci character from Goodfellas played by, Jason Paige, reveals his impractical joke on the Ray Liotta character, they move, seamlessly, on with their powerful performance and transition into the different scenes. 
For The Record: Scorsese totally portrays the hardcore and harsh reality of the mafia and what the money, sex, drugs and killings did to these characters. The music, song and dance provides a sort of happier and more soulful element that you wouldn't normally find in a drama-based production. But, in the majority of Martin Scorsese films, upbeat and joyful songs are usually played at times where dark or depressing things are happening. For instance the song Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones is used in many of Scorsese’s films such as: Casino, Goodfellas, Shine A Light and The Departed. The song Gimme Shelter is considered to be a feel-good song due it’s beat and rhythm. But it actually has a much deeper meaning that, fortunately, For The Record: Scorsese production utilized in a way that had a hymn like quality, summoning a need for redemption or safety for the characters.
The music was also a character in this production, acting as both narrator and as subconscious voices for the characters. It was church or the Superbowl for Scorsese fans and any fan of great musical theatre. Truly an event! As the multiple stories unfolded and the main themes running through each acted out with perfection, the audience was enveloped and immersed in the epic world of Scorsese. The voices from the actors, as these characters, were so energetic, vigorous and at times haunting. Such professional artistry and talent graced the stage that their passion was evident in every scene. 
The choice of songs for this production was spot on. Martin Scorsese would be very proud. Songs like: House Of The Rising Sun, Well Well Well, Comfortably Numb, The Thrill Is Gone, Kissed Me, Sunshine of Your Love, My Way, Sweet Dreams and other classic songs that Scorsese has used in his films were performed by the cast with powerful and commanding presence. The lyrics in these songs were the voices of the wounded characters. The layered storytelling, combined through the acting and singing, brought a new depth to the already soulful stories.
The period representation from the actors in this performance was so authentic, yet stylized in their own theatrical interpretation that it really added on to the excitement of the show. The overall enthusiasm in the audience was palpable from the onset. Even the gunshots and the perfectly necessary swearing made it so much more lively and real. The gospel of Scorsese was alive throughout in the scripting, set design, lights, choreography and music.
Martin Scorsese, one the biggest and most popular storytellers in the crime-drama genre, has been awarded one of the greatest tributes ever imaginable in this production. The way the For The Record Company emulated and interpreted Scorsese’s work with a rock solid cast of outstanding talent, as actors and singers, and put it into, not only, a regular musical but more like a rock and roll cabaret show, dedicated to Mr. Scorsese and his indelible storytelling, was outstanding!!! 

The American Revolution: history before your eyes
By Joey Maya Safchik and Judy Durkin
“History isn’t the whole story” chanted the actors in The American Revolution, Theatre Unspeakable’s remarkably relevant experimental theatre production. The one-act performance depicts the trials and tribulations that contributed to the emergence of the United States. While history is the foundation of this 50-minute theatrical spectacle, this is surely no 11th grade textbook-based lecture. People of all ages will find the performance endearing and educational. 
With the energy of a polished and uniquely entertaining experimental high school theatre piece, the ensemble production merged physicality, vocalization, humor and… American history.
Performed almost entirely upon a rectangular wooden block, the seven actors transformed an intimate space into palaces and battlefields. The set is composed primarily of the actors’ bodies, clad in basic red Nike attire. The intricate direction by Marc Frost called for constant movement, showing off each performer’s flexibility (including an impressive long-lasting handstand from cast-member and former US National Champion gymnast Flora Bare) and athletic capability. The cohesiveness of the ensemble was a highlight of the production, and the cast’s chemistry was evident. 
Each cast member played a crucial role, stepping into the shoes of dozens of founding fathers, influential Revolutionary women, soldiers and monarchs. An array of accents filled the intimate theatre. The devised script consisted of over-exaggerated Southern colloquialisms, to snobby British regaling of historical information, to appropriate modern anachronisms. With his brilliantly absurd British accent and flawless comedic timing, Thomas Wynne won the audience over with his rendition of the villainous King George. In her gender-bending performance as Governor Dinwiddie, Sarah Liken humorously embodied the prudent man, whose historical significance is not often discussed in classrooms. 
Perhaps the most versatile performer was Rasell Holt, who played both general George Washington and his slave Billy Lee. Without much stage time as each character, Holt managed to take the audience on an emotional journey, providing a poignant contrast to the comedic production. In his speech as Billy Lee, he wonders why slaves were left out of Jefferson’s declaration that “all men are created equal.” This draws a connection to the Black Lives Matter movement of today, showing that, while America has come a long way from the Boston Tea Party, there is a great deal of work yet to be done.
Full of prime history-buff humor and extraordinarily accurate factual representations of our past, the play creates a welcoming environment for patrons to become in touch with their history.
United States History class periods at high schools are approximately one hour long. In that time interval, The American Revolution provides a stellar crash course on our nation’s birth.
The American Revolution by Maegan Fellner
The American Revolution cleverly combined pantomime and comedy to convey a crucial time period in the history of our country, bringing it to life for viewers young and old. 
Each actor played a meaningful role in the story. The performers were clearly skilled in mime, and yet it took a few scenes for me to understand the symbolisms of their movements. Overall, the fast pace of the performance kept it going, and the witty humor locked me in. 
The idea of portraying a key chunk of our history on such a small platform was ambitious, and pulled off well. 
Although I felt as though all of the actors played integral parts in the production, I especially admired Thomas Wynne’s depictions of King George because of his overall acting style. He played a part that was goofy, yet really sold that without it being cloying. 
I liked how the lighting was used to highlight the main character in the scene or convey an important mood. I feel that Rachel K. Levy, lighting designer, helped the story along greatly. I noticed a lack of music, which was a choice on the direction side of things, and I feel as though a couple of tunes could have added to the performance. 
In my opinion, the actors used their facial expressions and improvisational flair to richly portray this interesting time in our history, not only within 50 minutes, but with a smile.
The American Revolution by Veronica McFarlane
     “The American Revolution”, a show by Theatre Unspeakable at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, is a creative and a “fun for the whole family” show; I never thought I would see a reenactment of the American Revolution on a 21 square foot raised box. It’s a family friendly educational show and based on the laughter from the children in the audience, myself included, I would say it was definitely entertaining. I was expecting more of a dramatic play about war, but I was pleasantly surprised with the way the actors told these historical events in a new and fun way.
     Each historical figure that the actors represented had its own animated character, and it made the show so fun, especially Thomas Wynne’s character, King George. It took two people to make that character, a careless king who just swims all day and is apparently really flexible. It was also easy to tell who was who, since some of the actors played different roles, like Rasell Holt, who played George Washington. But he was also a slave who wanted to be freed. That was a very powerful scene, because it showed both of his characters talking to each other, but as completely different people; a man who had freedom and a man who didn’t. As that scene was going on, you also had the whole cast moving around and lighting to highlight different things to create different settings and separate the two. So each person was useful, not one of them came off the stage.  There was also singing and music added into the show as well. Some of it was just fun and random, they even managed to add “The Addams Family” theme song and finger snaps! Most of the singing added made the war scenes at the end of the play very powerful and inspiring in a way. The show itself wasn’t long, only 50 minutes, which kept the story going and kept the audience so entranced that we didn’t even notice there wasn’t an intermission.
      All the actors worked great as a team, and you could really tell they were all having fun with each other. All cracking jokes and being sassy at times; which you wouldn’t expect in this play. They all worked hard to create the setting with their own bodies, and the sounds with their own mouths. One scene that really stood out to me was when George Washington crossed the Delaware River. Everyone was used as masts, rows, flags, and it included George Washington’s famous pose. I kept thinking that the actors must really trust each other, because if only one person was off then they would all fall since they were balanced on each other’s bodies so carefully.
      I was able to meet some of the cast members after the show and they were very kind and eager to talk about their production and told me how they all have studied the teachings of Jacques Lecoq.  The theater program has a great article with the Director, Marc Frost that explains this type of acting as “a living comic book” - the audience can imagine easily since it is performed on a raised 3x7 platform which actually does look like a comic book frame from the audience point of view. Marc Frost, is also a student of Lecoq and studied at the London International School for Performing Arts which is an off-shoot of the Jacques Lecoq school in Paris. He started this team, Theatre Unspeakable, in Chicago about six years ago. I am so glad I got to experience this type of production, it is so unique and I have never seen anything like it. Most of the audience I am sure will not get a chance to go to Paris or Chicago, so we are fortunate that they came to us!
Through the actor’s constant motion, great accents and intense characterization - the American Revolution was truly brought to life. Overall, this show actually taught me a lot about our founding fathers and their struggle to claim America. But I never knew I would laugh while learning about it. 
The American Revolution: Bits and Pieces
by Ann Luce, 13
While The American Revolution by Theater Unspeakable promises to “recreate the entire American fight for independence from Lexington to Yorktown” it only succeeds in a sloppy, partial tale, and misses huge chunks of the story. Theater Unspeakable’s execution was sloppy, confusing, random, and did not proudly depict the most important war in american history.
The American Revolution did have good production quality(lighting and, sound effects) but the actual context of the show lacked in many ways. One of the most noticeable ways it under-delivered was costume design. While the photos in the playbill promise well produced, custom costumes, that look to contain actual thought, in the actual production the actors wear nothing more than red Nike leggings and t-shirts. Although I understand the space they are acting on is small (only 21 square feet) and the costumes must be fitted and take up little space, another option like unitards or even decorated leggings and shirts would have made the production look a lot more professional, and the costumes less of a distraction. As the actors attempt to show different historical time periods, the silver flashing Nike sign is completely distracting, and breaks the historical atmosphere the actors aim to create. As the actors sing about the Declaration of Independence all one can think is, “You need to declare independence from those so-called costumes”.
Another way the production lacked was content. While the idea of condensing American history into less than an hour sounds like a good one, this production proved wrong. Had the idea been executed well and successfully, viewers would have thoroughly enjoyed it, but the missing chunks of history, and absence of prominent historical characters was hard to overlook. The American Revolution did condense some history into 50 minutes, but the historical events included were not thoroughly explained and large parts of history were missing, which resulted in a confusing production that left one questioning each sentence spoken. While they did successfully include the signing of the declaration of independence, there was no mention of Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, or Thomas Jefferson, but there was plenty to say about Mrs. Martha Washington. Mrs. Washington was an amazing woman no doubt, but she didn’t have a big influence on American independence, which made me wonder why she needed to be such a prominent character. In conclusion, the parts of history included were left unfinished, and lacked detail, and there were many big parts of history completely missing. 
Overall The American Revolution left out major sections of history, and the parts of history included were not thoroughly explained. The production also lacked in costume design, and quality. I would not recommend this show to people with little knowledge of American history, to young children, or people with little extra money. Young children and people with limited American historical knowledge will be confused and underwhelmed by this production, and will leave the theater confused and unsatisfied.