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The Gallery on Pins and Needles
“DISH the Musical” celebrated its last performance on July 17th at The Gallery Theatre, but not before I had time to grab a seat up front and see what it was all about. This story is partly about the show, but perhaps even more about the theater itself.
Theatre owners Mark Torreso and Glenn Kelman have served up magnificent shows spoofing life in LA and Orange County over the last few years. This time their target was the telly. Even before the curtain went up (there is no curtain) the packed audience was thrilling to the pre-show playing of old black and white commercials, and singing along to tunes they thought they had forgotten, like Oscar Meyer’s B.O.L.O.G.N.A! Yes – and there were the Flintstones puffing cigarettes to boost Winston sales. That could never happen today. The audience was well entertained before the show even started.
The format was a pastiche of TV shows we all know: the send-up of the Oprah Winfrey Show; and others the subject of songs. Audience recognition meant broad smiles and much applause throughout the evening.
Afterwards I asked Torreso if this was the usual collaboration of writers and lyricists and he replied No: he’d written almost the entire show himself. This is serious talent! And the music, easy to listen to, easy to remember, came from the keyboard of composer Jared Scott.
There are many theatres that will not stage original works because people, so we are told, will not turn out for shows they don’t know. That is not the case at The Gallery. It seems there is a committed clientele that trusts the artistic director to serve them palatable fare. But then you have to realize the very ambience of the space makes you just want to be there.
On all previous occasions when I’ve been to The Gallery the theatre was set up with the stage along the long wall while the audience was only a few tables deep to the opposite wall. This time I found the stage turned round through 90 degrees with the stage at one end and the audience in a squarer space. It worked brilliantly. The stage itself was modeled like a huge TV set (surprise!), with an apron. The eight singer/actors had ample room to move.
The seating draws you in. Get there early enough and you can sit with your party on sofas, with cushions, in the front row. I loved it. The rest of the space was set up like a cabaret bar, and both before the show and at the intermission wait staff patrolled the tables to provide tea, coffee, chips, candies, and so forth. You just make a donation. Truly, this all creates a gorgeous ambience that makes you feel pampered and valued. You could tell from the people-watching that these folks came again and again.
Now it’s too late to go see DISH, but it’s not too late to reserve a date for the next show “Pins and Needles” by New York writer Jason Milligan. Although the show was written several years ago and has received a number of staged readings this will be the first time it has been fully staged. It would be enough for me that The Gallery recommends the show. But add to this that Jason is Samuel French Inc.'s foremost author of original audition material. He currently works as a writer for The Walt Disney Company, for whom he's written literally thousands of scripts, concepts, media events, press releases, speeches, industrials, stage shows and storytelling theater pieces for Disney theme parks and other Disney business units around the world. And his many stage plays have been performed in numerous productions across the United States, as well as in Canada and Europe. Thirty of them are now published by Samuel French.
What’s it all about? This modern day farce deals with issues of illegal immigration, the filthy rich, corrupt leaders, alcoholism and wallet making? WHAT?!! One of the funniest comedies you've ever seen. So Wrong - It's Right!
August 5th through September 4th. Pins and Needles, By Jason Milligan. The Gallery Theatre. Give yourself a treat. Book the dates. And I’ll race you for the sofas.