Los Angeles Theatre Preview: A CLASS ACT (Musical Theatre Guild at the Alex in Glendale)

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by Tony Frankel on February 15, 2016

in Theater-Los Angeles


The first two weeks of June, 2001, was a very good time to attend Broadway shows. On one day alone, I saw The Producers at 2:00, The Rocky Horror Show (with Dick Cavett, Lea Delaria & Raúl Esparza) at 5:00 and The Music Man (with Eric McCormack, the greatest Harold Hill EVER) at 8:00. Also on the Great White Way (and these were just the shows I was able to see): Proof, 42nd Street, The Invention of Love, Les Misérables, George Gershwin Alone (the beginning of Hershey Felder as an enterprise), and Follies (with Blythe Danner, Treat Williams, Gregory Harrison and Judith Ivey). And just when I thought McCormack was the greatest pairing of actor and role I had ever seen, along comes Reba Nell McEntire in Annie Get Your Gun. Even Off-Broadway shows were having a good year: Bat Boy: The Musical, The Book of Liz, John Guare’s Chaucer in Rome, and a pre-Broadway Urinetown.

51SZlGw-mhLThe last show I saw that trip was also the final performance for a musical that deserved to run more than 105 performances. But the uncanny A Class Act, a musical about musicals, was both crowded out by the competition and perhaps too intimate for Broadway. The show, originally produced Off-Broadway by the Manhattan Theatre Club in 2000, pays tribute to Edward Kleban, known primarily as the lyricist for A Chorus Line. As it turns out, Kleban, despite his roaring success with the 1977 Tony-winner, was the least likely man on the planet to write a play, much less a blockbuster musical. And you get to find out all about it next Sunday, February 21, 2016, when Musical Theatre Guild continues its 20th season of staged concerts with this forgotten gem. Joining director Jon Lawrence Rivera and musical director Brent Crayon is choreographer Kay Cole, who happens to be an original cast member of A Chorus Line.

A Class Act - Cast AlbumA Class Act is the brainchild of both Kleban’s longtime companion Linda Kline and his good friend Lonny Price (the original Charley Kringas in Merrily We Roll Along). They pulled close to 30 tunes from Kleban’s truckload of unpublished music and lyrics (the score consists solely of songs he had written for other shows that remained unproduced) and wrote the book as a memorial service held for Kleban at the Shubert Theatre, where A Chorus Line opened. As the guests arrive and tell bitter and sweet stories about Kleban, who died of cancer at 48, he suddenly shows up in the theatre, where the great love of his life Sophie, helps him flashback to how he met all these people that love him so dearly, despite his many quirks.

article_3The eight-member ensemble will play a multitude of roles, including Kleban’s boss at Columbia Records, Lehman Engel (who mentored Kleban), Marvin Hamlisch and director/choreographer Michael Bennett. Playing alongside MTG company members Melissa Fahn, Joshua Finkel, Zachary Ford, Julie Garnye, John Massey and Jeffrey Christopher Todd are guest artists Melody Butiu and Monica Quinn.

Many of the songs are gorgeous and will no doubt be heard for the first time (prepare yourself to run out and buy the original cast CD). A Class Act is no mere trunk song revue and does not shy away from Kleban’s alienating quirkiness. And you may just find yourself relating to this character, one who is desperate to both create and connect with people, but often ends up in his own way. This is not just a show for musical theater aficionados; it is emotionally-charged, funny, and even moving; it’s a fearless journey into the process of making a great musical, and a celebration of Ed Kleban—flaws and imperfections included—who left behind some incredible songs.

A Class Act
Musical Theatre Guild
Alex Theatre
216 N. Brand Blvd. in Glendale
Sunday, February 21, 2016 at 7:00
for tickets, call 818.848.6844 or visit MTG

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cenobia Cabrera February 22, 2016 at 5:43 am

What an incredibly fabulous performance. It was produced well and impeccably performed by the actors. Monica Quinn was exceptional!


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