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Articles by Theda Kleinhans Reichman

The Geffen Playhouse kicks off its new season with the West Coast premiere of “Barbecue,” a new play by Robert O’Hara (”Bootycandy”).

Act I opens in a picnic area where three sisters and their brother are setting up a barbeque. However, the real reason they have come together for this family picnic is to stage an intervention with their sister Barbara.(Rebecca Wisocky/ Cherise Boothe), who is addicted to drugs and booze. She is also one mean, nasty, devious sibling.

In 1960, “The Fantasticks” opened off-Broadway and ran for a record-breaking 42 years. I first saw the show in New York in the ‘60s. At the time the very talented Jerry Orbach (Broadway musical star and TV’s “Law and Order” cop) was the dashing bandit El Gallo. The theatre was small, intimate and the effects were simple, yet mesmerizing. The memory of that magical night will never be forgotten, even though I have seen the show three more times since then, most recently at the Pasadena Playhouse.

Rudyard Kipling’s epic adventure “The Jungle Book” is a classic tale about a young boy named Mowgli who was raised by a family of wolves deep in the Indian jungle. When the jungle animals are confronted by the fierce tiger Shere Kahn (voiced menacingly by Idris Elba) who wants to kill the boy; Mowgli (Neel Sethi) escapes into the jungle where he is befriended by Baloo the bear (Bill Murray) and a black panther named Bagheera.

“If we could talk to the animals…” is a catchy lyric from the movie “Dr. Doolittle.” And any of        us who have a pet actually do talk to our animal friends whenever we chat with our cat, or verbally schmooze with the dog. But how often do they ever talk back to us, unless they are a parrot or a well-trained crow capable of saying more than “nevermore.” 

As I sat down to write this column I marveled to myself: “Where did the summer go?” It seemed that spring had just recently sprung, then came summer with the kids home from school and now suddenly not only spring, but summer has slipped by. At this rate Christmas and Chanukah are just around the corner.

“Pete’s Dragon” first appeared on screen in 1977 and combined live-action with animation. Now the huge, lovable dragon is back in a charming remake directed by David Lowery, who co-wrote the screenplay with Toby Halbrooks. This time however, the 24-foot magical creature is no longer a hand-drawn cartoon, he’s a lovable dragon created by Eric Saindon of Weta Digital that is covered in soft green fur composed of 15 million computer generated hairs.

Truth, they say, is stranger than fiction and this is certainly the case when it comes to Florence Foster Jenkins (1868-1944). As a child she was a gifted pianist who performed at the White House for President Rutherford B. Hayes. Later in life she turned her musical attention to singing in her own very unique way—off key and off pitch.

It’s never too early to plan ahead for theatre tickets. Unlike New York, where shows often play for months, even years, Los Angeles audiences have a more limited access to fine productions. For example, Disney’s Tony Award winning musical “Newsies” returns to the Hollywood Pantages, but will be kicking up its heels from August 30 to Sept. 4 only. If you didn’t see it when it first played at the Pantages, check it out with the family. The Tony-award-winning choreography is truly amazing. This will be followed by “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” Nov.

 “Grey Gardens,” at the Ahmanson Theatre through Aug. 14, is a bittersweet musical about the famous mother/daughter duo Edith Bouvier Beale (Betty Buckley in Act II) and her daughter “Little” Edie Beale (Rachel York, as the youthful “Big Edie” in Act I and the aging daughter, Edie Beale in Act II.)

Writer, director, actor, playwright Garry Marshall was born Nov. 13,1934 in NYC, the Bronx. He died Tuesday, July 19 in Los Angeles at the age of 81.