Steven Stanley’s StageSceneLA is changing, with exciting new features and an all new look by debuting August 12.

In the meantime, thank you for visiting this temporary site, on which you will find reviews of all currently running productions, as well as some which have closed recently.

Visit the new StageSceneLA starting August 12 and the first thing you’ll find will be all the latest reviews and interviews, beginning with the most recent.

All reviews will now be “tagged,” allowing StageSceneLA readers to make a quick list of each and every “Now Playing” production as well as those tagged with a “WOW!.” You will also be able to find reviews by “genre,” “location,” and other tags. Interviews will be tagged as well, allowing for quick accessing of all StageSceneLA interviews.

A brand new search function will allow readers to find any play or musical by name, as well as any reviews in which a particular actor performed, which a particular director directed, or which a particular designer designed, etc.

The new StageSceneLA will continue to feature complete lists of all StageSceneLA Award winners over the past six years—with our 2010-12 Awards to be announced mid-September. StageSceneLA will no longer feature listings of upcoming and unreviewed productions, the better to concentrate on its forte: Spotlighting The Best In Southern California Theater in its reviews and interviews.

Review archives will be restored gradually—hopefully by the end of September 2011. In the meantime, please feel free to send an email request for a PDF file of any previous StageSceneLA review to

Thanks as always for visiting Steven Stanley’s StageSceneLA: Spotlighting The Best In Southern California Theater. And thanks especially for your patience during this exciting period of transition.

Search This Blog

Sunday, July 31, 2011



You don’t have to be a Sherlock Holmes fan to deem Jaime Robledo’s Watson theatrical magic, as its return engagement at Sacred Fools Theater Company makes abundantly clear. No wonder Watson (aka The Last Great Tale Of The Legendary Sherlock Holmes) won a pair of coveted LA Weekly Awards—for Robledo’s direction and Henry Dittman’s bravura comedic work—in its initial run last fall. Robledo’s comedy thrills and astonishes again and again, making its midsummer encore the best possible news for Los Angeles theatergoers in the mood to be dazzled.

Developed over a period of twenty-one weeks as part of Sacred Fools’ hit late night series Serial Killers, Watson features a plot that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle might have been proud to call his own.

We first meet our titular hero (Sherlock Holmes playing second fiddle for perhaps the first time in his life) in the purportedly deceased detective’s Bakers Street digs. The discovery of a journal of the pair’s last adventure together sends Watson (and us) flashing back in time, back to when Her Majesty Queen Victoria sent detective and sidekick on a journey across Europe to the Middle East. Their mission: To transport a mysterious puzzle box to an international conference between Ottoman chief Abdul Hamid and Russian Czar Alexander III, both of them vying for possession of Cyprus. Watson and Holmes’ seemingly simple task soon turns into a transcontinental chase, the adventurous pair pursued by legions of evil Turks and various other villains—including arch Holmes nemesis Professor Moriarty, aka The Napoleon Of Crime.

Got that?

No matter if you didn’t. The real fun in Watson are in the theatrical pyrotechnics unleashed by Robledo, his cast (in particular a quartet of thesps who give new meaning to the term “ensemble”), and the production’s gifted designers.

Here’s a taste of what’s in store for you in the 99-seat house Sacred Fools calls home:

• Holmes and Watson searching in vain for each other in possibly the densest London fog in theatrical history.
• A thrilling fistfight between hero and villain atop the cars of a speeding train.
• A band of treacherous Turks pursuing our intrepid heroes on horseback.
• Holmes and Moriarty engaged in a daring duel of wits at the edge of the Cliffs Of Dover.
• Our heroes on a sky-high hot air balloon ride over Europe.
• Two of the above clinging for their lives from the rooftop of a Turkish minaret.

As to how all this is accomplished, I will simply say that none of it could be done without the abovementioned quartet of ensemblists, who work hard indeed for their gas fare as they maneuver assorted trunks, chairs, a chandelier, and a particularly large white bed sheet (courtesy of prop master C.M. Gonzales). Add to that the contributions of composer Ryan Johnson and a trio of prerecorded musicians, designers Matt Richter (lighting) and Ben Rock (sound), and fight choreographer Andrew Amani, and you’ve got one heck of a team of creative artists creating theatrical marvels on a shoestring budget.

Besides adventure, Watson offers laughter galore thanks to some of the most brilliant comedic performances of the year (and some off-the wall dialog thrown in for good measure).

A seemingly inexhaustible Scott Leggett gives us a Dr. John H. Watson no longer the bumbling sidekick we remember from countless Sherlock Holmes adaptations, but rather a loving husband, faithful friend, and courageous adventure hero. As Holmes, rubber-bodied Joe Fria is every bit as outrageous as Leggett is understated, Sherlock’s cocaine addiction offering the award-winning actor the chance to perform some of the most inspired physical comedy since the silent movie greats showed us how back in the 1910s and ‘20s. LA Weekly-awarded Dittman makes for a deliciously fiendish Moriarty, but it’s his tour de force turn as a Londoner, his wife, a train conductor, a pint-sized street urchin, a police “bobby,” and a pair of foppish twits—all in the space of a few dazzling minutes and achieved only with the switch of hats and some breathtaking acting versatility—that make his the production's most talked about performance.

Eric Curtis Johnson (Mycroft Holmes), Rebecca Larson (Irene Adler), and CJ Merriman (Mrs. Dr. Watson) provide Grade A support, while the one-and-only French Stewart brings both Queen Victoria and Sigmund Freud to outrageously quirky life, stopping the show time and again with his inimitable French Stewartisms.

As for the ensemble, the stellar Lisa Anne Nicolai, Colin Willkie, KJ Middlebrooks, and Laura Napoli get the workout of their lives creating illusions it would take multi-millions of dollars to bring to the silver screen, acting various minor roles, and giving new meaning to the word “stagehand.” (The window-frame scene in Freud’s office alone is nearly worth the price of admission.)

Choreographers Natasha Norman and Caesar F. Barajas add to Watson’s many visual delights, aided by Merriman’s dance gifts in simulating Holmes’ cocaine trances. Jessica Olson’s costumes are yet another treat for the eyes, and Ruth Silveira’s puppets are terrific too. Watson is produced by Brandon Clark, Stewart, and Brian Wallis. Monica Greene is assistant director, Suze Campagna stage manager, Nicole Agredano scenic painter, Fria Suzuki trainer, Padraic Duffy dramaturg, and Joseph Beck associate producer.

With a publishing deal already signed, it’s a sure bet that Watson’s return to Sacred Fools is only the latest step on its road to national and maybe even international hit status. If you’ve not seen Watson yet, do it! And if you’re one of the lucky ones who caught it the first time around, here’s your chance to do it again. Newbies and return visitors are likely to find themselves in perfect agreement that there's not a more magical show in town.

Sacred Fools Theater, 660 N. Heliotrope Dr., Hollywood. Through August 20. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00. Reservations: 310 281-8337

--Steven Stanley
July 29, 2011
Photos: Brian Taylor