Monday, May 20, 2019


Too many exclamation points?  Not this time..  When the energy of Bronco Billy, The Musical spills out onto Vermont Avenue, watch out!

The tiny space called The Skylight Theatre in Hollywood has been active for more than forty years: supporting what producer Gary Grossman calls "intimate theatre." I recalled the time in the seventies when the ProVisional Theatre, led by Steven Kent, formerly of The Company Theatre of Los Angeles worked their magic in this funky old room.  "Magic" being the key word here. 
Magic is happening again with this amazing World Premiere currently rocking the Skylight stage. It's a full blown Broadway hit that will soon be discovered.  It's exciting to walk down the mysterious little corridor next to Skylight Books, next to The Los Feliz Theater to see the new ultra cool Atrium Restaurant now open to the right and to be ushered into the Skylight where Bronco Billy's traveling wild west show, complete with popcorn and snacks awaits.  Cast members amble out to say hello, old pals meet in the audience and exchange hugs and greetings as a five piece band led by Anthony Luca, with Austin Chanu, Jeff Frantom, Cyrus Elia and Ryan McDiarmid warms up Up Right.
Randy Charleville, Eric B. Anthony, Amanda Leigh Jerry and ensemble Photo by Ed Krieger

Every time I have an opportunity to see a show that no one else has seen, it's chance to say "I saw it first!"..  LA locals, call your friends and bring them into town to experience this delectable  delight.  Based on Clint Eastwood's "Bronco Billy" circa 1979 movie with Eastwood himself as Billy, author Dennis Hackin has taken his own personal story and combined it with the Warner Brothers film beautifully. Chip Rosenblum and John Torres are credited with music and lyrics with additional lyrics by Michelle Bruerman. It's a magnificent plunge into musical theatre with a cast of talented performers who do not disappoint.

 Director Hunter Bird has his hands full with fast paced scene changes and a story that, though a little hard to swallow, is filled with adventure. 

Opening Night: the house is packed and as the house lights dim we meet the ring 'mistress?' of the show, Doc (lovely Benai Boyd), an elegant blonde. We are filled with the anticipation that we are in for a treat.

Wizard John Iacovelli's fantastic multi-functional set (look for more awards here) using the rolling wooden crates the traveling show is packed in, the cast deftly manipulates them as they become locations and set pieces wending us down the dusty road to fame for Bronco Billy (Eric B. Anthony) and the gang.  

The basic story turns on the soul of the show, Billy, himself, whose small time traveling show has become a family.  Every member has a job to do and though there's not a lot of money coming in, they perform from the heart.   With doubling, you can't tell who's who, even with a program.  Suffice it to say that leaving your 'practical hat' at the door and diving in head first, it will all make sense and that's the truth.  

After a spectacular introduction to Billy and the gang, we head east to learn that there's trouble afoot.  Antoinette Lilly (excellent Amanda Leigh Jerry) is heir to her dearly departed chocolate magnate daddy's fortune.  Daddy Sam Lilly (Anthony Marciona) comes back to render a touching duet with Antoinette declaring to Be Strong!  Antoinette's wicked stepmom Dee Dee (Jamie Mills) plots to gain access to the millions left to Antoinette through a murder for hire scheme that may be thin.. but funny. 
Hijinks that are allowed in musicals ensue when the hilarious Pat Towne as Sinclair St. Clair tracks down our heroine somehow missing the mark all together as the bad guys eventually get their comeuppance and the good guys win the day.

The strong ensemble cast:   Fatima El-Bashir as Lorraine, Michelle Azar as Constance,  Marc Cardiff as Lawyer Lipton, Randy Charleville as Two Gun Lefty Lebow, Kyle Frattini as Lasso Leonard James, Chris M. Kauffmann as  John Arlington, Michael Uribes as Chief Big Eagle and Bella Hicks as Mitzi are all terrific in doubling and tripling roles. 
Iacovelli's set with projections and beautifully innovative transitions makes his set an additional member of the cast. Terrific Costume Design by Ann Closs-Farley.

Producer Gary Grossman's steadfast energy to keep living, innovative and intimate theatre alive all comes together in this show.  We often don't much think of the sacrifices made by the folks who put these shows together.  Applause to this producer (with Tony Abatamarco) and thumbs up or ten stars or whatever scale seems right to you for this World Premiere that must be seen.  It's a rule. 

by Dennis Hackin with music and lyrics by
Chip Rosenblum and John Torres with additional lyrics by Michelle Bruerman.
Skylight Theatre
1816 ½ N. Vermont Ave
 Los Angeles, CA 90027
Fri & Sat nights at 8:30pm
Sat & Sun matinee at 2:00pm

Closes June 30, 2019
Tickets and information

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