photo by Ian Flanders


So let’s chat about the thea-tuh, shall we?

There I go again. Butting into the arts area already covered so skillfully by our own SMDP theater critics Cynthia Citron and Sarah Spitz. They know what they’re doing.

But there really is a lot of good theater in this town and they can’t cover it all, and even if they preview or review something, I don’t think it hurts if I put my two cents worth in. When I bump into something good, I have trouble keeping my mouth shut.

I’m not completely unwashed on the boards, you know. Starting in college, as the Arts & Media Editor of the university daily, and with many subsequent publications (most of which died — what does that tell you?), this music geek waded into everything from dance to sculpture to theater, and discovered there were certain skill sets and sensibilities that crossed over.

I’ve been writing for years now about the amazing troupe in Topanga Canyon whose skills never fall off the mountaintop, 45 years and only getting better. Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum not only has a near-flawless ensemble, but every other aspect excels as well, from set design to direction, costumes to dramatic material. They do a lot of Shakespeare but they also dig to find plays that deserve to be heard much more widely, usually ones displaying social conscience.


That’s the case with “Haiti,” written in 1938 by William DuBois under the aegis of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), Eleanor Roosevelt’s brainchild to get people back to work after the Depression and improve our cultural landscape at the same time. We are so much the richer for it.

I’ve loved geography and current events from the time I was a kid but I have to say I draw a lot of blanks when it comes to Haiti. Very, very poor. Battered by natural disasters and ill-equipped to cope. Political corruption. A tough life for a good people. But I didn’t know, until this superb play, that this Caribbean island nation nestled between Cuba and Puerto Rico was the first independent nation in the Caribbean or Latin America, and the first created as the result of a successful slave rebellion. In fact, when they defeated Napoleon’s forces, some 40,000 strong, it was huge on the world stage; it resulted in his abandoning his plans for conquering the New World, and he sold the huge territory of Louisiana, without which the USA might never have expanded past the Mississippi River.

“Haiti” is set against this historical background and humanizes it through historic and ordinary characters, interacting. More importantly, it paints a picture of the human cost of slavery that resonates and enlightens today’s headlines. In this country, we are still torn by that abomination. There are perhaps 10 major characters, instead of two or three, and it must be so hard to find that many great actors. I saw opening night and it was flawless, not even a blown line. And the sword and musket fights as well! That’s got to be hard to pull off.

I could say so much more about “Haiti” but I’ll leave it at this: for all the great theater I’ve seen over many years at Theatricum Botanicum, this is one of the very best. It has 10 more performances in the next few weeks. Do. Not. Miss this one.


“HAITI” by William DuBois (see above), Sat 8 p.m., Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, Topanga Canyon, $10-$38.50.


TONIGHT! — LUCINDA WILLIAMS, STEVE EARLE & THE DUKES, DWIGHT YOAKAM (the LSD Tour — get it? — not just a good moniker but a great package, of three stellar country stylists and excellent songwriters that Nashville wouldn’t touch), 7 p.m., the Greek Theatre, Griffith Park, LA, $19.50-$99.50.

TONIGHT! — LEANN RIMES (she’s been around forever it seems but is only 35, it’s been a long sometimes bumpy road for her since we first heard that incredible strong voice from a 13-year-old, now still so affecting but in a different way with years, experience and wisdom added), 9 p.m., the Rose, Pasadena, $48-$88.

TONIGHT! — RONNIE SPECTOR (yes, the namesake leader of ‘60s hitmakers the Ronettes — “Walking in the Rain,” “Be My Baby,” “The Best Part of Breakin’ Up” — propelled to stardom by legendary Wall of Sound auteur producer Phil Spector, now in prison for murder, who married her in 1968 then kept her prisoner in their mansion until she escaped barefoot with the help of her mother six years later, just don’t be jaded and skip this because we in LA get so many opportunities to see a legendary entertainer, you have three chances to catch her in an intimate setting), and Fri, 8 p.m., the Canyon, Agoura Hills, and Sat 9 p.m., the Rose, Pasadena, $28-$48.

THE ROCK GODZ MUST BE CRAZY: BEATLES EDITION with host Bob Eubanks, Laurence Juber, Chris Montez, Santa Monica renaissance man David Leaf “plus other surprise guests!” (there will be music and many many insider stories about the Beatles — any Beatles fans out there? — in this benefit for the Grammy Music Education Coalition, dedicated to making the gift of playing music available to every child in school, so have fun and make a difference too), Fri 8 p.m., McCabes, Santa Monica, $30.

Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Dawes (I’ve gotten over saying well, only one or two of the original band members, forget it, because it usually sounds really close to the original, and especially if you have the voice you remember from the recordings — Lynne was the co-founder and leader, string wizard-producer-arranger, so this should be fun and quite good, they had so many great songs, and Dawes is a dang good band too), Sat – Sun, 8 p.m., the Forum, Inglewood, $44.50-$179.50.

THE ENGLISH BEAT (here you go, another good example, all you need is original co-founder and The Voice Dave Wakeling, looking now about 10 years older than when he burst upon America in the late ‘70s with the 2 Tone second wave ska scene out of Britain, with other great bands like the Specials, the Selecter and Madness, but the Beat have had real staying power because of a slew of great songs, you won’t believe how many you will remember, and they can easily rock the whole downtown for an hour or two), Sat 7 p.m., Pershing Square, downtown LA, no cover.

SURF GUITAR 101 CONVENTION with the Blue Hawaiians, Fascinating Creatures of the Deep, Urban Surf Kings, Black Flamingos, Surfer Joe, Tremolo Beer Gut, more (talk about fun!! how’s this for sunny SoCal Saturday afternoon? — endless waves of surf guitar, probably mostly instrumentals, in an alpine village setting, of course, surf guitar can be deeper and richer than you may think, I know fo’ sho’ that the Blue Hawaiians are one kick-ass band), Sat 11 a.m., Alpine Village, Torrance, $40.

JAZZ ON THE LAWN with Nick Mancini Collective (“jazz vibraphone with vocals by Laura Mace” — that’s all I know specifically but I do know these four outdoor concerts each summer, in August, in Gandara Park, produced by our Cultural Affairs department, are always a good time, with families and friends bringing blankets and picnic dinners, spreading out all over the park and lapping up one of the great perks of living here, and this is the first one for 2018, don’t miss out), Sun 5-7 p.m., Gandara Park, Santa Monica, no cover.

Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at