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Entertainment Tips of the Week: March 17, 2014

By Jean Strauber, Entertainment Editor

Harmony — A New Musical By Barry Manilow

Harmony

This past week I had the wonderful pleasure of attending the opening night of this musical that tells a true story. The Comedian Harmonists were an ensemble of six young men in pre-World War II Germany who rose from unemployed street musicians to become world-famous entertainers, selling millions of records, starring in more than a dozen films and selling out the most prestigious concert halls around the world, including Carnegie Hall. Their comedy and sophisticated music made them the brightest of stars, but would later put them on a collision course.  And, it is that story that is told in “Harmony.”
Barry Manilow (music) and David Sussman (book and lyrics) (pictured above; photo by Michael Simon) were able to have the assistance of  Roman “Rabbi” Cykowski, one of the original members of The Comedian Harmonists, who was still alive and able to talk with the two about his life and experiences before he passed away in 1998. Cykowski’s grandson was introduced to the audience during the opening night curtain call.
The show opens with the group singing “Overture” in Carnegie Hall (1933)  followed by “Rabbi” Josef Roman Cykowski (Shayne Kennon) and the musicians performing “Harmony” in a Berlin setting between 1927-1929 when the group was in its beginning years.  During the evening we meet several celebrities who knew the group and are portrayed here: Marlene Dietrich (Lauren Elaine Taylor), Albert Einstein and Richard Strauss (Brandon O’Dell) and others. One of several show stopping numbers (among several others) was “How Can I Serve You, Madame?” in which the group is dressed in waiters’ jackets and shirts, standing behind a large table only to emerge in front … well, I’ll spoil the fun if I told you more. Another number, “Hungarian Rhapsody #20” demonstrated the group’s ability to make sounds so much like instruments in an orchestra. The “Overture to the Barber of Seville” was one of the original Comedian Harmonists’ signature numbers.
The talented Manilow and Sussmsan were aided by the fine direction of Tony Speciale, Music Director John O’Neill and, especially, choreographer JoAnn  M. Hunter.
Performance schedule:  Tuesday through Friday at 8:00 pm; Saturday at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm; Sunday at 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm.  No Monday performances.  Exception: 8:30 pm performance on Saturday, March 22; no 6:30 pm performance on Sunday, April 6 and Sunday, April 13; added 2:00 pm performance on Thursday April 3 and Thursday April 10.
Tickets are $30 to $105.  Call Center Theatre Group Audience Services at (213) 972-4400, stop by the Center Theatre Group Box Office or  visit www.CenteTheatreGroup.org.  Hot Tix are only $20 and may be purchased in advance by phone, or subject to availability, on the day of the performance at the box office.
The Centre Theatre Group Ahmanson Theatre is located at the Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Los Angeles CA 90012.

Annual Cherry Blossom Festival At Descanso Gardens

On Saturday and Sunday, March 22 and 23, the Descanso Gardens will welcome spring at the Annual Cherry Blossom festival, a celebration of Japanese culture and the beautiful flowering trees in the landscape. All activities are free with admission. Enjoy a guided Cherry Blossom Walk and Talk at 11:00 am, noon, 2:00 and 3:00 pm. Stroll among the many flowering cherry trees in the Descanso Gardens landscape.
From 11:00 am to 3:00 pm on both days you can watch and learn the traditional art of paper folding from the origami master, Yami Yamauchi.
On Saturday from 1:00 to 3:00 pm, the popular band Minyo Station, who fuse Japanese traditional music with Western pop, will perform.  On Sunday from 1:00 to 2:30 pm, June Kuramoto, noted koto player (the national instrument of Japan) will perform. Kuramoto is a founding member of the Japanese-American fusion ensemble Hiroshima.
In the Camellia Lounge from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm, purchase selections from Patina’s Japanese-inspired menu, including yakitori and specialty beverages.
The Descanso Gardens is located at 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge.  For more details go to www.descansogardens.org or call (818) 949-4200.

At The Autry

The Autry Museum is about to open a truly stunning exhibit,  Floral Journey: Native North American Beadwork. Featuring more than 250 exquisite objects, the exhibition not only traces the development of an art form, it also tells a story of cultural and economic resilience. From a time when beads were hand-made from shells and painstakingly sewn with porcupine quills, the art of beading evolved rapidly following European contact. Steel needles and commercially made glass beads opened up creative avenues, but also came with the ever-increasing cultural hegemony of Europeans. As Native populations lost their lands and livelihoods, trading and selling beaded clothing and artworks became an important economic commodity.
An interesting aspect of the exhibition is its inquiry into how pre-contact geometric patterns were translated into floral designs that pleased the oppressors, yet continued to embody Indian spirituality. Floral Journey looks at the beading practices of five North American regions and concludes with many examples by contemporary bead artists, working within and extending the tradition.
Floral Journey: Native North American Beadwork opens to the public on March 15 and remains on view through April 26, 2015.
The Autry National Museum of Western Heritage is located in Griffith Park, just across the parking lot from the Los Angeles Zoo. For more information visit www.autry.org.

Jean Strauber

Entertainment Writer

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