THE DISAPPEARING STORES

Over time and tide, retail stores always tend to keep up with the shopper’s tastes and demands. Perhaps the most obvious is changing for the calendar seasons. Departments stores carry summertime fashions in the spring, only to move those beachwear items in the waning periods of those hazy crazy days o’ summer to showcase the fall gear. Ditto for selected appliances. Air conditioner units are plentiful in spring while heaters and related gadgets take their place in the fall season.

But as progress makes its mark in domestic society, mostly due through high tech and related apprentices, some once robust businesses fall to sizes and numbers that are a fraction to what they once were, or have all but disappeared from the Main streets of the nation.

According to a recently article that appeared in Bloomberg.com, the number of stand alone newsstands dropped by over half since the turn of the 21st century, where these places offered hundred of magazine titles along with dozen of newspapers. many regional as well as a few out of town titles. Video rental places has also dropped by as much as 85% from that same period. The video rental outlet was at one time so profound, a trade group called the Video Store Dealers Association (VSDA) was founded with the original purpose to assist smaller video retail outlets, mostly of the “mom-and-pop” mode, to fight against federal legislation that would have changed the first-sale doctrine to legally rent video titles protected under current copyright rules. The group also promoted and assisted those stores to keep and maintain their businesses. All went well for this form of business peaking in the middle 1990’s. The introduction of the DVD in 1997 was the beginning of the end for these outlets. DVDs eventually became affordable where renting a title didn’t hold the practicality as it once did. Then outlets as Redbox–vending machines found in supermarket foyers and in front of connivence stores, added to the store’s demise. Netflix offered rentals sent to one’s doorstep making the trek to get a disk and returning it was done through mail and its website. Then streaming came alone, only to nearly kill the business outright! A few video rental stores still remain, but mostly as a novelty business or as stores that only carry obscure or out-of-print titles that are not available through any other means.

But according to findings tracked through the US Census’ count of what businesses are found in communities both big and small, the biggest drop came for one-hour photo processing places that consisted of either dedicated stores or side businesses in larger outlets that offered the developing and printing of 35mm film done in..well..an hour! This was the refreshing change from waiting over a week to get film developed. These hour film processing outlets starting to spring up in the middle 1980’s. At one time, stores that offered sixty minute processing would charge a slightly higher price for development compared to those that only took two to three days. As more outlets offered processing at much faster rates, the one hour photo joints made it competitive where it would cost around the same to get your pix in an hour’s time.

By the 1990’s, one hour photo places were found in many strip malls and street front outlets in big cities and smaller towns. This writer recalled a couple getting married in the spring of ‘95. They challenged the official photographer, as well as any wedding guests should they take part in this game, to take as many pictures during the actual ceremony. After their rolls of film were used up either as 24 or 36 exposures, the picture taker(s) would  grab their rolls and deliver them to a one hour photo place located some two blocks from where the wedding ceremony took place. Once these rolls were developed, they would be rushed delivered to a nearby Italian restaurant located some three blocks away where the reception took place, only to show the prints off just in time for the cake cutting! The photographer(s) were successful in completing this assignment, and the showing of the ceremony print pictures became the hit of the evening.

When that episode took place in ‘95, there were some 3000+ one hour photo places in business, again according to the Census stats. In 2013, the most recent year available, there were less than 200 units offering this service–a 94% drop. In today’s setting, not only the fact that nearly no one takes pictures with devices that use film, but most of the photos taken (or “images captured”) are never viewed by anyone outside of the photographer, let alone printed or distributed! And these pictures aren’t taken with dedicated cameras either! Thanks to smartphones offering camera functions built in, one can take decent looking pictures with their phones, a device that people carry with them the majority of the time. These type of photos are taken by the causal photographer who want to take pictures for that moment, comparing to a professional photographer that use gear that is of much better excellence in terms of camera functions and picture quality.

So as one hour photo places, video rental outlets, and newsstands fade off in the same mode as services akin to the milkman, the gas lamp lighter, and the buggy whip manufacture, these changes are a sign of progress found in everyday life. As time marches onward, more businesses will be created while other fade off in the sunset, perhaps never to return. And in spite of doomsday predictions, the stand alone retail outlet, those made of that ever lovin’ brick and mortar, isn’t quite going away! Sure, one can buy their crap online, but nothing replaces the notion of seeing the goods, touching the same goods, and having somebody assisting you during the shopping process. However, there is a method to buy called “showrooming” where a potential buyer of something uses the store to inspect the desired good, only to buy the same thing outline–not necessarily from the same retailer offing the good in person! But that shopping method is the topic for another article as that stands!

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NEWS AND REVIEWS

     Theatre Palisades presents THE WORLD GOES ‘ROUND-THE SONGS OF KANDER & EBB, a musical review featuring a selection of tunes composed by the Broadway song writing team of John Kander and Fred Ebb.

Within this musical presentation, an ensemble of five performers consisting of Steven Brogan, Ann Grennan, Iphy Mignon Presley, Jared Tkocz, and Renee Travelli Schwartz, present a preference of ditties selected from the pages of the songbook of musical scorer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, and vocalize their way showcasing these numbers that were taken from many a Broadway show. Some tunes are immediately recognizable (“All That Jazz” and “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago), while a few melodies performed somehow fell through the musical cracks (so to speak) over time and tide. That doesn’t mean that those lesser known tunes are not as worthy. In fact, those same pieces stand out on their own. Although there is no plot to speak of, this presentation is addressed through mini skits and blackouts that show the humor, drama, and especially the romance that these musical interludes emphasize. (Susan Stroman, David Thompson and Scott Ellis conceived this showpiece, bringing a bit of continuity to keep things going!) The five talented singers and dancers are very charming and appealing, bringing out the best of Broadway that is enjoyed again, or for the first time!

Unlike a Broadway theater epic that shows off lavish costuming, breathtaking scenery and backdrops while backed by a multi piece orchestra, this presentation as seen at the Pierson Playhouse stage is on a minimum scale. Sherman Wayne’s set design consists a few pieces of stage furnishings (two black benches with a bar off stage left) along with a painted backdrop of a Manhattan-esk skyline and a medicine ball sized globe hovering over the center of the stage that slowly spins, gives off the presence of a “less is more” attitude. That’s ideal, although the performers seen on stage as well as the songs they sing is the real emphasis. Victoria Miller provides the stage direction and the choreography, backed by Joshua Eli Kranz on grand piano (also providing musical direction), with Anthony Barbarotta on percussion. This small yet mighty collection of scenic views and musical accompaniment highlight what really matters.

THE WORLD GOES ‘ROUND does the task it’s intended to serve; A pleasant magnitude of live musical theater. Money may make the world go round, but noting beats an evening (or afternoon) of notes that continues to live on, and musical selections that should keep on living. That is what this method of stage entertainment is really all about!

     THE WORLD GOES ‘ROUND-THE SONGS OF KANDER & EBB, presented by Theater Palisades, performs at the Pierson Playhouse, 941 Temescal Canyon Road (off Sunset Blvd.), Pacific Palisades, until July 19th. Showtimes are Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday matinees at 2:00 PM. For more information, call (310) 454-1970, or visit online at http://www.TheatrePalisades.com

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The Falcon Theatre winds down its 2014-15 season with the world premier of Scott Caan’s THE TROUBLE WE COME FROM, a romantic comedy about a playwright who becomes troubled with some of his old flames while his current flame had left him while matters cool off as she kindles a small flame he ignited.

Michael Weston is Charlie. He’s a playwright whose new work is about to open at a nearby medium sized theater. His best friend Vince (Scott Caan) an actor by trade, is appearing in this production. Although Charlie is pleased to have his play perform, he’s in a personal rut. Seems that his girlfriend Shelly (Claire van der Boom) got into a tiff with him. So the two separated with Shelly heading off to Detroit for a while where her family resides. What’s worse, she is with child–the soon to be born kid that Charlie fathered! Making things a bit complicated is that some of his girlfriends from his recent and distant past are reentering his life. (Teri Reeves as the girlfriends performing in multiple roles). Vince meet up with Charlie at his home as he explains why (or how) these women keep appearing. Perhaps that they finally regret leaving him, or maybe they wish to hook up because he holds some attraction that Charlie himself doesn’t know about! It also could link with his shaky childhood upbringing since he holds some bad habits his needs to break, such as remembering to close his refrigerator door! Charlie attempts to untangle the web he created, and perhaps commit to Shelly if he can get his act together first.

This comedy by Scott Caan is very pleasant, holds a lot of amusing dialogue, and is made for the post modern world that the characters live within. The two leads, Michael Weston as Charlie and Scott Caan as Vice, shire through their moments on stage, exchanging lines and emotions expressing what a “bromance” is really all about! The two female leads, Teri Reeves as the girlfriends and Claire van der Boom as Shelly doesn’t possess that same chemistry with one another because these two never share a scene on stage! Most of the “girlfriend” mini episodes are depicted in flashback, and Shelly doesn’t appear until the closing scene in the second act. Shelly herself is the most sincere to the man she loves so much, and is willing to carry the kid they may or may not raise together! (Maybe that’s for a sequel?) Matt August directs this play that is pleasing for those that enjoy their romcoms set in a society of now with social media playing a small part of Charlie’s smaller world!

Of course, one has to make a notice for Stephen Gifford’s set design of Charlie’s modern-esk pad, in addition to a side stage door area representing the theater that Charlie’s play performing, although its only depicted in isolated moments.

The tittle of this piece pretty much expresses to this play’s basic theme by having its lead attempting to juggle too many things at the same time. But these things tend to work out in the end, or at least they do where happy endings can be summoned by playwrights–real or otherwise!

THE TROUBLE WE COME FROM, presented by and performs at The Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank, until July 12th. Showtimes are Thursday through Saturday nights at 8:00 PM, Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM, with Saturday matinees at 4:00 PM.

    The Falcon Theatre opens their 2015-16 season with the Impro Theatre’s production of Sondheim Unscripted, an improvised musical inspired by the musical theater work of Stephen Sondheim created through audience suggestion. Previews begin August 19th with an official opening on August 28th. Followed by Mark St. Germain’s Scott and Hem, a comical play about the meeting of the minds of Ernest Hemmingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Previews begin October 14th with an official opening on October 23rd. The Troubadour Theatre Company celebrates the holiday season with their revival performance of Santa Claus is Comin’ to Motown, a comical farce set to the R&B music originating from the title city. Prevues begin December 2nd-Opening on December 11th. Next is The Complete History of America (abridged), a three person comedy written by Adam Long, Reed Martin, and Austin Tichenor that will tell the entire story of the USA in a two hour or less time span. Previews begin February 3rd, ‘16, opening February 12th. And rounding out the season is the world premier of The Real Housewives of Toluca Lake, a musical written by Molly Bell that spoofs one of reality TV’s guilty pleasures. Previews begin March 23rd, with an opening on April 1st.

     For ticket reservations or for more information on all shows, call (818) 955-8108, or via online at http://www.FalconTheatre.com

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WITHOUT ANNETTE, a comical play that is about a group of students that take part in an improv class and learn a few points about their craft as well as their own self lives, performs at Theatre West for a limited run.

Andrew Walker plays Sam Wasserman, a star of a hit sitcom that was the rage a generation before. Because of his age, he’s down to running a weekly improv class where he teaches a new group of budding and semi seasoned performers the art of improvisational comedy–the kind where one has to perform through the seat of their pants so to speak! His student body consists of CJ Carter (Yancey Dunham), Billy Bingo (Jason Frankovitz), Jackie Sheridan (Chloe Rosenthal), Libby Martinson (Heather Alyse Becker), Jeannette Parker (Maria Kress), Donna De Salles (Claire Partin) Trevor Green (Andrew Villarreal), Kyle Peterson (Jeremy Klien, alternating with Kyle Klein), and Michael Gaines (Shaun Brady). These folks come from all walks of life. One is a budding stand up comic, another is an ex professional football player, another is the spouse of a well known star (“B” list at the most), and a few others that wish to make it into the world called “show business”. As with many group ensembles, there are moments when the class can work together as a team, while other moments show that they are at each other’s own nerves. But Sam finds that, in spite of their ups and downs, they can work together by providing a moment’s time where their comedy is made up, performed spontaneously, and can accomplish their roles without any virtual safety harness.

Created and written by Hope Juber and Jeff Doucette, this show is a blend of semi scripted theater and improv comedy. Some of the class scenes depicted consists of standard theater exercises where a suggestion for a “side”, usually applied by an audience member, is created. This means that at each performance at Theatre West, the show differs slightly. But what remains is the class acting out toward each other as well as with each other–just like what a so-called “real” family would do in a domestic household. They even fight too! Not necessarily throwing fists or implying physical harm, but just holding out their little tiffs! If given the chance, they would beat each other at times, but that’s besides the point!

And with improv shows where talent is the key, there isn’t much of a set used in this production. Outside of a cluster of metal folding chairs presented as the improv “classroom”, no backdrop is depicted. What’s seen on stage as a backdrop is from another show that is currently performing in rep at Theatre West, The Claw. (See review-Vol. 20-No. 23 ). That set will eventually disappear later in June. But again, it’s the talent and their comical wits that’s the real star of this showcase.

This show is also slightly different when it last appeared about a year ago at another theater located in the San Fernando Valley. (See review-Vol. 19-No. 33) This time around, it’s presented a bit tighter with an emphasis of the scripted material than the improv stuff as such comedy can be expressed within a hit-or-miss method, performed with a new stage cast. (Only Jeremy Klein and Kyle Klein come from that previous performance!) However this time, it’s played in more of a “hit” mode that its “miss” comparative.

In addition to the performers, Laurence Juber provides some live incidental music as performed on the guitar, bringing a bit of concert material into this mix.

Directed by Charles Mount, WITHOUT ANNETTE is pleasing and funny. That is what live improv theater is all about, acting without any means of invisible support or without a net!

WITHOUT ANNETTE, presented by and performs at Theatre West, 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. Los Angeles, (Universal City adjacent) until August  30th Showtimes are Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM. For tickets and for more information, call (323) 851-7977, or via online at http://www.TheatreWest.org

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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE (C) 2015 Linear Cycle Productions.

All rights reserved. The views and opinions are those of the writers, and not necessarily of the staff and management. ‘Nuff said!

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