Friday, July 19, 2013

Theater Review: Glendale Centre Theatre

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great acting and fun shows in an intimate setting
Cons: None for me
The Bottom Line:
Great live theater
Intimate setting for all
I enjoy each one

A Hidden Gem in the Southern California Theater Community

About 10 years ago, a friend who found out I loved live theater recommended Glendale Centre Theatre to me.  Like an idiot, I waited another couple years before giving them a try.  I’ve gone back for multiple plays every year since.

Glendale Centre Theatre is a family owned and run theater company that has been around for 60 years now.  Naturally, that means we are on the third generation.  They bill themselves as a family theater company, and most of the shows I’ve seen there are indeed family friendly.  A few have moments I didn’t care for, but when you consider some of the plays out there, these are definitely clean.

As you may have guessed from the title, this is a theater in the round.  If you aren’t familiar with the term, that means the stage is in the middle, and the audience sits on all four sides.  Sometimes that means they get very creative with the staging, but it always works.  For plays with one set, they do a great job of setting things up to allow the actors to face as many different directions as possible.  And they are almost always on the move, so even if you are looking at the back of heads, it won’t be that way for long.  There does seem to be a bit of a bias toward the seats where you enter, but I’ve sat on all sides and always enjoyed the show.  Plays with more than one set have less elaborate settings, so it is easy to wheel out what they need and then take it off stage.  Those set changes never take long.

There are maybe 350-400 seats in the theater, and the rows are enough apart that you never have someone else’s head in your way.  In fact, the only bad seat in the house is the very front row since that is where you are most likely to get actors sitting or standing in front of you.

The performances are open seating with doors opening an hour before the play starts, so get there early and pick out a seat.  I have a blast sitting in a different place each time I go based on where I feel like sitting that day.  It’s part of the fun.

Because this is such an intimate setting, it’s very easy to get drawn into the story.  I’ve laughed hard, been on the edge of my seat, and tapped along with the music.  And I always leave with a smile on my face.

So what kind of plays do they have?  A typical season consists of seven plays.  They usually do three comedies, three musicals, and close things out with a mystery or suspense play of some kind.

And I’ve seen all kinds of plays.  The first play I ever saw there was Arsenic and Old Lace.  Over the years, I've been everything from See How They Run to Beau Jest, The Importance of Being Earnest, and Barefoot in the Park.  They've done Agatha Christie's A Murder is Announced and Ten Little Indians as well as Wait Until Dark.  On the musical side of things, I've seen such classics as Annie, South Pacific, 1776, Big River, and Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

The music for the musicals is not live, but that’s never been an issue that I’ve seen.  These plays obvious have larger casts, so they use the aisles more for the larger group scenes.  That just makes you feel even more like you're part of it.

Every year in December, they put on a musical version of A Christmas Carol.  This last year, I went to see it for the first time, and I enjoyed it.  Not that I was surprised at all.

The acting is always top notch, and some of the singers they have in the musicals are nothing short of phenomenal.  They do have some actors who appear in multiple shows each season, so it is always fun to watch for people you know in new roles.

If you go to this theater expecting Broadway production values, you’ll be disappointed.  But for the roughly mid-20’s ticket price, you wouldn’t be expecting that anyway.  I have never left the theater disappointed.  They make their budget work to put on a wonderful show every time.  And that’s what live theater is all about.

So don’t make my mistake.  If you are looking for live performances that will entertain you, look no further than Glendale Centre Theatre.  And save me a seat.

For current shows, check out their website, www.glendalecentretheatre.com

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