Friday, May 31, 2019

Meshell Ndegeocello Set to IGNITE @ the FORD!

May 31, 2019, Los Angeles, CA -- Ford Theatres presents visionary vocalist and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello who performs songs from her GRAMMY®-nominated album Ventriloquism, as well as a selection of her favorites, on Saturday, July 13 at 8 p.m. as part of its IGNITE @ the FORD! series.

Musically, Ventriloquism has the hallmarks of all of Ndegeocello’s work -- lush and investigative, subversive and sublime. As always, she pays tribute to her diverse influences and in these cover songs, listeners hear them layered over one another. The reimagining deconstructs and comments on the narrow expectation of sound and structure for black artists and black music while offering a musical refuge during these uncertain times. Ventriloquism is released 25 years after her GRAMMY®-nominated debut album Plantation Lullabies.

In awarding Ndegeocello the 2019 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts prize for music, Vijay Iyer called her, “a rare constellation in the artistic firmament, whose generosity of spirit defies the confines of genre and whose work dwells in both darkness and deliverance.”

Chuck Arnold in The New York Post said of Ventriloquism, “She arrived at the concept for the LP — on which she radically reinvents such classics as Sade’s ‘Smooth Operator’ and George Clinton’s ‘Atomic Dog’ — during a difficult period about two and a half years ago when her father, saxophonist Jacques Johnson, passed away . . . this is a record about, and full of, transformation. These are well-loved songs that Ndegeocello loves a little bit more, singing them with a rich, warm tone (she’s never sounded better) and backed by a band who know how to anticipate every bob and weave she might make. It’s one of her best.”

Ndegeocello herself said, “I would go to my parents’ house, and my mother’s car radio only played the oldies station.  So I just was listening to all the songs I grew up with. I’d be awash in memories . . . those are all the songs I would listen to at my parents’ house to make me feel better.”

She said in a Billboard interview, “The covers idea was more so the result of a very intense year I experienced with the death of a parent and the dementia of another. And it was nice to just sit with tunes that you love and you know in and out in an emotional way. It was cathartic for me to try to give them another life, these songs.”

Charlotte Richardson Andrews said in The Guardian said, “These are bold offerings – creative, unpredictable and rich with Ndegeocello’s sensual contralto. There is intention here, a subtle, transformative magic . . .  there’s no denying the originality on offer here, from this rightly revered music game outlier.”

Brad Nelson of Pitchfork said, “A cover is an act of scholarship, an act of criticism, an act of intimacy. An act of love. Tackling a range of R&B radio hits from the 1980s and 1990s, Meshell Ndegeocello treats the practice of covering another’s songs as an act of intimacy and empathy. She doesn’t perform these songs as much as she renovates them from surface to center, peeling away wallpaper, pushing furniture around, crumpling and discarding any unnecessary dimensional space until she figures out what kind of room the song is.”

Thomas Inskeep in Spin said, “Prince’s ‘Sometimes It Snows in April’ is the centerpiece of the album, a fitting tribute as we approach the second anniversary of his death.  Ndegeocello’s take is . . . hushed, almost religious — you know the line in ‘Maria,’ from West Side Story, ‘Say it soft, and it’s almost like praying’?  That’s the impact here: it sounds like a prayer to and for Prince.”

Ventriloquism is a place, like its process, to take refuge from one storm too many. “The year around the recording of this album was so disorienting and dispiriting for me personally and for so many people I know and spoke to all the time,” she said. “I looked for a way to make something that was light while things around me were so dark, a musical place to go that reminded me of another, brighter time.”

“Early on in my career, I was told to make the same kind of album again and again, and when I didn’t do that, I lost support. There isn’t much diversity within genres, which are ghettoizing themselves, and I liked the idea of turning hits I loved into something even just a little less familiar or formulaic. It was an opportunity to pay a new kind of tribute.”

This event is part of IGNITE @ the FORD!, a series comprised of world-renowned contemporary artists whose work is thought-provoking and reflects the world in which we live.  Proceeds from IGNITE @ the FORD! events benefit the Ford Theatre Foundation. Tickets are available online at and by phone (323) 461-3673. Ford Theatres is located at 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood, CA 90068.

Meshell Ndegeocello, 
Saturday, July 13, 2019, at 8 p.m., Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood, CA 90068; just off the 101 Hollywood Freeway, between Hollywood and Universal Studios in the Cahuenga Pass;
On-site, stacked parking - $12 per vehicle. Carpool and save: three or more people per vehicle save $5 on parking. A FREE shuttle to the Ford services the Universal City/Studio City Metro Station lot at Lankershim Blvd. and Campo de Cahuenga. The Ford shuttle stops in the “kiss and ride” area and cycles every 20 minutes. Non-stacked parking is available off-site for only $8, with free shuttle service to the Ford, please check the website for details; $30, 40, and $55; Online:; (323) 461-3673; Box office hours: Open noon - 5 p.m., Tuesday - Saturday, for phone and window sales, and two hours before evening shows for walk-up sales and Will Call.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Madonna Releases 'Crave' Featuring Swae Lee

Madonna today released "Crave" featuring Swae Lee and co-produced with Mike Dean and Billboard. The infectious pop gem, co-written by Madonna and Starrah, is the third track of five songs to be previewed before her highly-anticipated new studio album Madame X debuts globally on June 14. Following the release of the critically-acclaimed "Medellín" and the empowering "I Rise," additional songs to be shared with fans include the Jamaican dancehall vibes of "Future" featuring Quavo on May 17, as well as the sonically innovative "Dark Ballet" on June 7. To listen to "Crave," visit HEREThe music video for "Crave" is coming soon.
Madonna announced earlier this week her Madame X Tour, a series of rare and intimate performances taking place exclusively in theaters in select cities. Demand was so overwhelming, additional shows have already been confirmed and are available for ticket request alongside the original shows through Friday, May 10 at 11:59 p.m. ET. In New York, 12 shows are confirmed at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House on September 12, 14, 15, 17, 19, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26, 28 and October 1. In Los Angeles, nine shows are set at The Wiltern for November 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 21, 23, 24 and 25. Shows at the Chicago Theatre are on October 15, 16, 17 and 21. The Madame X Tour will also visit Las Vegas, Boston, Philadelphia, Miami, Lisbon, London, and Paris. Dates and details on those cities to come in the near future. Tickets and further information is available at madonna.livenation.comHere is a link to a video from Madonna about the Tour:
Influenced creatively by living in Lisbon, Portugal over the past several years, Madame X is a collection of 15 new songs that celebrate Madonna's career-long affair with Latin music and culture as well as other global influences. Singing in Portuguese, Spanish and English, Madonna collaborated on Madame X with longtime producer Mirwais, as well as with producers Mike Dean and Diplo, among others.
Of "I Rise," NME says the song, "is politics and positivity combined," while Rolling Stone calls the song, "Uplifting" and Billboard says its, "Powerful." NPR says, "Medellín is a carefully dosed combination of...coolly narcotic dance-pop...and energetic reggaetón," while Entertainment Weekly declares the song is, "A breezy, summer-ready anthem..." The Guardian says, "Medellín is a potent reminder of Madonna's deft history of meshing genres." 
Madame X from Live Nation, Interscope Records, and Maverick will come in a standard and deluxe version of the album and is now available for pre-order. Album pre-orders include a download of "Medellín," "I Rise" and "Crave," which is available across AppleSpotify (pre-save), Amazon and all DSPs. Exclusive album pre-order bundles with limited edition merchandise are now available direct from

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood Official Trailer

Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Hollywood visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. The ninth film from the writer-director features a large ensemble cast and multiple storylines in a tribute to the final moments of Hollywood's golden age.

In theaters July 26, 2019!

Pasadena Playhouse Hosts Playhouse Celebrity Game Night: Speed Charades Fundraiser June 10

Pasadena Playhouse, State Theatre of California announces Playhouse Celebrity Game Night: Speed Charades, a hilarious competition where celebrity teams go head-to-head and battle it out in a fierce and fun game of speed charades benefiting the programs of the Pasadena Playhouse. Players for the Monday, June 10 fundraiser will include John C. Reilly, Jane Kaczmarek, Alfred Molina, Simon Helberg, Matthew Lillard, Melora Hardin, Jason George, Cynthia Rowley, and more.

The event, at Pasadena Playhouse, begins at 6 p.m. with a red carpet arrival and backstage party, followed by Speed Charades at 7:30, and an after-party to follow.

For a list of celebrity guests visit . Please note that celebrity players are based on continuing availability, cast subject to change.
Tickets to the event include a variety of benefits including an after party with attendees and start at $250.  Proceeds benefit all Pasadena Playhouse programs including our education and outreach initiatives. To book tickets or make a contribution, visit, or contact Becky Birdsong at 626-204-7383 or

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Dianne Wiest Is Celebrating Beckett's Happy Days

Dianne Wiest

By Darlene Donloe

Samuel Beckett’s classic Happy Days is currently playing at the Mark Taper Forum.

What’s being called Beckett’s absurdist masterpiece, Happy Days stars Dianne Wiest, who plays Winnie and Michael Rudko who plays her out of touch husband, Willie. For most of the story, he’s out of sight. Even though she begs him to communicate with her, Willie instead reads his newspaper or hides away in a hole burrowed into the sand. At one point she asks, “Was I lovable, once, Willie? Was I ever lovable?”

When the play opens Winnie is standing up to her waist in sand. There is a big, black purse near her with makeup, a toothbrush, a music box and more.

As she stands there underneath a blazing sun, Winnie tries her best to stay positive about her circumstances. It’s never revealed just how and why she ended up waist deep in sand, nor why her husband is so distant – in more ways than one. It’s as if the earth was swallowing her whole. Is it because she’s been overcome by life, fear?

Beckett said of this play, “Here all is strange.” 

No truer words were ever spoken. Full disclosure. I was lost for much of the play. It took me forever to figure out what was happening and even after I thought I had a handle on it – I realized I didn’t.

That’s because although Wiest moves very little, there is still a lot going on. Essentially she is performing a monologue about her life – and all the while making light of her precarious situation.

In act one when Winnie is up to her waist in the sand, she moves her upper body quite a bit to reach for her purse, brush her teeth, hold an umbrella, put on her makeup and honor the sun.

When act two opens, Winnie is now up to her neck in sand. What happened?   Why is she now unable to move any part of her body?  None of it is revealed. It’s not wrapped in a pretty little bow. Beckett wants you to figure out some things for yourself.

Michael Rudko

The show, which opened in 1961 at New York City’s Cherry Lane Theatre has been called absurdly funny. I must have missed something. It was interesting, thought-provoking and occasionally humorous – but there was no side-splitting humor. A friend told me it was white people humor.  Hmmmm.  I don’t necessarily buy that. I’m pretty sophisticated, but I must admit I didn’t understand why the audience laughed in certain places.

While she tried her best to see the bright side of her situation, I found Winnie to be a sad character.

That being said, Wiest is a beast. She is incredible. Her tone, inflections, presentation, and articulation make it all look easy as she quite deftly takes us from one story to the next. That being said, I don’t ever have to hear the name Willie spoken ever again.  (once you see the play, you’ll understand) What an amazing performance by Wiest and Rudko.

In the end, I’m still not quite sure what I witnessed, but I’d do it again just to watch Dianne Wiest work her magic!

Happy Days is written by Samuel Beckett, directed by James Bundy and stars Wiest and Rudko. 

(Foreground) Michael Rudko and Dianne Wiest

The design team includes scenic designer Izmir Ickbal, costume designer Alexae Visel, lighting designer Stephen Strawbridge, and sound designer Kate MarvinCatherine Sheehy and Nahuel Telleria serve as dramaturgs and the production stage manager is Kelly Montgomery.

Happy Days, Mark Taper Forum, 135 N. Grand Ave., LA; 8 p.m., Tues.-Fri.; 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m.; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sun.; through June 30, 2019. No Monday performances. No performance on June 30. No 1 p.m. performance on Sun., June 2 and June 23. No 8 p.m. performance on June 8. No 2:30 p.m. performance on Sat., June 15; $32-$115;; 213 628 2772.

On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likable), O (oh, yeah) and E (excellent), Happy Days gets an O (oh, yeah).

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

F. Gary Gray Gets Star On Hollywood Walk of Fame

F. Gary Gray

Director F. GARY GRAY received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today. Grossing more at the box office than any other African American director, his films include Friday, Set it Off, Fast 8, and the upcoming Men In Black: International! Please see below for some photos from today’s festivities. Men In Black International opens in theaters on June 14, 2019. 

Jamie Foxx, F. Gary Gray and Vin Diesel

Ice Cube and F. Gary Gray

Thursday, May 23, 2019

LAWTF Presents 'Defining Moments' June 23

Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival (LAWTF) presents its annual programming in Culver City for a unique performance on Sunday, June 23, 2019, at 7 p.m. at the Ivy Substation, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232. The evening takes an intimate look in the personal lives of women in stories written and performed by them.

   Anna Maria Horsford with host the evening of entertainment. Her busy career has spanned motion pictures (Minority Report, How High, One Fine Day), television (Method and Red, The Wayans Bros., Emmy® nominated for The Bold and the Beautiful) and stage (Dancing on Moonlight, A Black Quartet, The Perfect Party). She is also a director and producer.

    Ted Lange is the co-host. Beloved for his 250 episodes of The Love Boat, he is a veteran of Broadway (Ain’t Supposed to Die a Natural Death, Hair), off-Broadway (King Lear), L.A. theatre (National Pastime), and motion pictures (Othello, Prophet Nat). He is a playwright (George Washington’s Boy, Lemon Meringue Façade, Behind The Mask: An Evening with Paul Lawrence Dunbar). He is also a director and producer.

    Four women writer-performers will perform their stories, excerpted from larger pieces.

    Karen. A. Clark in The Women. In this encore excerpt and through music, poetry, and storytelling, Ms. Clark reflects on the women in her family, particularly her mother, who provided a “wow” factor.

    Barbara Cole in Surviving Chrysalis. One woman reconciles aging in her journey toward self-actualization in this funny excerpt.

    Bellina Logan in Confessions of a Mulatto Child. This excerpted piece chronicles a bi-racial child’s life with her acerbic English actor/mother and the deep bond they forged.

    Amy Milano in Dancing with Crazies. In this excerpt from her life experiences, one woman searches for a place to call home after being uprooted from place to place as a child.

Adilah Barnes is executive producer and co-founder. This performance is made possible in part by a Culver City Performing Arts Grant with support from Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Tickets for the performance are $25 in advance, $30 at the door.

Reservations: (818) 760-0408. Online reservations are available at

Jay Leno and Friends Return To Geffen Playhouse



LOS ANGELES, CA (May 23, 2019) – Jay Leno is returning to the Geffen Playhouse for a special one-night-only fundraiser to benefit No Limits for deaf children, a nationwide non-profit organization that teaches children with hearing loss the skills to succeed in school and in life through its national theater program and after school centers, as well as Geffen’s education and community engagement programs. This marks the thirdtime A Special Evening with Jay Leno and Friends has taken place at Geffen Playhouse.

A Special Evening with Jay Leno and Friends will take place Monday, June 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse. Kathy Buckley, “America’s First Hearing Impaired Comedienne,” will host the evening of comedy.
Jay Leno, television late-night show host, stand-up comedian, best-selling children’s book author, voice-over artist and philanthropist, began his career in night clubs before earning widespread acclaim with his own late-night talk show The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 1992. By then, he had made a name for himself as a well-respected comedian due to his late-night television appearances: he made a record number of visits to Late Night with David Letterman and served as Johnny Carson’s permanent guest host on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, eventually inheriting Carson’s seat when he retired. Leno’s final show as the host of The Tonight Show in 2014 featured Billy Crystal and musical guest Garth Brooks, along with a few surprise guests including Jack Black, Kim Kardashian, Jim Parsons, Sheryl Crow, Chris Paul, Carol Burnett and Oprah Winfrey.

Leno’s CNBC series Jay Leno’s Garage debuted in October 2015 and delivered CNBC’s most-watched first season in network history. Now in its fifth season, the show explores the world of cars and the real stories of the people behind the wheel.

Leno is committed to using his talents to help those less fortunate. Each year, he hosts numerous benefit performances, including shows for those whose lives were devastated by the 9/11 tragedy, the tsunami in Thailand, hurricanes in the gulf, and the severe economic downturn in Detroit. He leads the annual Love Ride in California to benefit numerous humanitarian organizations serving people with autism, muscular dystrophy, and the Special Olympics, among many others. He has also served as honorary campaign chairman for several years for the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Hollywood’s charitable arm, and he has assisted the Gender Apartheid campaign led by his wife Mavis with the Feminist Majority, helping to free Afghan women of Taliban tyranny, an effort for which Mavis and The Feminist Majority were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Kathy Buckley, Board Member and Spokesperson of No Limits, is a five-time American Comedy Award Nominee for Best Stand-Up Female Comedienne, and the winner of countless other awards for her work. Her television appearances include The Tonight ShowGood Morning AmericaCBS This MorningThe Today ShowEntertainment TonightExtraInside EditionCNNHBOVH1’s Stand-Up SpotlightComic Strip LiveEvening at the Improv and Caroline’s Comedy Hour. E! Entertainment named her one of the “World’s Most Intriguing Women.” In addition to comedy, Buckley starred in her own original award-winning PBS special, No Labels, No Limits.

Whether performing in a comedy club, appearing on television, speaking publicly, teaching at camps for children, or appearing in any number of other settings, Buckley bears her message that anything can be achieved when the heart and the mind work together. An active volunteer for No Limits, she dedicates every day of her life to the children and families of No Limits as its spokesperson and has raised more than $1,000,000 over the past 20 years. She is passionate about ensuring all deaf children have the ability to communicate and has dedicated herself to raising awareness for the children and families of No Limits. She has performed alongside No Limits children in theatrical productions nationwide, including sold-out performances at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts and Carnegie Hall, sharing the message that anything is possible for deaf children.

Monday, June 24, 2019
7:30 p.m. Curtain

Tickets are currently priced at $95.00 - $200.00 Available now in person at the Geffen Playhouse box office, by phone at 310.208.5454 or online at Fees may apply.

LOCATIONGil Cates Theater at the Geffen Playhouse
10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90024