Theater Reviews by Morna

Morna Martell

READING BETWEEN THE LINES A Memoir by Janis Paige – on Amazon.

Under lockdown I have been doing a lot of reading and this book is what they call in publishing a 3am read! Now 97 and thriving, Janis tells a gripping story from her childhood in Tacoma, Washington, during the Great Depression; years starring at MGM and Warner Brothers; into Vaudeville; then a star in Vegas; USO tours with Bob Hope; her 3 marriages, and the superstars of Show Business, Politics and Royalty she met.


If you love Shakespeare, then enjoy this imagining of another ending to “The Merchant of Venice” by Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei. Antonio, Bassanio and Lorenzo not only deprived Shylock of his wealth, but also his daughter Jessica! Well, here, Jessica returns to her father’s house, wiser and remorseful, and she and Shylock plot revenge against their Gentile tormentors. The title comes from Act III as Shylock grieves about his wife Leah’s ring that Jessica gave to Antonio to buy a monkey! Directed by Beatrice Casagran, and produced by Ophelia’s Jump, a non-profit company that presents a Midsummer Shakespeare Festival at Pomona College every year. This year it’s a virtual presentation, via Zoom, March 17-21. For the Zoom link, register at:

THE RED SHOES – HBO max & CTG online

The original 1948 film, based on the Hans Christian Anderson Fairytale, received five Oscar nominations, and won two, and over the years is always listed among “the best British films ever!” I certainly have never forgotten seeing this beautiful tale of young red-headed ballet dancer (Moira Shearer), torn between her love of a man and her love of ballet, driven into a mad, haunting, dance of death. The original film can be viewed on HBOmax, Prime Video, and Criterion Channel, and I highly recommend it.

Meanwhile, Center Theatre Group is bringing a filmed version of a live stage performance in 2019 of “The Red Shoes” by the Sadler’s Wells Ballet Company in London. Director Matthew Bourne has adapted the original film into a tale of obsession, possession and one girl’s dream to be the greatest dancer in the world. Ashley Shaw stars as this girl whose ambitions become a battleground between the two men who inspire her passion. Bourne also has adapted music by Golden-age film composer Bernard Herrmann, with orchestrations by Terry Davies, to bring in references to Hollywood movies and Diaghilev-era ballets. This New Adventures and Illuminations production will be streamed five times from Friday, March 19 to Sunday, March 21 and will be available at


Having launched the careers of numerous women, at this year’s Awards Ceremony on March 25 they will honor five women for career and life achievements. The Infinity Award goes to Diahann Carroll who led the way on TV, Film and Broadway. Other honorees are Paula Donnelly of Cornerstone Theatre; Akuyoe Graham for her play “Spirit Awakening”; Shigemi Matsumoto founder of Classical Singers Association; Rose Portillo of About Productions and Young Theaterworks in East LA. In addition to the Awards Presentation, there will be special live performances at the GALA. Jacquelyn Brown-Benefield will sing songs celebrating personal empowerment “Rise Up” and “I Am Enough”, and Juli Kim performs a dance where a woman abandons docility in favor of strength and power in “Abandon.” Founded by Executive Producer Adilah Barnes and Miriam Reed, LAWTF celebrates its 28th year as an annual event unique among Los Angeles cultural institutions. Admission to the GALA, or for all virtual shows this year, call (818) 760-0408 or go to

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