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Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

The La Jolla Playhouse has a successful track record of sending its musical productions to Broadway and has a penchant for winning Tony Awards in the process. “Memphis” (2010), for one, springs to mind; the Best Musical Tony-winner was brilliantly performed and brilliantly directed by Playhouse Artistic Director Chris Ashley.

However, I’m not quite sure that the current World Premiere production “Miss You Like Hell” will find Broadway producers bold enough to challenge the bias against Southern California-set musicals, especially one revolving around Latinos. It would be a pity for our East Coast theatrical cousins and their patrons to miss it, as well as those audiences in regional theatres across the country.

The world has been devolving into dangerous and uncertain times since the turn of the 21st Century. Instead of becoming more inclusive as a society, the world appears to be increasingly more interested in becoming rabidly isolationist, even nationalistic.

Playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes, a 2008 Tony Winner for the musical “In the Heights” and a 2010 Pulitzer Prize Winner for her potent and powerful drama “Water by the Spoonful”. She has once again hit the nail on the proverbial head with her musical “Miss You Like Hell”, creatively and deftly directed by talented Lear deBessonet.

The leit-motif running through many of Ms. Hudes’ plays deal with loss and forgiveness. In the case of “Miss You like Hell”, it’s a poignant story of mother abandonment and daughter estrangement and the coming to grips with forgiveness, and how hard it is to resolve it.

Ms. deBessonet is fortunate to have the services of casting directors Kaitlin Shaw and Tara Rubin, who have assembled a terrific ensemble cast of solid actors/singer/dancers to bring this timeless story to life. This time, the story of troubled mother Beatriz, sensationally played by Daphne Rubin-Vega, and her daughter Olivia, wonderfully sung and portrayed by Krystina Alabado, is set against the backdrop of Latino culture which is rich in mysticism and the myths of earlier native ancestors and story tellers.

Additionally, the libretto has elements that are reminiscent of the writings of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his style of ‘magical realism’ and shards of the poems of famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. In the hands of these two talented actors, it is very easy to become enchanted by the entire production, regardless of whether one has ever heard of Garcia Marquez or Neruda.

The musical informs the story that illuminates the culture wars now taking place, not only in America, but also in Europe and across the globe. Ensemble casts are the epitome of what musical productions are all about. These actors are there to enhance the performances of the principals, namely Ms. Rubin-Vega and Ms. Alabado. But these dedicated, talented performers also shine in individual performances and should be acknowledged.

In alphabetical order the ensemble cast includes: Cliff Bemis as Mo; Victor Chan as Castaway; Vanessa A. Jones as Lawyer/Waitress; David Patrick Kelly as Higgins; Julio Monge as Manuel; Cashae Monya as Pearl; Kurt Norby as Officer/Legal Clerk/A Guy at the Motel Desk; and Olivia Oguma as Mindy.

The creative team led by Ms. DeBessonet greatly benefits from the inventive set designs of Donyale Werle and the sparkling creative costume designs of Emilio Sosa that help sweep the audience along to the beats of ‘south of the border’ music and lyrics.

In addition to Ms. Hudes’ libretto and lyrics, and Erin McKeown’s music and lyrics, the choreography of Danny Mefford enlivens the stage action under the baton of music director Julie McBride, with sound design by Dan Moses Schreier.

This splendid production performs at the La Jolla Playhouse in the Mandell Weiss Theatre, through December 4, 2016. Don’t miss It!


Krystina Alabado and Daphne Rubin-Vega (right) Photo Jim Carmody
The cast of La Jolla Playhouse’s world-premiere musical MISS YOU LIKE HELL, -Photo Jim Carmody
(L-R) Kurt Norby, Daphne Rubin-Vega and Krystina Alabado -Photo Jim Carmody
Krystina Alabado and Daphne Rubin-Vega (right)-Photo Jim Carmody
The cast of La Jolla Playhouse’s world-premiere musical MISS YOU LIKE HELL, book and lyrics by Quiara Alegría Hudes, music and lyrics by Erin McKeown, directed by Lear deBessonet, choreographed by Danny Mefford, running Oct 25 – Dec 4 in the Mandell Weiss Theatre; photo by Jim Carmody.


Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

The bumpy road of love, marriage, and everything else in between, is often filled with potholes we call life passages. There are precious few rose gardens out there, promised or not, and some aren’t even worth taking care of. But Hope springs eternal.

annapurna1-webCoachella Valley Repertory Theatre (CVREP) kicks off their 8th season with the production “Annapurna”, written by Sharr White and nicely directed by founding Artistic Director Ron Celona.

In keeping with Celona’s promise to bring plays that address the 2016/17 season theme of “Love. Marriage, and Life Changing Events”, “Annapurna” is a bittersweet story of former married partners meeting after twenty years.

Emma (Anna Nicholas) tracks down her former alcoholic, poet/writer husband Ulysses (Eric Charles Jorgenson), to a trailer park in the middle of rural mountain high Colorado for a final reckoning. There are questions, deep hurts, and unresolved issues that force Emma to confront Ulysses after all these years.

The play begins with the disheveled, mountain man-like bearded Ulysses getting ready to prepare breakfast in his man-cave like digs, when Emma, his long divorced ex walks in the front door of his small, grungy trailer with two suitcases. He is not happy to see her despite a twenty-year absence. And she’s wondering if she made the right decision to confront him now that she sees him and his condition. For starters, he’s dying of emphysema and has an oxygen tube in his nose and is in a weakened, listless condition. But, he hasn’t lost his ability to yell and shout at her like in the old days.

Emma doesn’t push back against Ulysses’ boorish and bullying behavior. She appears calm and under control, going so far as to say this place needs a good scrub, and then begins to clean up. Then she opens up and tells Ulysses that she has permanently left her home and their twenty year-old son Sam (who is never seen only referred to) in order to alert Ulysses that Sam is on his way here to see his father after discovering a cache of letters that Ulysses had been sending to him via Emma’s mother over the last 10 years.

The ‘backstory’ is a bit fuzzy and melodramatic as to what really happened to Sam when Ulysses, in one of his alcoholic blackouts may have caused the deafness in one of Sam’s ears. This is one of the reasons why Emma wants to confront her ex. Does he remember striking his five year-old son? What happened? Ulysses says he has no recollection of anything that far back. He honestly can’t remember.

The narrative of White’s play is not its strongest asset. It’s the performances of the actors that win the day. There is good onstage chemistry between Jorgenson and Nicholas, and both are always in the moment. I won’t go so far as saying that some in the audience will find relevancy in the play’s subject matter, but parents in the audience might smile a bit as to the tug of war that goes on in all marriages, and especially where children are concerned when one parent is absent from the home.

There is light banter between Ulysses and Emma once the thaw begins. Perhaps, some vocal modulation between Jorgenson and Nicholas might better blunt the effect of yelling at each other all the time which becomes somewhat off-putting. At times, less is better.

The technical credits at CV REP are always top tier. Resident Scenic Design wizard and multiple DTL award winner Jimmy Cuomo never disappoints. His grungy trailer home is terrific, as is the lighting design by Moira Wilkie Whitaker (also a recent Desert Theatre League (DTL) award winner, Costumes by Aalsa Lee, and sound design by Cricket S. Myers, Production Manager and Associate Set designer Doug Morris and Sound Tech by Karen Goodwin complete the creative team. The 90 minute play is performed without an intermission. Call the box office for reservations and ticket information at 760-296-2966.

“Annapurna” performs at CV Repertory Theatre, Rancho Mirage through November 20, 2016.

Photo credit to Jim Cox.


Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

May/December romance stories are few and far between. For starters, storylines are usually predictable or implausible for most of the audience, to say nothing of the seat-squirming anticipation while waiting for that first onstage geriatric kiss – unless we’re watching Cary Grant plant one on Eva Marie Saint in the film “North by Northwest”, which, when he does it, the act of kissing rises to the level of an art form. Ditto, with Audrey Hepburn in the movie “Charade”.

4606-webWhich brings us to the play “Heisenberg”, written by English playwright Simon Stephens, produced by the Manhattan Theatre Club (MTC) at the Samuel J. Friedman theatre, in NYC and smartly directed by Mark Brokaw.

In his seventieth decade, Irish actor Denis Arndt, a trim, fit, and much younger looking than his character age, stars as Alex Priest, a 75 year-old retired English butcher. Arndt, is making his Broadway stage debut with this production (I simply cannot believe this fabulous actor hasn’t starred on a Broadway stage before this) and, in the bargain, gets to woo Mary-Louise Parker, who plays Georgie Burns. Parker, is one of the sexiest, intelligent, fearless and exciting actors working in theatre, movies and television today. Lucky devil.

Georgie Burns is an aggressive, loud, conflicted American soul, with the vocabulary of a testy stevedore. She is the type of person who needs to talk… to anyone. As the play opens, Georgie spots Alex sitting alone on a seat in a London train station and slowly walks up to him and plants a gentle kiss on his neck, then quickly walks away, but then decides to come back and explain herself.

4584-webAlex, is a retired, reserved, widower on his way home. He’s mildly surprised by Georgie’s action but doesn’t freak-out. He has no agenda other to be left alone. No latent hormone rush is present. And they begin to talk. He sizes her up as one of those ‘force of nature’ American women who are so confident that they will approach anyone for the opportunity to engage in conversation, even with strangers. She finds him intriguing and worth more than just a brief encounter (with apologies to Noel Coward).

It’s a very talky play. The onstage scenes becomes a series of actions (her) and reactions (him) as to whether they should begin a relationship. Then the physical attraction for their budding May/December romance which now spans a couple of months – interspersed with separations – and the need for one another kicks in, making the premise become more plausible. Besides, Georgie has a sweet tooth for older men. After all Sinatra was thirty years older than Mia Farrow, and Ari Onassis was twenty-three years older than Jackie Kennedy, so it’s not that unusual. The only component missing in this May/December relationship is the lack of really big money or family fortunes.

4582-webPlaywright Stephens and director Brokaw weave an engaging obbligato of nicely nuanced, performances by two terrifically talented stars who know how to draw the audience into their small, compelling story and make it sing. The onstage chemistry between Parker and Arndt is palpable. There is an old show biz axiom that says if you buy the premise, you’ll buy the bit. I bought the bit. The opening is a tad slow and the ending is ambiguous by design, but in between – ah, that’s where the magic happens.

“Heisenberg” is a light rom-com. The only big issue, other than their age disparity is how strongly people have a need for companionship, and closeness to prove their humanity and the raison d’etre for being on the planet in the first place. Georgie and Alex have past lives that are not similar. How they resolve their differences lies in the nuanced performances of Parker and Arndt which are compelling and poignant at times. There is a lot of introspection, time to ponder the ‘what if choices’ for each and for the audience as well.

One thing the audience needn’t ponder is the meaning of the title, which seems disconnected from the play’s theme. According to program notes, German scientist Werner Heisenberg, the founder of quantum mechanics, posited a theory of “uncertain principle”. Playwright Stephens may have been drawing a comparison to the uncertainty of human relationships – or not.

Mark Wendland’s scenic design renders an almost bare stage with two tables and two chairs which are moved about by the actors. Costume design by Michael Krass is present day garb, and the lighting design is by Austin R. Smith with Sound design by David Van Tieghem.

“Heisenberg” is performed without an intermission (approximately 84 minutes) on the Samuel J. Friedman stage and runs through December 11, 2016.



lizard-delohr-hellandWhen Seattle Repertory Theatre’s Artistic Director Jerry Manning commissioned an original musical piece from Justin Huertas, a talented actor, composer, singer, musician and illustrator, he didn’t know what it would be exactly, but Manning and adapter/dramaturg Andrea Allen were willing to bet it would be amazing. Lucky for them and audiences everywhere, that bet paid off in a big way with LIZARD BOY, the most original musical seen onstage since New York Fringe favorite “Urinetown” ten years ago. It’s a perfect opening show for the Diversionary’s 31st Season, as it exemplifies the artistic vision and boundary-pushing support of the theatre to the LGBTQ community.

LIZARD BOY is a modern day comic-book, angst filled coming of age story focusing on Trevor (played to perfection by Justin Huertas), a lonely creative young man with a, shall we say, unusual affliction. Due to an other-worldly accident as a child following the eruption of Mount St. Helens, and an unfortunate run in with a fire-breathing dragon, Trevor has morphed into a half-man/half lizard-like creature, his skin glistening with iridescent green scales. Talk about being the ultimate loner; Trevor channels his pain and anger into his music and his art, which is mostly sketches of superheroes and disturbing visions that run through his dreams.

At “Monsterfest”, the one day of the year in Seattle when everyone dons monster costumes, Trevor feels safe enough to venture out where he blends into the crowd without comment. His newfound confidence enables him to decide to reach out on the gay dating website “Grindr” in search of his first (and last) love. Instead, he hooks up with a charming, goofy musician named Cary (winningly played by William A. Williams) who is new himself to Seattle. Even more than romance, Cary is desperately seeking a connection for friendship and maybe more.

cast-of-lizard-boyThe two meet and decide to check out “Monsterfest” when Trevor spies a magazine on Cary’s coffee table with the image of the woman who has been haunting his dreams lately: the tough-as-nails singer named Siren (a powerhouse performance by Kirsten deLohr Helland). After going to see her perform at a local club, Trevor shares his songs and visions with Siren, setting off a chain of events that grow and explode into a classic battle of good vs evil, love over hate, acceptance over rejection.

The show has been a work in progress and labor of love for the three performers who are amazingly synchronized in their focus and dedication to seeing this project through to a possible transfer to New York (fingers crossed).

LIZARD BOY owes some of its indie-pedigree to off-Broadway musicals like “Urinetown” also “Brooklynite”, which was directed and co-written by Tony-winning “Spring Awakening” director Michael Mayer. Huertas cites “Spring Awakening” as a rich source of inspiration to him, both as a performer and eventually a playwright and composer.

His inspired mashups of classical cello with beatbox and ukeleles lends originality and humor to his achingly personal score. The show features sixteen songs (with two just added for this production at Diversionary) and all featured instruments are played by the three talented performers to great effect.

Huertas is the soul of this musical. Not just because it’s his own story at its base, but he makes you feel so much of what’s in his heart from the first moment he appears. His multiple talents are perfectly showcased and he reveals the beauty in Trevor, peeling off the layers of protective emotional garb hiding his reptilian appearance.

As Siren, the “dream girl” with a blood red soul, deLohr is a fierce and powerful presence with an amazing vocal range. She can be really scary, but her slightly warped sense of humor and snarky lipped delivery makes her less menacing and somehow more vulnerable. She’s a bona fide star in Seattle, having played everyone from Maria Von Trapp to Sally Bowles, winning awards along the way.

lizard-huertasWilliams has what could have been a supporting role, but he expands Cary’s initial “twinkie” persona into a real guy with hidden depth which he slowly reveals to Trevor through songs and gestures. He never gives up on love, and you find yourself rooting for these two to work everything out and defeat that dragon, once and for all.

Kudos must go to not only the young performers who maintain their energy and focus for 95 non-stop minutes, but also to director Brandon Vie who deeply understood the message that Huertas was conveying and handled it with care. The thrift shop retro costumes by Erik Andor, and dark foreboding scenic design by Ron Logan are illuminated by the lighting design of Curtis Mueller. The atmospheric sound effects were the perfect undertone for the show thanks to Lighting Designer Matt Lescault-Wood and Mix Engineer TJ Fucella.

The script still needs some tweaking here and there (the ambiguous final image), but I have no doubt that the production will be fine-tuned to perfection.

The show is predicted to sell out during its run, so just in case you can’t see it, I highly advise you listen to the soundtrack which is available via CDBaby, Spotify and Amazon. You will hear the soaring harmonies, tight musical riffs and powerful voices to best advantage and prepare yourself for seeing the show live – if you can score some tickets, that is.

LIZARD BOY is at the Diversionary Theatre, 4545 Park Blvd.in University Heights. It plays Thursday at 7 pm, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm through October 30. Tickets may be purchased online through the Diversionary website.


Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

men-looking-at-woman-in-black-large-webThe Groves Cabin Theatre of Morongo Valley may have only twenty-two seats and a postage-stamp sized stage for the actors to perform their magic, but that has not stopped them from producing quality work.  To date, the tiny theatre under the artistic direction of founder Joy Groves, has garnered more than sixty Desert Theatre League (DTL) awards for excellence over the years.

Their current production of the classic English ghost-story drama “The Woman in Black” , written by Stephen Mallatratt, based on the novella of the same name by Susan Hill, is another example of how two talented male actors, and a female title character can bring a compelling Gothic tale to life playing all ten characters.

Smartly directed by DTL award-winning actor/director Wendy Cohen, “The Woman in Black” lives up to being the chilling tale that earlier reviews have labelled it.  img_9993-large-webThe play debuted in London in 1989 and is still thrilling audiences in its twenty-seventh year of continuous performances.

The story set in 1890’s England revolves around Arthur Kipps (introspectively played by Kurt Schauppner), a droll junior solicitor as he journeys to the small village of Crythin Gifford, in the north of England, to attend the funeral of a client Mrs. Alice Drablow.  At the funeral he sees a young woman with a disfigured face, dressed all in black, standing all alone in the back of churchyard.

img_9998-large-webStruck by the odd behavior and reluctance on the part of the villagers to either speak to or about the woman in black, Arthur goes to Eel Marsh House, Mrs. Drablow’s home to perhaps, discover some reasons for their strange behavior. The house is a dark, foreboding old house in the middle of a marsh which is cut off from the mainland at high tide.  While sorting through Mrs. Drablow’s legal papers, he finds a box of letters, and ultimately discovers dark and disturbing secrets that surround the woman in black and those around her.  No spoiler alerts for this taut production.  One must see for themselves.

The tale of mystery is presented by director Cohen and her cast as a ‘play-within-a-play’.  The second performer in the production who is listed in the program as just the ‘Actor’ is wonderfully played by Clinton Crawshaw.  Schauppner and Crawshaw share ten different character parts between them and their on stage chemistry in all their varying roles is excellent.  Teri Conley plays the mysterious and somewhat invisible woman in black.

img_9989-large-webThe plot is rich in detail and characterization and requires the audience to stay engaged in order to fully appreciate the many suspense-filed moments.  The costumes designed by Kathy Ferguson are period perfect.  The sound and lighting design by director Cohen is a key component in the production that enhances the mood and the performances. Sound and Lighting Operation is by Blacksmith Braun.

“The Woman in Black”, performs at the Groves Cabin Theatre on Saturdays at 7:00 PM and on Sundays at 2:30 PM through October 30th.  For reservations, call the box office at 760-365-4523.




By Lisa Lyons

Hal Linden
Hal Linden

From the Broadway stage, where he won a Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award for “The Rothschilds”, to his Emmy-nominated performance as the laid back police captain in “Barney Miller”, Hal Linden has been one of the most watchable men working in entertainment for over 65 years. At age 85, the still debonair Linden is still treading the boards, most recently in a well-received version of “The Fantasticks” at the Pasadena Playhouse in which he plays an aging thespian trouper named Henry.

Linden’s first Broadway appearance was in “Bells Are Ringing” in 1956, and in between then and now a lot has changed on the theatre scene. Echoing the words of a character in Sondheim’s “Follies”, “Good times and bum times, I’ve seen ’em all and, my dear, I’m still here!” and he has many thoughts on the nature of theatre and the place it holds in popular culture and our history. I was able to chat with the affable actor recently where we looked back at his storied career.

After a 70-plus year career in music and theatre, what do you think of the new directions that Broadway is taking these days, with different themes and language in shows like “Hamilton” and “Fun Home”?

There are changes in the genre but the rules of theatre haven’t changed. Maybe the language has changed, but the rules haven’t. The same things touch people, make them laugh, make them enjoy. We haven’t changed as human beings that much. So I don’t know that it has really changed; the shows are different but the process is the same.

Have you seen “Hamilton”?
Yes, but I must admit I had some difficulty with the show because the language used is not the language I was brought up with in theatre. The legendary director George Abbott believed you must tell the story as simply and clearly as possible so people can get it the first time through. I definitely recommend anyone going to “Hamilton” to listen to the cast album a few times before seeing the show. It’s difficult to appreciate the language when you’re not used to it.

Sondheim said “lyrics are not poems” – poems you read over and over, discern the meaning. But lyrics have to be immediately understandable at the moment you are hearing it. It has to be perfectly clear or you lose your audience. We may be experimenting in different areas, playing with casting, but it’s still theatre, you still have to play the action and objective and the audience has to understand or you’re not communicating with them.

L-R Jack Soo, Gregory Sierra, Abe Vigoda, Maxwell Gail, Ron Glass and Hal Linden in "Barney Miller"
L-R Jack Soo, Gregory Sierra, Abe
Vigoda, Maxwell Gail, Ron Glass
and Hal Linden in “Barney Miller”

“Barney Miller” which aired from 1975 to 1982, really pioneered diversity casting featuring Black, Hispanic, Jewish, Asian, and female characters. Other than Norman Lear and Danny Simon shows, most sitcoms were pretty homogeneous. Why do you think it worked so well?
I think because the writing was solid, not “trendy”, and always very relatable. I recently put together a clip reel for a concert appearance I was doing, and I had to sit down and watch over 100 hours of “Barney Miller” episodes. I was amazed at how substantial they were, and that they still hold up almost forty years later.

actor Hal Linden as Henry (with Amir Talai) in "The Fantasticks" at Pasadena Playhouse. Photo by Jim Cox
Actor Hal Linden as Henry
(with Amir Talai) in “The Fantasticks”
at Pasadena Playhouse. Photo by Jim Cox

But casting diversity is nothing new. The show I’m in now, “The Fantasticks”, was always very Pirandello-esque, with heightened emotions, never your kitchen sink reality, and that was back in the early 1960s. This production is probably the most diverse cast in its 50-year history. Yet, the key points are not lost…it’s visually shocking for the first minute or two, when you see a Black father with an Asian daughter, but the instant you become involved in their stories, that disappears. It only increases the point of the play which shows that all these things are universal and touch everybody whether they look like you or not.

Are there still parts being written out there that you can play?
There are plays about older people but they are few and far between, most of the things happen to people in their prime and that’s where the adventure occurs. But unless you write a play specifically about old people, there are going to be very few parts left and that’s the truth of it.

Hal Linden in his Tony Award-winning role as Meyer Rothschild in "The Rothschilds"
Hal Linden in his Tony Award-winning role as Meyer Rothschild in “The Rothschilds”

Is there any role you wish you’d been able to do?

As far as musicals, what parts could I play now, seriously? I’m too old for all of them – but there are classic roles I never played, like Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, the King in The King & I, or Harold Hill in “The Music Man. These are roles I could have done, but at the time I either wasn’t available or something else, and I didn’t get the chance. I never played El Gallo, that’s a role I should have played 50 years ago. I would have loved to play that part. But I’m beyond those roles now, so there’s no point in thinking about them.
Any director you would have loved to work with?
In films, there were many directors I would love to have worked with – Scorsese, Lumet, Kazan. I made films that were nicely directed, but never one with a “great director”. I really wanted to work with really terrific film directors, that’s one part of my career I missed. But hey, it’s not over yet, right?

However, on stage I was blessed to work with many legendary directors such as Harold Clurman, Bob Fosse, Jules Dassin and George Abbott, which was a phenomenal opportunity.
Abbott was one of the great stage directors. He lived to be 107 years old.
Yes! I learned so much working with Mr. Abbott. I started working with him when he was 85 and he was still directing in his 90s. I became one of the George Abbott players, although I had to turn down some of his shows as I was doing something else; Then I got cast as Barney and I was not available. But I could have made a career working for Abbott, he was a big fan of mine, loved my work. Just look at the parts I played for him. I did one show “Three Men on a Horse” with Sam Levene. Mr. Abbott told me to pick the part I wanted to play. I picked a character who should have been played by an older character like Maxie Rosenbloom, yet I was only 38 at the time. After that, the next part I did for him was the John Raitt role in Pajama Game. Mr. Abbott would have let me play anything I wanted! He was a joy to work with.

A young, clean-shaven Hal Linden during his band singer days touring with Sammy Kaye, Bobby Sherwood, and other big bands of the era.
A young, clean-shaven Hal Linden during his band singer
days touring with Sammy Kaye, Bobby
Sherwood, and other big bands of the era.

With all your experience, first in music then in theatre, do you see yourself as a mentor?
Not really, because I was never classically trained in this business, I got into it by accident as I was a brash personality as a young man. I was a band singer, then had my own band for a while, and that’s how I slid into the business. I didn’t start studying any kind of formal technique until I was on Broadway. So a lot of what I do I learned over the years and that’s hard to codify. I don’t have discipline to sit down and write a syllabus on how to act. I help my fellow actors whenever I see something, maybe I’ll ask a question that might stir them in the proper direction of thought, but it’s not my function to do that, so I don’t do it -unless they are really friends!

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
The truth of the matter is, at this point I don’t recall! I’ll tell you the advice I give to those who ask: take everything in life seriously except yourself. When you start taking yourself seriously, then you’re in trouble. Learn to laugh at yourself, because we are flawed human beings who do and say stupid things. Just say hey, that’s me and go with it.

Did you follow it?
Yes! I have a great story about my late wife Frances to illustrate that point. Back in the late 1970s, I was named one of the Ten Most Watchable Men in America by a group called Manwatchers Inc. They presented me with the award that looks like a bowling trophy which greatly amused my wife. After it sat around ignored for a few weeks, Fran announced she had found the perfect permanent spot to display it – in the bathroom! From then on, we took that trophy everyplace, putting it on the commode to remind me “Don’t take yourself so seriously!”

Frances and Hal Linden. She was a dancer on Broadway when they met. The two were married 52 years until her passing in 2010.
Frances and Hal Linden. She was a dancer on Broadway when they met. The two were
married 52 years until her passing in 2010.

So what’s next for you? Can we look forward to more local stage appearances?
Yes! I am in talks to do a show at the Old Globe in San Diego, a wonderful theatre. As soon as I am able to discuss it, I’ll have more details to share.

Linden also continues to do various concert appearances across the country; you can also hear his still silky voice on his debut CD It’s Never Too Late, a diverse collection of Broadway and film tunes, classic pop songs, as well as jazz standards and favorites from the American Songbook.
You still have time to catch him in “The Fantasticks” at the Pasadena Playhouse until Sunday, October 2nd. For ticket information, visit