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  • gilwilson 5:30 PM on February 1, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , james marsters, ,   

    She Stoops to Conquer By: Oliver Goldsmith (L.A. Theater Works) 

    She Stoops to Conquer9170561
    By: Oliver Goldsmith
    Performed by: Rosalind Ayres, Adam Godley, Julian Holloway, James Marsters, Ian Ogilvy, Joanne Whalley, Matthew Wolf
    Length: 1 hr and 51 mins
    Release date: 08-25-11
    Publisher: L.A. Theatre Works

    I just can’t get enough of these productions by L.A. Theatre works. They can take a live performance record the audio and release as audiobook without losing anything. Sure it’s nice to be able to watch the performers in action, especially this production’s star, James Marsters. I’ve enjoyed Marsters since back in the Buffy days, but more recently I’ve been enjoying his voice on James Butcher’s Harry Dresden novels he really brings those to life. So while looking at the L.A. Theatre works catalog I see him acting in a couple of the performances and I am eager to give them a listen.

    Back when I was in college getting one of my degrees in Theatre, we saw the play “She Stoops to Conquer.” I thought it was mildly funny at the time. I mean come on this takes the mistaken identity genre to a whole new level. Where the main characters Hastings and Marlow are tricked into believing the home of Mr. Hardcastle is an inn. Both behave badly and hilarity ensues. Okay like I said it was mildly funny.

    This performance is more than mildly funny, I actually laughed out loud several times during the nearly 2 hour performance. L.A. Theatre Works definitely knows the right cast to put into all of their recordings, but something about this one completely surprised me. I think the best part about this was that the actors weren’t necessarily known for comedy, making the “accidental” comedic occurrences even funnier. No one tried for the laugh, just let it happen. It worked. Have some fun and then let people know you listened to a stuffy play from the year 1773. It’ll make you appear more scholarly.

    While the mistaken identity part of the comedy is fun, this play teaches us a little something about class, greed and behavior versus appearance. Just enjoy.

    Publisher’s Summary:

    Starring James Marsters, this classic comedy of manners from 1773 is still widely performed and studied. Love, lies, and dysfunctional families. Sound like your last family gathering? Try this one on for laughs. Two randy young gents, Charles and George, set out to woo the alluring and upper-crust Kate and Constance. But inexperienced Charles is shy and clumsy around upper-class ladies, so it’s the barmaid who catches his eye. But is she really who she seems? Bawdy high-jinx, popped pretensions, and good dirty fun are the hallmarks of this romping frolic that’s kept audiences laughing for over two centuries.

    An L.A. Theatre Works full cast performance featuring (in alphabetical order): Rosalind Ayres as Mrs. Hardcastle; Adam Godley as Tony Lumpkin; Julian Holloway as Elder Marlow/Stingo; James Marsters as Charles Marlow; Christopher Neame as Roger; Paula Jane Newman as Bet Bouncer/Pimple; Ian Ogilvy as Mr. Hardcastle; Moira Quirk as Constance Neville; Darren Richardson as Diggory/Jeremy; Joanne Whalley as Kate Hardcastle; and Matthew Wolf as George Hastings. Directed by Martin Jarvis. Recorded before a live audience at the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, in June 2010.

    Public Domain (P)2011 L.A. Theatre Works

  • gilwilson 9:11 PM on December 29, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , james marsters, , , oliver goldsmith, she stoops to conquer,   

    “She Stoops to Conquer: or Mistakes of the Night” by Oliver Goldsmith 

    “She Stoops to Conquer: or Mistakes of the Night”
    by Oliver Goldsmith
    a full cast audio performance starring James Marsters, Joanne Whalley and Ian Ogilvy
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works (2010)
    Approx 2 hours

    Once again I’m going back for a visit to the classics, and this time a classic theatre performance from L.A. Theatre Works.   I originally sought out this audio performance because of James Marsters, I have recently become a fan of his, after listening to his narration of the Dresden Files series of books by Jim Butcher.  Marsters then started showing up in some of the TV programs I watch and well I’ve become somewhat of a fan.  I had listened to a couple of previous productions from L.A. Theatre Works and a couple of them featured Marsters, so I looked to find out what else he’d done with them.

    I remember reading this play back in college and just looking at it as just another play we have to read.  When reading and analyzing it I did find some of it humorous, but very little.  Now that I’ve heard this performance, I find it quite a bit more humorous.  The acting in this production really focuses on the fun parts of the play and with the freedom of not having to get graded on my analysis, I was able to enjoy it more.

    I think the acting is what made this even more fun the cast consists of: Rosalind Ayres as Mrs. Hardcastle, Adam Godley as Tony Lumpkin, Julian Holloway as Elder Marlow and Stingo, James Marsters as Charles Marlow, Christopher Neame as Roger, Paula Jane Newman as Bet Bouncer and Pimple, Ian Ogilvy as Mr. Hardcastle, Moira Quirk as Constance Neville, Darren Richardson as Diggory and Jeremy, Joanne Whalley as Kate Hardcastle, and Matthew Wolf as George Hastings.  While I was in this for the James Marsters performance, I can honestly say that all the actors performed so well that no one single person stood out and the production as a whole was a complete success.  So far all of the productions I’ve heard from LATW are perfect.  They put you right smack dab in the middle of the audience and you can’t help but enjoy these performances.

    This play is pretty much a comedy of manners, basically a play about the difference in classes, with the mistaken identities and the expected behaviors, the comedy comes from those acting out of their class.

    A man of wealth, Mr. Hardcastle arranges for his daughter Kate to meet Charles Marlow, the son of a wealthy Londoner, hoping the pair will marry. Marlow has a problem with women, it seems that when he’s speaking to those of the upper-class he is nervous and stammers and cannot look them in the eye, however the lower class women he has no problem talking with.

    When arriving in town Kate’s cousin Tony Lumpkin intercepts Marlow and sends him to Kate’s home, only Lumpkin tells Marlow it is an Inn and not their home.  Expecting the people of the house to be Innkeepers and servants Marlow treats them as such.  Mr. Hardcastle, unaware of the misunderstanding, takes offense, but Kate sees this as the opportunity to actually be able to talk with Marlow and avoid his nervousness, by pretending to be the barmaid.  During the night the whole mistaken identity and class wars create some good humor until finally someone arrives to straighten out the whole mess and those that are actually in love with each other can be open about their relationships.

    Bravo, LATW, on yet another fine production.

  • gilwilson 2:11 AM on October 6, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , james marsters, , , , ,   

    “Macbeth” by William Shakespeare 

    by William Shakespeare
    Multi-cast performance starring James Marsters
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works
    Approx 2 hours

    While getting my degree in Theatre from Southern Illinois University, I learned to appreciate the works of Shakespeare.   The first thing I learned is that the plays are meant to be performed not just read.  Once I started performing scenes from Shakespeare’s collection I saw how much fun and in depth the stories were.  Yes, even the tragedies were fun, from a performance perspective.  So now when I hear of students having to read Shakespeare I cringe a little knowing they may never learn to appreciate Shakespeare.  In comes  L.A. Theatre Works and their releasing in audiobook format theatrical performances.    I’ve had the chance to listen to several of these and, to be honest, I was leery at first.  I was thinking, how can you turn such a visually dependent medium into an adequate audio book?

    L.A. Theatre Works goes well beyond the adequate, and are able to produce superb audio versions of some great performances.  Most of this lies in the excellent production using sound effects that make sense in the right places and with even more excellent casting.  The many plays always feature accomplished actors, not just famous ones but ones that are capable of filling the role to perfection.  In the case of this release, James Marsters is cast in the lead as Macbeth, and just knocks it out of the park.  There is one scene where the ghost of Banquo sits in Macbeths chair at a dinner party and the issue is that Macbeth begins yelling at the spirit and the other members of the party don’t see the ghost.  In his vocal gymnastics alone on this recording, Marsters is able to explain to the listener that only he sees the ghost.  Great performance throughout by all the actors.

    As for the story of “Macbeth,”  this is one of Shakespeare’s shortest plays and carries with it some baggage.  “Macbeth” is considered a cursed play, so much so that theatre tradition does not allow one to mention the name of the play within a theatre,  many refer to it as “The Scottish Play” and when referring to the main characters, just call them “Mr. and Mrs. M.”  The reason behind this superstition goes back many years, the origin is that Shakespeare used some actual witches’ spells when writing it, and as revenge for giving out the secrets of the craft some real witches cursed every mention of the play.

    The play is about a General in the Scottish army who becomes king, but not in a traditional happy sort of way.  Two generals, Macbeth and Banquo are returning from a battle and stumble across three witches in the forest where the tell the two of their fortunes.  Macbeth will be king and Banquo will have his children for many ages become King.

    Putting the thought of becoming King into Macbeth’s head leads to the murder of King Duncan and the fall into madness that surrounds Macbeth.  Soon he must go to the witches again to find out more of his future.  This time around the witches tell him that no man born of a woman can kill him, leaving Macbeth with the false belief that he is invincible.  Tragedy ensues and another classic has been engulfed.  Enjoy this classic performed by wonderful cast.

  • gilwilson 11:36 PM on July 28, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , james marsters, , oscar wilde, the importance of being earnest,   

    “The Importance of Being Earnest” by Oscar Wilde 

    “The Importance of Being Earnest”
    by Oscar Wilde
    Multicast performance Featuring: James Marsters, Charles Busch, Emily Bergl, Neil Dickson, Jill Gascoine, Christopher Neame, & Matthew Wolf.
    Produced by L.A. Theatre Works (2009)
    Approx 2 hours

    There were three main reasons I was drawn to this audio book / audio drama.  The first was that the actor playing Jack/Earnest was James Marsters.  I have really enjoyed Marsters delivery on audio books before and have come to love his acting.  Second I have studied theater and one of my favorite plays is this one, I love the twists on words.  And finally, it was a L.A. Theatre Works production.  I recently listened to their production of “A Raisin in the Sun” and was impressed by how great their stage productions translated to audio book format without losing anything.

    L.A. Theater Works has a large catalog of plays that have been produced into audio book form and I know I’ll be going back for more, I was attracted to this because of James Marsters, but the other actors were hilarious and perfect to the roles.  The casting and direction of these plays is perfect as comes out in these releases.  The minor sound effects are heard and it sounds as if you are in the front row of the performance.  The audience response is even heard making this even more of a sitting-in-the-audience experience.

    The reason I like this play is the use of language.  The plays on words are fun and at times have a bit of a message for the audience.  Deep down the play demonstrates that over all we must all be honest.  Wilde pushes this idea through the English parlour type of a play where people aren’t who they seem to be.

    Jack tells his household that he is off to visit Earnest, his brother who is ill.  Earnest doesn’t exist but it gives Jack the excuse to leave home and get out of social events.  When Jack is off visiting Algie he goes by the name Earnest.  Jack confesses his alter ego to Algie and gives Algie an idea on how he can do the same.  Jack then meets Algie’s cousin Gwendolyn and falls in love, but she couldn’t love anyone other than someone named Earnest.  Jack goes back home and is determined to become christened to be Earnest, but first he tells everyone his brother has died.

    The death of Earnest is a big surprise, because Algie goes to visit Jack under the guise of Jack’s brother Earnest.  Algie falls in love with Jack’s ward, Cecily, but Cecily would only marry someone named Earnest, Algie now makes arrangements to be christened.

    In the big scene real names are revealed including the surprise that Jack is not who he thinks he is.  All in all the mixed identities are fun but the real fun is the use of language.  With this play Wilde paved the way for future comedies in this genre including Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  Great way to have fun for a couple of hours, just pick up this audio book from L.A. Theatre Works.

  • gilwilson 7:45 PM on March 23, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , james marsters, , , , side jobs, ,   

    “Side Jobs” by Jim Butcher 

    “Side Jobs”
    by Jim Butcher
    read by James Marsters
    Produced by Penguin Audio
    approx. 13 hours

    While still rushing with adrenaline from the huge cliff-hanger at the end of the last Dresden book, “Changes, ” I’m looking everywhere I can for my Harry Dresden fix.  If you haven’t read any of Jim Butcher’s series, “The Dresden Files,” you are seriously lacking in your fun, exciting detective story romp through the supernatural reading.

    Harry Dresden is a wizard and a private detective protecting the city of Chicago.  His adventures have taken him through the land of the Faeries, off fighting werewolves and vampires and even Gruffs (you’ll have to read about that one).  His support staff consists of some college students who spend their evenings as werewolves protecting their neighborhood, Karrin Murphy at first a lieutenant for Chicago P.D. Special Investigations, but later demoted to Sargeant,  Thomas his half-brother and White Court vampire, Bob a spirit of a wizard locked within a skull (the wizarding world version of a computer), Mouse a giant Temple Dog, Mister an oversized cat, and on occasion, Gentleman John Marcone Chicago’s biggest mob boss.

    With that team you’d think Harry would be able to take on anything, well in general he can, but for the most part it’s his luck that doesn’t hold out.

    “Side Jobs” is an anthology book set in Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files series.  Most of the stories were published in other anthologies but finally here they are in one book, in chronological order of appearance in the time stream of the Dresden Files books.   I had read many of these before because seeing a Jim Butcher story in an anthology, I had to read them at the time of release.  There are a couple of stories that were only available on the website and a new one that takes place just after the previous book in the series.  This collection contains the following short stories:

    “Restoration of Faith,” takes place before “Storm Front and originally published on Jim-Butcher.com. This story tells a little of a backstory on Dresden as he was working to get his private investigator’s license.  Harry rescues a little girl from a troll under a bridge.

    “Vignette” takes place between Death Masks and Blood Rites and was originally published on Jim-Butcher.com.  This one is a very short  fun story about Bob and Harry trying to write the perfect yellow pages ad.

    “Something Borrowed” was originally published in “My Big Fat Supernatural Wedding,” and takes place between “Dead Beat” and “Proven Guilty,” is about Billy and Georgia’s (werewolves that help Harry from time to time) wedding day.  Harry saves Georgia from a faerie and in doing so wrecks their wedding day, but they do live happily ever after.

    “It’s My Birthday Too” was originally published in “Many Bloody Returns” and takes place between “White Night” and “Small Favor” and depicts a day when Harry is trying to give his vampire half-brother, Thomas, a birthday gift but ends up saving Thomas and some “larpers” from a Black Court Vampire.

    “Heorot” was originally published in “My Big Fat Supernatural Honeymoon” takes place between “White Night” and “Small Favor” and is the story of Harry rescuing a missing bride with the help of Miss Gard, a Valkyrie and agent of Gentleman Johnny Marcone.  This one mixes in some Norse Mythology into the Dresden world.

    “Day Off ” was originally published in “Blood Lite” and takes place between “Small Favor” and “Turn Coat”.  This is a very funny story in which Jim Butcher explores the bad luck Dresden faces when trying to take a day off.  Harry’s apprentice is blowing up lab, the werewolves have fleas and a wannabe wizard is bombing the house.  “It’s my day off!”

    “Backup: A Story of the Dresden Files” (Mike Mignola illustrations from the first edition not included)  novelette from Harry’s brother, Thomas’ POV, originally published by Subterranean Press, takes place between “Small Favor” and “Turn Coat.”  Harry is being used by an ancient evil, and Thomas must put a stop to it without him noticing.  This story explores more of the “Oblivion Wars” which have only been mentioned in  earlier books.

    “The Warrior” was originally published in “Mean Streets” and takes place between “Small Favor” and “Turn Coat” reveals what happens to the Carpenter family after the events of “Small Favor.”  Michael Carpenter was a Knight of the cross, weilding the sword Amoracchius to battle for God.  At the end of “Small Favor” Michael was battered to the point where he lost function of one of his eyes and some limbs.  Michael will still battle when his family is threatened but will the take up the sword again?

    “Last Call” was originally published in “Strange Brew” takes place between “Small Favor” and “Turn Coat” and tells when Harry takes on the darkest of dark powers–the ones who dare to mess with this favorite beer.  Someone is lacing Mac’s Home brew with a psycho-control drug, and Harry must stop them.

    “Love Hurts” was originally published in “Songs of Love and Death: Tales of Star-Crossed Love” and  takes place between “Turn Coat” and “Changes.”  Harry and Murphy investigate a series of love spells with deadly consequences.  This also shows another side to the Harry / Murphy relationship.

    And finally a new novelette exclusive to the anthology: “Aftermath” which takes place 45 minutes after “Changes” and is told from Karrin Murphy’s point of view. She must help find a kidnapped werewolf.  All through this story Murphy is using what she has learned from Harry while at the same time mourning his “possible” death.

    If you haven’t read any Dresden novels you may want to pick this one up, as it is a great introduction to the fun to be had.   While I’m recommending, if you are into audiobooks, I highly recommend this in audiobook form.  As are all the Dresden Files audiobooks, it is read by James Marsters (you know, Spike from the Buffy the Vampire Hunter Series).  Marsters voice captures the wit and wisdom of Harry Dresden, and being that all the novels are told in first person you feel as though Harry is talking directly to you.  If the Sci-Fi channel would have cast Marsters as the lead in the short lived Dresden Files series, I think they series would have done much better….just sayin’.

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