Archived entries for Pantages Theatre

Dancing Feet! (

42nd Street42nd Street hits the Pantages Theatre

Dancing Feet!

By Ken Werther

“Come and meet those dancing feet … on the avenue I’m taking you to … Forty-Second Street!” Theatre history was made on the evening of August 25, 1980 when this musical opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway. After only six preview performances, 42nd Street opened and ran for a whopping 3,486 performances. It won Tony Awards in 1981 for Best Choreography and Best Musical.

Based on the 1933 film, 42nd Street focuses on the efforts of a dictatorial Broadway director trying to mount a successful musical at the height of the Great Depression. How did the stage adaptation of 42nd Street make history? The Broadway opening night triumph was overshadowed by tragedy when, following a lengthy standing ovation, producer David Merrick announced that the director/choreographer Gower Champion had died that afternoon from a rare form of blood cancer. Merrick had managed to keep the news a secret from everyone until that moment at the curtain call.

A revival of 42nd Street opened on Broadway in 2001, won the Tony Award for Best Revival, and ran for 1,524 performances. I had the good fortune of handling publicity on the LA production in 1984 and on the touring version of the revival in 2003, so the show is very close to my heart. This sparkling song and dance extravaganza is not to be missed!

42nd Street” opens May 31st at the Pantages, for tickets and more information, click here.

Tragic Love! (

PhantomThe Phantom of the Opera (starring Cooper Grodin and Julia Udine) runs June 11–August 2 at the Pantages Theatre (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Tragic Love!

By Ken Werther

The Phantom of the Opera began its life in London in 1986 and is currently in its history-making 29th year. Opening in New York in 1988, it has become the longest running musical in Broadway history with 11,375 performances and counting. Phantom has been the Broadway musical against which all others are measured.

The Phantom of the Opera is a timeless story about undeniable obsession that could never die. Far beneath the majesty and splendor of the Paris Opera House hides the Phantom. Shamed by his physical appearance and feared by all, the love he holds for the beautiful Christine Daaé is so strong that ultimately even her heart cannot resist. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s mesmerizing score, Harold Prince’s now legendary direction, jaw-dropping scenery, and breathtaking special effects magically combine to bring this tragic love story to life.

Opening in Los Angeles in 1989, The Phantom of the Opera played at the Ahmanson Theatre for four-and-a-half years. It has since returned to LA multiple times at both the Ahmanson and Pantages Theatres, and this time around the show will also be making a stop at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa in August. It is estimated that Phantom has been seen by more than 140 million people. Wherever you are, the Phantom awaits!

For tickets at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood (June 11-Aug 2), click here. For tickets at Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa (August 5-16), click here.

Ready for Motown! (

Motown 4 Motown 3 Motown 2 Motown 1
Photo 1: Krisha Marcano (Florence Ballard), Allison Semmes (Diana Ross), and Trisha Jeffrey (Mary Wilson) in MOTOWN THE MUSICAL (Photo: Joan Marcus), Photo 2: Jarran Muse as Marvin Gaye and MOTOWN THE MUSICAL First National Tour cast (Photo: Joan Marcus), Photo 3: The Temptations MOTOWN THE MUSICAL First National Tour (Photo: Joan Marcus), Photo 4: Reed L Shannon as Michael Jackson (center) with the Jackson 5 MOTOWN THE MUSICAL First National Tour (Photo: Joan Marcus)


By Ken Werther
Photos By Joan Marcus

Get Ready Los Angeles! Here comes Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Martha and the Vandellas, The Marvelettes, Tammi Terrell, Edwin Starr, Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Jackson Five… all on the same stage! MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is the true story of the legendary sound that first hit the airwaves in 1959 and went on to change American culture forever. The National Tour of this smash hit Broadway show hits the Pantages Theatre this month and charts Motown founder Berry Gordy’s incredible journey from featherweight boxer to heavyweight music mogul.

MOTOWN THE MUSICAL tells the true American Dream story behind the hits as the Motown stable of stars fought against the odds, shattered barriers, and shaped our lives. The critics have called the show “stunning,” “jubilant,” “exhilarating,” “thrilling,” “irresistible,” “electrifying,” and “a blockbuster.” Time Out New York raved, “It sets the theatre on fire!” How else could you possibly describe a theatre experience that highlights such legendary songs as “My Girl,” “Where Did Our Love Go,” “War,” “What’s Going On,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “I Want You Back,” “Stop! In The Name of Love,” “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg,” “Get Ready,” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough?!” The show is jam packed with 40 in all. Directed by Charles Randolph-Wright, MOTOWN THE MUSICAL is based on Berry Gordy’s book “To Be Loved: The Music, The Magic, The Memories of Motown.” Opening on Broadway on April 14, 2013, MOTOWN THE MUSICAL played 738 performances before closing in January of this year.

Motown (the record company) was founded by Berry Gordy, Jr. on January 12, 1959, in Detroit, Michigan. During the 1960s, Motown and its subsidiary labels (including Tamla, Gordy, and Soul) were the most successful proponents of what came to be known as The Motown Sound, a style of soul music with a distinct pop influence. Motown achieved spectacular success for a small record company — 79 records in the Top Ten of the Billboard Hot 100 record chart between 1960 and 1969. Having coined the slogan The Sound of Young America, Motown’s acts enjoyed widespread popularity among black and white audiences alike. Of Motown’s cultural impact, the legendary Smokey Robinson said, “Into the ’60s, I was still not of a frame of mind that we were not only making music, we were making history. But I did recognize the impact because acts were going all over the world at that time. I recognized the bridges that we crossed, the racial problems and the barriers that we broke down with music. I recognized it because I lived it. I would go to the South in the early days of Motown and the audiences would be segregated. Then they started to get the Motown music and we would go back and the audiences were integrated and the kids were dancing together and holding hands.”

Through the years, a virtual treasure trove of artists have recorded for Motown. In addition to the acts already mentioned here, they include Mary Wells, Jr. Walker & The All Stars, The Spinners, Jimmy Ruffin, Shorty Long, The Originals, Rare Earth, Lionel Richie, The Commodores, Brian McKnight, Erykah Badu, DeBarge, Rick James, Teena Marie, The Dazz Band, Boyz II Men. The list goes on, and on, and on.

My favorite personal Motown memory — I saw Diana Ross and the Supremes in 1969  during their farewell tour. The group had become Motown’s most successful act and is to this day America’s most successful vocal group as well as one of the world’s best-selling girl groups of all time. I paid $5.50 for my ticket, and the opening act was Stevie Wonder! The following week, at the same venue, The Temptations headlined and the opening act was Gladys Knight and the Pips! Admission was the same $5.50, but I decided not to spend the money. What could I have been thinking?! The Sound of Young America is alive and well in MOTOWN THE MUSICAL.

MOTOWN THE MUSICAL plays the Pantages Theatre through June 7.