Review: Los Otros at Everyman Theatre

By Jason Crawford Samios-Uy

Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission

When people who come from different walks of life collide, directly or indirectly, one wonders how the two came together. What journey did they take to place one in the other’s life? Everyman Theatre’s latest offering, the premiere of Los Otros, with Book & Lyrics by Ellen Fitzhugh and Music by Michael John LaChiusa, Direction by Noah Himmelstein, and Music Direction by Jon Kalbfleisch gives us a glimpse into that journey and of the steps two characters take through life to cross each other’s path. I’d like to, if I may, give major kudos to Everyman Theatre, as well, for stepping out of their “comfort zone” of strictly plays and producing not only a musical but a brand new, commissioned musical, at that!

Judy McLane and Philip Hernandez. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Los Otros revolves around Lillian, a white woman, and Carlos, a Hispanic man, who both live in California and is told in a series of vignettes composed of their memories, reflections, and discoveries about themselves and the world around them between the years of 1938 and 1995. According to Everyman Theatre, “Inspiring, energetic and emotionally charged, this semi-autobiographical work captures a universal story of interconnectedness, love, risk and revelation through the lens of two people’s lives.”

Director Noah Himmelstein, Composer Michael John LaChiusa, Writer/Lyricist Ellen Fizhugh. Credit: Kirstin Pagan

The story of Los Otros itself is engaging and I feel for these characters and am genuinely interested in their lives and the stories they tell. The book by Ellen Fitzhugh is authentic and raw with simple storytelling that makes this piece so charming. For spanning so many years, it’s organized and easy to follow and the ending is certainly fitting and satisfying. Michael John LaChiusa’s music leaps off the page and is absolutely appropriate for this piece. I appreciate the hints of different styles representing different eras and though some of the melodies seem a little elementary, overall, the score is pleasing and well thought-out.

For as good as the music and book are, Lyrics, also by Fitzhugh, though good, in general, could use a little more editing. At points it seems Fitzhugh is trying too hard for a rhyme and over-telling the story through song. A couple of the pieces, such as “Arturo,” which is a still a good song, had many parts that sound more like a recitative that can be been spoken rather than trying to throw it into a song. That being said, Music & Lyrics, aside from a few minor, specific criticisms that may smooth out over time, work very well together for this piece as a whole.

Judy McLane. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Once again, Everyman Theatre has no disappointed with their beautiful set. Set Design by Daniel Ettinger is simple and minimal, yet elegant and appropriate for a production of compiled vignettes. Each character has his or her own main space on either side of the stage with shared space in the center. The use of sliding lattice and slight levels makes the setting interesting without taking away from the action of the piece. This is yet another fantastic set design from Daniel Ettinger.

Philip Hernandez and Judy McLane. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Lighting and Sound Design by Nancy Schertler and Ken Travis, respectively, also adds to this piece and does not distract from it. Both work in tandem to set the mood of each vignette and brings the audience into the piece subtly guiding the emotion of the action onstage.

David Burdick’s Costume Design is minimal, as it should be for a piece such as this, and each character is costumed befittingly with an wardrobe that is simple, but versatile enough add a piece or take away a piece to represent the different eras of the five decade timeline.

Music Direction is tackled by Jon Kalbfleisch and I would imagine that taking the musical reigns of a brand new piece can be challenging, even daunting, but if it is, Kalbfleisch does an exquisite job. Under his direction, the vocal performances and orchestra were well-rehearsed, giving us a superb final product.

Philip Hernandez. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Everyman Theatre’s new Associate Artistic Director, Noah Himmelstein, takes the reigns of this production and not only took on Direction of this new and re-imagined piece, but also had a hand in development. His vision is unpretentious, but innovative and effective. His vision is evident and he handles the material nicely and makes it relevant for today’s social and cross-cultured environment. The story is told clearly and the characters are precise making for an enjoyable and enlightening evening of theatre.

Both Judy McLane and Philip Hernandez, both experienced, veteran actors of stage and screen do an impeccable job bringing these characters to life and embodying them completely. Their performances are absolutely engaging and their storytelling is top notch. The connection between these two characters is gradual and clear and both McLane and Hernandez follow this connection at and equal pace impressively reaching the climax seamlessly and simultaneously.

Philip Hernandez. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Philip Hernandez takes on the role of Carlos, who goes on a journey of sexual identity, defining and finding love, and honoring culture and Hernandez plays it near flawlessly. He has a strong, confident presence and seems to really understand his character. Vocally, he gives an admirable performance with a clear voice that resonates beautifully throughout the theatre. Though, at times, the performance seemed a bit (just a bit) forced, his gradual change in demeanor during his storytelling of his childhood through adulthood is seamless and one is brought into an immersed in the story rather than just sitting on the outside listening making for a commendable and impressive performance.

Judy McLane. Credit: ClintonBPhotography

Judy McLane as Lillian is an absolute joy to watch. She gives an outstanding, natural performance with an exceptional ability to tell a story. McLane presents the authenticity of her character tastefully but with a raw, unabashed undertone throughout the entire production. Life has thrown some curve balls at Lillian and McLane portrays it near perfectly. Her vocal performance is outstanding and strong even while smoothly (and brilliantly) acting her way through her songs. Overall, she gives a solid and remarkable performance.

Final thought… Los Otros at Everyman Theatre is basically a poignant coming-of-age tale spanning many decades and two different cultures. The simple storytelling is what makes this piece work so well and the music is fresh with hints of each decade it represents though the lyrics are a bit hokey and elementary, at times, while at other times, too much. The script is light as the concentration is on the music, but it is engaging and commanding. The journey these characters take us on is mixed with sadness, happiness, smooth sailing, and bumps in the road, but the ending of this story is worth the traveling. It’s always a pleasure and a privilege great to see new and re-imagined works at our larger small theatres in Baltimore and Everyman Theatre is to be commended for their work with this piece. This is definitely a production worthy of your time and consideration!

This is what I thought of Everyman Theatre’s production of Los Otros… What did you think? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Los Otros will play through April 23 at Everyman Theatre, 315 West Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD. For Tickets, call the box office at 410-752-2208 or purchase them online.

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PRESS RELEASE: Los Otros Premiere Brings New Musical to Everyman Theatre from Tony Award Nominated Creative Team

everyman-theatre-logo

Newly Commissioned Reworking Explores Cross-Cultural Connections

Baltimore, MD – Everyman Theatre presents the Baltimore/DC Premiere of Los Otros, a timely new reworking of the musical from Tony Award nominees Michael John LaChiusa (music) and Ellen Fitzhugh (book and lyrics). Los Otros is currently in rehearsal and runs from March 22 through April 23, 2017.

Following its 2012 debut at the Mark Taper Forum, this compelling new reimagining is the result of an Everyman-commissioned workshop this past fall in New York City. Infused with compassionate, cross-cultural understanding, Los Otros bursts to life with an immersive set design, a vibrant score and two affecting lead performances – nearly entirely sung – from Broadway vets Judy McLane (Mamma Mia!) and Philip Hernandez (Kiss of the Spider Woman), backed by a live on-stage instrumental ensemble.

Through a series of beautiful and intimate vignettes, two Californians, Lillian and Carlos, reflect on profound moments from the past in which their individual experiences (as a white woman and Hispanic man) are linked by a collective sense of “otherness.” Juxtaposing such familiar human tensions as past/present, memory/mysticism and cultural/sexual identity, director Noah Himmelstein and musical director Jon Kalbfleisch command a production that is at once quietly perceptive and startlingly relevant in the context of today’s real-world social climate. Inspiring, energetic and emotionally charged, this semi-autobiographical work captures a universal story of interconnectedness, love, risk and revelation through the lens of two people’s lives.

“Ellen and Michael John are two of the most extraordinary thinkers in musical storytelling,” said Himmelstein. “The imaginative structure and near-cinematic breadth of Los Otros has inspired a visual design that echoes the experience of both characters, physically transforming as their stories unfold.”

“Commissioning this new version of Los Otros speaks to Everyman Theatre’s ardent belief in supporting important new work,” said Founding Artistic Director Vincent M. Lancisi. “Los Otros represents a profound investment in Ellen and Michael John’s creation, and the culmination of an intensive, ongoing collaboration between two great artists and this institution.”

los-otros-logoLos Otros is the first production directed by Noah Himmelstein under his new title of Associate Artistic Director at Everyman Theatre. A native of Baltimore, Noah previously directed the critically acclaimed production of An Inspector Calls during Everyman’s 2015/16 season. Mr. Himmelstein’s recent credits also include directing Andrew Lippa’s I Am Anne Hutchinson/I Am Harvey Milk at the Strathmore Center with Kristin Chenoweth, in addition to earlier incarnations of the work at Lincoln Center and in San Francisco and Los Angeles. He also recently directed Jonathan Tolins’ play The Forgotten Woman at Bay Street Theatre, Bleeding Love at the Fredericia Theatre in Denmark and the premiere of Michael Korie’s opera Positions 1956 in Washington, DCHe is a former assistant director to James Lapine and Bartlett Sher and a graduate of Emerson College.

Composer Michael John LaChiusa’s career includes multiple Tony Award nominations. His many scores include The Wild Party, Marie Christine, Hello Again, Giant, First Lady Suite, First Daughter Suite and See What I Wanna See. Lyricist and book writer Ellen Fitzhugh is the lyricist behind Grind on Broadway, several off-Broadway musicals, including Paper Moon, Herringbone, and Don Juan DeMarco and Paradise Found in London

Judy McLane (Lillian), whose Broadway credits include Kiss of the Spider WomanAspects of Love and Chess, co-stars as Lillian in Los Otros, her first Everyman Theatre production. After starring as Tanya in Mamma Mia! for nearly eight years, Ms. McLane stepped into the lead in the long-running ABBA tuner as Donna Sheridan in 2012, a role she played until the show’s run on Broadway ended in 2015. She received critical acclaim for her performance as Vienna in Johnny Guitar off-Broadway (Drama Desk Nomination and a Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance in the Theater). Most recently, she starred as Diana in Next to Normal at the Pioneer Theater.

Philip Hernandez (Carlos), who first appeared on Broadway in the original cast of the Tony Award-winning musical Kiss of the Spider Woman, co-stars as Carlos in Los Otros, his Everyman Theatre debut. He is the only man in Broadway history to play both Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert in Les Miserables. Mr. Hernandez played opposite Marc Anthony and Ruben Blades in the original Broadway cast of Paul Simon’s The Capeman. His career goes beyond Broadway, having sung with symphony orchestras throughout the U.S. and recorded a Latin jazz album with a big band.

McLane and Hernandez have previously appeared together in Kiss of the Spider Woman on Broadway and in Man of LaMancha at Paper Mill Playhouse.

Tickets for Los Otros are now on sale online (www.everymantheatre.org), by phone (410.752.2208), or at the Everyman Theatre Box Office (315 W. Fayette Street, Baltimore, MD 21201). Two-play subscription packages are also available, and include the upcoming Resident Company production of Noises Off (May 17 through June 18, 2017).

Event Listings

Pay-What-You-Can Performance

March 19, 2017 at 7:00 PM

March 21, 2017 at 7:30 PM

TNT: Theatre Night for Teens

March 21, 2017 at 6:00 PM

Students in grades 9-12 can enjoy dinner by Two Boots Pizza, an artist meet-and-greet, the play, and post-show discussion and dessert. Tickets: $10 each.

Salon Series: Women’s Voices: The Language Archive

March 27, 2017 (Cocktails at 6:00 PM; Performance at 7:00 PM)

A reading of Julia Cho’s The Language Archive, a heartfelt comedy exploring the power of words and the capacity of language to fail or save us. Tickets: $15 each ($5 for students).

Taste of Everyman: California Bounty

April 6, 2017 at 6:00 PM

Mix and mingle with other theatre lovers during a pre-show social, this month featuring California wines paired with hors d’oeuvres by The French Kitchen. Tickets: $60 each for show and event.

World of the Play

April 8, 2017 at 5:00 PM

Take part in an in-depth panel discussion on the themes and topics of the show, hosted by Marc Steiner (WEAA’s The Marc Steiner Show). Tickets: $5 each (free for subscribers).

Cast Conversations

April 13, 2017 at 9:30 PM

Talk about the play with the members of the cast after the show. Free.

About Everyman Theatre

Everyman Theatre is a professional Equity theatre company celebrating the actor, with a Resident Company of artists from the Baltimore/DC area. Founded in 1990 by Vincent M. Lancisi, the theatre is dedicated to engaging the audience through a shared experience between actor and audience seeking connection and emotional truth in performance. Everyman is committed to presenting high quality plays that are affordable and accessible to everyone. The theatre strives to engage, inspire and transform artists, audiences and community through theatre of the highest artistic standards and is committed to embodying the promise of its name, Everyman Theatre.

Los Otros is executive produced by Susan W. Flanigan. Additional support is provided by Producers’ Circle donors: Beth Goldsmith, Gina & Dan Hirschhorn, George Roche, Shen Family Foundation, The Stockman Family Foundation, and Lawrence Yumkas & Miriam Fisher. The 16/17 Season is generously sponsored by LifeBridge Health and Neil & Ellen Meltzer. Everyman Theatre’s Pay-What-You-Can nights are supported by Dr. E. Lee & Bea Robbins. Everyman Theatre is proud to have The Baltimore Sun Media Group and WYPR Season Media Sponsors. MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to non-profit organizations, units of government, colleges and universities for arts activities. Funding for the Maryland State Arts Council is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

Everyman Theatre is a proud member of the Bromo Tower Arts and Entertainment District and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance.

Vincent M. Lancisi is the Founding Artistic Director of Everyman Theatre; Jonathan K. Waller is the Managing Director. For information about Everyman Theatre, visit www.everymantheatre.org or call 410.752.2208.