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Greg Magnuson - Actor/Musician/Composer/Writer
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Gangster and the Cradle Rockers
by Veronica Bennett
This Hollywood saga at a glance may appear cliché, if it weren’t so darned true.
Drawing from the music and lyrics of her deceased son, Donnie, Louise Newmark has written a moving drama playing at The art/works Theatre. Directed by Newmark and Richard A. Steel, Gangster and the Cradle Rockers plays out the story of a young musician’s hustle and flow in Hollywood.
Gigs at the Troubadour, drug connections in Topanga Canyon, and recording sessions in town are all woven together recreating the climate of Hollywood in the early ‘80s. The songs are not forced; they evolve organically within the context of the situations of the characters’ lives. This is a Brechtian technique that Newmark and Steel use throughout.
Greg Magnuson (our “Hunk of the Month”) is a convincing Johnny, playing guitar and singing. Dean Wood on drums plays two roles, as does Jeff Hall on bass. Due to the strength of the cast and updated arrangements, the original rock tunes, written by Donnie Newmark, stand the test of time. The two female actors sing back-up. No tracks are used.
As Johnny, Magnuson is charismatic and believable. He resists the temptation to slip into melodrama as violent scenes accelerate. This is fortunate, since he is in every scene. Starr, the female lead, is played by spirited singer/actress Fri Forjindam, who is making her LA debut from West Africa. She sings the rock tunes with commitment and style. Robert Factor plays George, the soft-spoken drug dealer, in a vile portrayal.
Darin Nathan provides some comic moments, and Deborah Wood and Dean Wood are featured in a vignette of a Greek inspired play. Johnny’s end is staged with a quiet sensitivity, as the backup singers sing the story within a Greek choral chant.
September 9 & 10th and 16th & 17th Saturdays @ 8 pm, Sundays @ 7 pm, $20. (Stud, Sen, Group discs.)The art/works Theatre at 6569 Santa Monica Bl, Hollywood, 626-683-9094.