The combination of food and entertainment isn’t particularly new, but doing both things well at any given time, and adapting to the needs of the modern patron, is an art. Rockwell: Table & Stage has taken the concept of dinner theatre, updated it, and yet not strayed too far from what constitutes a wholly comfortable and satisfying experience. Chef Wayne Elias, who is the undisputed wizard behind the grand success of Rockwell, has created a mouth-watering menu and mobilized a team who ensure that the cuisine and crafted cocktails balance seamlessly with the myriad of integrated stage productions.
While several of these shows are presented by For the Record Live – which pays homage to the characters and soundtracks of famous film directors – several of them are inclusive of the very popular Unauthorized Musical Parody Series. In effect, the UMPO series, as it’s known for short, has hysterically satirized movies with some of the greatest pop-culture impact, including “The Devil Wears Prada,” “The Big Lebowski,” and “Hocus Pocus,” to name a few. Performed in the midst of the diners – not only on a conventional stage, but on a walkway, and in between strategically placed nooks, the audience feels as if it is a part of a rip-roaringly eccentric adventure.
This holiday season, Rockwell has transformed its stage area (there is also a patio for dinner-only guests), into a glowing and illuminated mirage that is cozily surreal, as if it were a snapshot from a revered childhood. And in fact it’s from “Home Alone,” or more precisely, the“The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Home Alone,” which will play through December 31st.The musical not only takes many back, but offers irreverently guffawing fun, like a Christmas gathering gone felicitously wrong. And, when complemented with selections from Chef Elias’ hearty list of appetizing items, there is no better place to experience diversion and nourishment.
The Show – “The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Home Alone” (based on the December 9th performance)
Written by John Hughes and released in November 1990, “Home Alone” became a holiday classic almost immediately, immortalizing Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Catherine O’Hara, Daniel Stern, and John Candy. It transmuted a child’s worst nightmare into a comic triumph, giving rise to a multitude of famous moments and one-liners.
“The Unauthorized Musical Parody of Home Alone,” on the other hand — which is directed by John Flynn, written by Executive Producer Kate Pazakis & Ray Wetmore, and assisted by the tremendous musical direction of Gregory Nabours (who also doubles as the pianist) — takes the mythical film to another plane. With a band of four and a cast of approximately eight, it spotlights the head of the troupe, Caitlin Gallogly, an otherwise long-haired brunette, who, with short blond wig in tow, believably gender-bends to play Kevin McCallister. Gallogly does a skilled job of getting the audience involved with her delightfully adolescent charm and extraordinary singing. And as is par for the course for these shows, which fuses nostalgia with mostly contemporary music, Gallogly impresses with a plethora of hit songs, including “Let it Go” from “Frozen,” and “Mr. Independent” (a play on “Miss Independent”) by Kelly Clarkson.
Additionally, Peter Allen Vogt (Buzz McCallister) of “Hannah Montana” and “Parks and Recreation” fame is very funny as the baseball-cap wearing brother of the protagonist. Vogt has a knack for emoting a blameless innocence that evokes much laughter and works exceedingly well within the realm of the absurd. Vogt also shares a gut-busting chemistry with Marla Mindelle (Kate McCallister), who obviously enjoy each other’s ingenuity and ability to improvise on the spot (i.e., when her character threatens exaggerated malice if his Buzz fails to help find Kevin).
The Broadway-approved Mindelle is also a stunning singer in her own right, as in when she performs “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey and adds her own vocal flourishes. What’s more, her duet with Gallogly for Adele’s “Hello” – specifically during the Kate-Kevin telephone scene – earns a well-deserved applause because it is both riotous and can be taken seriously as a pitch-accurate performance.
Moreover, as Harry and Marv, Joey Bybee, and Spencer Strong Smith, respectively, perform the two-man bandit comedy routine with great timing. As such, Bybee imbues his Harry with an excitable feverishness that is fun to watch, and Smith is adept at interacting with his surroundings, even when he sings a baritone-rich rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” (Hague, Geisel).
Alex Mohajer, who is a lawyer by day, and a triple-threat performer by night, portrays the misunderstood, shovel-wielding Old Man Marley with enjoyably hyperbolic facial expressions, before doing a dramatic 180-degree turn toward the end to play a sweet, genuine elder.
Finally, Misha Reeves and Zach Zagoria are the consummate supporting cast members, as they change costumes numerous times over the course of the show to step into a variety of roles. Reeves, specifically, shines as the store clerk who makes inane conversation with Kevin (Gallogly), and Zagoria is most memorable for his depiction of an impudent and frantic airline employee who attempts to answer concerned mother Kate’s (Mindelle) questions.
As with other well-received shows from the Unauthorized Musical Parody Series, its version of “Home Alone” celebrates the past with present-day witticisms, boasting a fantastic cast and band who make sure to hit all the right points.
The Menu at Rockwell: Table & Stage
For any culinary odyssey to be top-notch, the ambiance must positively engage and complement all of the senses, including taste. Rockwell: Table & Stage, with its varied layout — on the patio and in the stage room — indulges both seekers of the tranquil outdoors and of the indoors where spirited shows can be experienced.
The scenery can be best described as a nexus between style and coziness, as can the motley menu items which not only satiate one’s contemporary cravings, but are redolent of the flavors we have grown up with and loved the most. The only difference is that the tantalizing image of what we expect in our minds is splendidly exceeded in both presentation and palate-agreeableness.
The entirety of the menu at Rockwell is comprised of something for everyone, having been expertly carried out to fruition by Chef Elias and his team, who have added a chic wrinkle to selections that are rife with pure joy. The double-sided, streamlined menu has hit after hit, no wasted choices, and is more or less categorized by sharables (or appetizers), plates (or entrées), flat bread pizza, soup/salads/burgers, alcohol (divided into crafted cocktails, champagne/wine, and beer), and lastly dessert.
And while every choice is a winner, perhaps some are more emblematic of the heart and hearth of the holidays in how they are so comfortingly decadent. Beginning with the nine sharable options, one may want to splurge on the Filet Mignon Tacos (blue corn tortillas, yellow pico de gallo, guacamole, queso fresco), which, with their delightfully crispy shells, and tenderly juicy steak pieces disseminated amid a mini garden heaven, spark a smile in between the gratifying chewing. In addition, the Skillet Mac & Cheese (with applewood-smoked bacon, broccoli, and pretzel crust) is an enriching delight, where one is suddenly free from all worry, and without a care in the world, via a luxurious helping of each creamy bite elevated by the substantive texture of the broccoli and crunchiness of the bacon.
Furthermore, if one is in the mood for a more traditionally filling entrée with fantastic flourishes, the chicken and fish plates would fulfill such a desire. The Grilled Rosemary-Garlic Chicken Breast, for example is wholesomely whimsical due to its accented citrus (meyer lemon preserves) that goes so well with the delicate fluffiness of the chicken. The asparagus, too, has just the right amount of salted crisp to balance the slight sweetness of the preserves. Of the fish options, the Pan Saute Lake Superior Whitefish might pique one’s interest with its spectacularly savoriness and astounding freshness – seemingly fished from the lake and brought to the table on the same day. Not to mention, the particularly zestful saffron potatoes, spinach, and mushrooms make this dish about a refreshing naturality to go with a hint of thrill via the caper pecan gremolata.
The Wood Stone Flatbreads (pizza) choices, of which there are four, are baked with raised stakes and charming ingredients. For ravenous appetites, the “Carne” (chorizo, prosciutto, Italian sausage, mozzarella) selection is a sumptuously toothsome prize, fit for a King or Queen. Likewise, an “Au Poivre” Burger (100% grass-fed beef, baby gem lettuce, heirloom tomato, and Worcestershire-pepper sauce) satisfies the need for a state-of-the-art classic, but in a way that is responsibly conscientious.
On the lighter, but still abundant, side is the must-have French Onion soup that is presented with billowing love from the oven – the gruyere cheese spilling out with the most artistic flare. Being that it is united in scrumptious matrimony with the soaked bread, by way of hot syrupy spoonfuls, the soup is unequivocally a wintry phenomenon.
Of course, Rockwell also has a veritable smörgåsbord of refreshing alcoholic beverages, including 16 bottled beer selections, and at least 20 different types of wine or champagne by the glass. Since this season is about toasting in a celebratory fashion with friends and family, the latter may be just what Santa ordered – especially the lavishly sparkling Veuve Clicquot “Yellow Label,” the exhilaratingly full-bodied Moet & Chandon “Rose Imperial,” and if feeling regally fanciful, the Moet & Chandon “Dom Perignon.”
The 20 ingeniously crafted cocktails – a bargain at only $13 apiece, suffuse the sensibilities with a divine and distinctive deliciousness. Three of the drinks that elicit gustatory merriment are the “Birddog Peach Lemonade” (Birddog Peach Whiskey, Cointreau Noir, and fresh lemon), “The Drunkard Martini” (Absolut Acai, Limoncello, fresh blackberries, lemon, and Triple sec), and the “Outward Bound” (Don Julio Tequila, Pama liquer, fresh jalapeño, and agave nectar). The first one blends the pleasantness of a potpourri with a tinge of boldness; the second offers a fruit-centric symphony that is as addictive as a cherished piece of candy might be; and the third is perhaps most surprising with a pinch of citrus and a kick of salubrious spice to kindle the taste buds.
Finally, as is tradition for the culmination of any meal – especially the live-and-let-live holidays – it is incumbent to have desserts that leave a lasting impression. And, depending on mood, there are at least six to choose from. One is the crispy-surfaced Patron XO Espresso Crem Brulee, which is coolly stimulating with its smooth custard; and the other is arguably the most popular (and for good reason) – the Skillet-Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie (with vanilla bean ice cream and chocolate caramel sauce) which is a celestial experience to the extent that it puts all other iterations of this treat to shame.
Overall, Rockwell: Table & Stage, led by its intrepid Chef Wayne Elias, provides the ultimate in food and entertainment for both the traditional and modern individual in the most comforting way possible. There is undoubtedly a pleasing time to be had at this establishment for the sake of the holidays or simply for the joy of living.
Rockwell: Table & Stage is located on 1714 N Vermont Ave in Los Angeles, CA
For more information, visit rockwell-la.com or call (323) 669-1550