Theater Review: FOR THE LOVE OF A GLOVE (Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan Theater, Center For Inquiry West)

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by Tony Frankel on March 3, 2023

in Theater-Los Angeles


It is common knowledge in the theater world that the most difficult show to create is a musical. The second is a parody. But both together?And yet, success has arrived in Los Angeles with For the Love of a Glove: An Unauthorized Musical Fable About Michael Jackson’s Life As Told By His Glove. With an incredibly clever script by Julien Nitzberg, who also directs, we watch Michael’s journey beginning and ending in Neverland, his infamous home/compound, but only up to the mid-80s before the paparazzi joined the allegation circus. Most of us will never know the real truth about MJ’s life, so Nitzberg explains his development not just with facts that we know, but with some that we didn’t know: It seems a band of space-alien blood-sucking gloves crashed into Lake Michigan. You see, the Jackson brothers needed musical talent and they got that in exchange for their blood. The absurdity is so believable that I felt satisfied finally knowing what made MJ tick! By God, you’ll even find out where that famous crotch-grabbing came from. Underneath Nitzberg’s sassy lyrics and Nicole Morier, Drew Erickson and Max Townsley‘s ear-worm music (satirizing but lovingly emulating that era’s sound — including the violin plucks a la Jimmy Durante’s “Make Someone Happy”), there is a wry look at family abuse, racism, religion, the music industry, and the price of success.

Eric B Anthony

The tale begins in Indiana, where controlling disciplinarian father Joe (a funkily hysterical Pip Lilly) and Jehovah’s Witnesses’ matriarch Katherine (Suzanne Nichols) mold a confused band of boys, but none more so than the naïve Michael (the indefatigable dancer extraordinaire Eric B. Anthony who plays the pop star’s put-on childlike innocence beautifully). The jaw-droppingly hilarious number with KKK members and Barbershoppers in red-striped outfits answer the question, “What Is It About Indiana?” Then it’s off to The Jackson 5’s Motown years and Michael’s early solo career, usurped by Donny Osmond (Justin Anthony Long), who lets MJ in on a little secret: “What a Delight When You Turn White.” There are nods to future events, including accusations of child molestation that would rock the world a decade later, but this tale ends after the release of Thriller.

Eric B Anthony and Justin Anthony Long

The conceit is easier to swallow than MJ’s blood. Andrea Keller‘s set resembles a 1960s children’s television show with cartoonish flats, and the show utilizes realistic, life-size puppets (artists Robin Walsh and Ronald Binion are to thank for these hilarious monstrosities), operated by actors to play The Jackson 5, Donny Osmond, and Barry Gordy’s daughter Hazel (voiced and operated to youthful perfection by Daniele Gaither), who married Jermaine Jackson. Daniel Mills plays the business-savvy Gordy with enough power to light up a production of Dreamgirls). Even Corey Feldman (who’s almost TOO ripe for parody) makes an appearance, as well as those adorable, glove-shaped aliens that light up when they receive pleasure. Ann Closs-Farley’s costumes are killer with ostentatious replicas from 70s’ Superfly stylings to MJ’s space-age red-and-black leather coat in the 80s.

Andrew Ableson

When Andrew Ableson does his glove as a villainous Mr. Smith from Lost in Space, or when Katherine sings “Don’t Masturbate,” gospel-flailing around her kids’ bedroom preaching against sins of the palm with heavenly earnestness, I thought, My God, this show could easily go to New York, Off-Broadway or on. This send-up is far, far better than the current hot Off-Broadway ticket, Titanique, because it refuses to be puerile. It’s timeless in that Book of Mormon/Avenue Q vein, but a few issues need help: Some songs end far too soon (the accompaniment is taped), and the lyrics have imperfect rhymes sometimes. And as riotous and entertaining as this is, it starts to feel a bit long at nearly 2 and 1/4 hours. Working on a bigger stage than the tiny Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan Theater might open up the chances for Cris Judd to better-realize his clever choreographic numbers. And while I loved our glove narrator Thrihl-Lha (Patrick Batiste, offering terrific Michael-esque vocal delivery), I wondered if the show would feel tighter if  Nitzberg eschewed narration.

Whatever the future of this rascally, ribald, riotous, rewarding, refreshing godsend to L.A. theater, this musical comedy hit is playing right now in a tiny unassuming space. Catch it before the alien gloves descend upon Selena Gomez.

Eric B Anthony and Patrick Batiste

photos by Patrick Lee

For the Love of a Glove
Carl Sagan & Ann Druyan Theater, Center For Inquiry West
2535 W. Temple Street (@ Rampart) in Echo Park
Fri & Sat at 8
ends on March 8, 2023 EXTENDED to April 8, 2023
for tickets ($50-$60), visit GLOVE

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