Since being in LA, I thought I’d look for events online. I didn’t really know exactly what I was looking for, but there are a few apps that helped narrow my search down by date or type of event. I referenced Eventbrite in a previous post, but this time I went with Groupon.
I stumbled upon a Todrick Hall show titled Straight Outta Oz. I’m a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz, and I watched Straight Out of Compton and enjoyed it. So I thought this would be an interesting concept. Instead of Googling his show, I just looked up Todrick Hall’s YouTube videos. He is famous for his singing, which I knew. The more I watched his popular videos, the more I was intrigued. So I bought a Groupon ticket to the show.
It was appearing at the Saban Theater, which I also knew nothing about. So naturally, I researched that as well. Really, I did it to understand the location so I could figure out parking, but I also wanted to know how to dress since this was my first show in LA. I had been to shows in New York City and Charleston before, so naturally I thought I should dress up for the show. That’s what you do in major cities. Spoiler alert: this assumption does not apply to LA. More on that later.
So I decided, let’s make an afternoon of this. First, I found parking via my favorite parking app called BestParking. It led me to a garage that was not filled very much at all, open until 11pm, and had green/red lights to signify that a parking spot was full or open. I can imagine during busy times, that would come in handy tremendously. It was one block from the theater and half a block from the restaurant where I was going to eat.
Near the theater there are little restaurants on S. La Cienega Blvd. I settled on a small Italian restaurant called Tutt’a Post’ Trattoria. At first I couldn’t find it, and had to call the restaurant for them to describe exactly where it was. Eventually the man on the phone literally walked out of the restaurant onto the sidewalk and waved until I saw him. Slightly embarrassed because normally my sense of direction is really good, I noticed the thing that threw me off was the Subway.
My reservation was at 5:00pm because the doors for the show opened at 7:00pm. Thinking I was giving myself a good amount of time on a Saturday in Beverly Hills, I was not expecting the incredible service at the restaurant that I received. It was most in part to the fact that I was the only person in the restaurant at that time, so I literally had the entire staff working for just me. I ended up going off of the menu, which I also never do because I used to work in the restaurant industry and I know that is frowned upon a lot of the time. I was craving pesto pasta, so I asked if they could do that, which they could, and they asked me which type of noodle I would prefer. I just went with their regular spaghetti, and it was a great idea because my craving was fulfilled.
After, I realized I still had about an hour to kill before the doors opened. So I sat a little while longer at the restaurant, and they were fine with that because again, nobody was really in the restaurant. If it had been busy, I wouldn’t have sat there because usually servers are working for tables and tips. I also tipped well for the extra time.
On a side note regarding tipping, I have two general guides that determine how I tip. The first is that I’m Asian, and there is a stereotype of Asians being bad tippers, mainly because they’re typically thrifty in their spending. So I always give 15% as the minimum. The second is because of that, I start at 20% and if service is bad is when I only give the minimum of 15%. Again, I know that tips are the main source of income for servers because the hourly wage is usually around $2. If the service is really great, that’s when I give more than 20%.
Anyway, the only odd thing about the restaurant is their bathroom. You have to go out back behind the building to get to it, and the ambiance of the restroom does not equal that of the dining area. It almost seemed like what you would experience at some gas stations.
From there, I walked to the Saban Theater. There was construction going on around it that forced all the patrons to go around the block and enter off of S Gale Dr. near a restaurant called The Flats. When I turned the corner to round the makeshift 7ft tall wooden wall to block the construction from the street, I saw a small line forming towards the entrance of the Saban. I stood at the end for a few minutes before realizing I didn’t really know what line I was standing in. So I walked to the ticket window and found out I was in the right place.
This is where my choice of show attire comes into the equation. So I wore a dress and heels to the show, because like I mentioned before, at NYC shows, you dress up. So I figured at an LA show it would be the same. People in line were wearing jeans and t-shirts, flannels, and really relaxed clothing. After standing in line until 7:30pm (yes, doors were supposed to open at 7:00pm and didn’t), my feet were dying in the heels. At that moment, I swore to never wear heels to an LA show again. Then we got inside the building, and again had to wait in line at the doors that open to the actual theater seating, for another 15 minutes.
Now, the only thing that kept me entertained in line was who I was in line with. When I first stood in line, I started speaking to the boy and mother standing in front of me. About 30 minutes in, he kept looking at his mom saying, “That girl keeps looking at me, she knows.” Then “that girl” walked up to him and said, “Are you the boy from the film?” With the answer being yes, they got a picture together, and went back in line. He turned to his mom and said, “You owe me $5.”
Having no idea what they were talking about, I pressed them for answers. Ends up I was standing in line with a child star. I didn’t realize when I bought the tickets that this show was based off of a feature film Todrick Hall made on YouTube that’s an hour and 11 minutes long. The concept is the path Todrick Hall took from growing up in Texas to his fame today. So this boy in front of me was “Young Todrick,” and his name is Brandin Stennis. Throughout our hour and a half wait time, people kept recognizing him, and so right before we entered the theater and took our seats, I had to get a picture with him. I’m glad I did because it’s the only picture from the event that I took. The only other famous people I saw while I was there was Ru Paul. As I was waiting in line at the top of the stairs, I could look down at the foyer and saw him walk in. After the show, I saw on social media that there were a lot of famous friends of Todrick in attendance as well.
Now, when I got the Groupon ticket, I did have to go to the ticket counter again and actually check in. From there, I got a physical ticket that let people working there know that I could only go in a certain section of the theater. It was a first come, first serve section, so I wasn’t assigned a specific seat. We were at the top of the theater, but the view was still pretty great. I managed to snag a seat in the most front row of the section, and it only had one other chair next to me. Eventually it got filled by a nice man from Orange County who also was there just to check it out. As we sat waiting for the show to begin, Todrick’s most famous singing videos were playing on a giant screen hanging over the stage.
Since I hadn’t watched the hour long YouTube video, I really didn’t know what I was getting into. The guy next to me was the same. We both just bought the ticket off of Groupon interested, but he had less of an idea than I did. He thought it would be more like Straight Outta Compton, and was surprised when it was more musical than he imagined. I don’t want to assume he was in the LGBTQ+ community, but he did say he turned down going to Long Beach Pride to see the show.
Finally, what you’ve all been waiting for, the actual show. I’ll be honest, it seemed like Todrick was performing versus emoting. I wasn’t ever sucked into the show to the point where I didn’t realize I was sitting in a theater watching people perform. I love the fact that he went from small town Texas and eventually fulfilled his dreams to have his own Broadway-style musical about himself, but it just wasn’t a tremendous performance. Could I have done better? No way, but I just wasn’t thrilled by it. The second act, after intermission, was definitely better than the first half. Also, the best part of the whole show were the black women singings that intermittently had solos. They were the stars of the show for me. Also the set design was pretty good for what seemed like a low-key show, even though it did travel on a national tour. The guy next to me agreed with all of that. There was something missing for both of us, but we were both glad we saw it on a Groupon.
The show didn’t change my opinion of him. I am still a fan of Todrick Hall. I actually wish I could see it again to see if during my viewing, maybe he was having an off night. The best way I could put it is similar to judges on singing tv shows. The voice was there, but I was missing the connection factor. The only time it was really present was when he was in drag (see the feature photo, in the spotlight on the left).
I really hope I can see more of his stuff in the future because it seemed like he was just getting started and the pressure of performing in front of his best friends may have been a small factor. I am on the lookout currently for more of his shows. In a way I consider myself lucky that I got to see his major performance on a Groupon because it may not be like that in the future. I can see him becoming more popular than he already is.