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‘For the Record’ Unites L.A.’s Movie, Music Biz for Indie Theater Hit

In a pivotal scene in “For the Record: Dear John Hughes,” tomboy percussionist Watts, drumsticks in hand and tears in her big, expressive eyes, confesses her unrequited love for best friend Keith. “The only things I care about in this goddamn life,” she weeps, “are me and my drums and you.”

Only it’s not Mary Stuart Masterson starring in this snippet of 1987 Hughes movie “Some Kind of Wonderful.” It’s Evan Rachel Wood, declaring her feelings to singer-dancer Zach Villa in the Keith role. As she races off the stage, angular bangs bouncing, audience members at DBA in West Hollywood choke up too – with pangs of nostalgia for all things ’80s, and especially the Hughes movies that provide the soundtrack for the cabaret-style “FTR: Dear John Hughes.”

Riding that wave of audience response, “Dear John Hughes” is just one of a string of “For the Record” shows that, along with “FTR: Baz” (as in Luhrmann) and “FTR: Tarantino” (as in Quentin), have become fan favorites on L.A.’s indie theater scene.

They’re also a hit with performers, proving a plum gig for a wide-ranging pool of actors from stage and screen. The series’ rotating cast has included Rumer Willis (“Dancing With the Stars”), Tracie Thoms (“Rent”), Jackie Seiden (“Jersey Boys”), Lindsey Gort (“The Carrie Dairies”) and Brian Justin Crum (“Wicked”).

Wood, who fielded an Emmy nomination for her role in HBO’s “Mildred Pearce,” joined the cast of “FTR” after catching a performance and falling instantly in love with the genre-bending concept.

“I grew up watching ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ and ‘Ferris Bueller’ and ‘The Breakfast Club,’” she said, adding that she embraced the films because they looked so much like her own life. “I was always a tomboy in love with the boys, and they always wanted the cheerleaders.”

The idea for the “FTR” series, which features snappy choreography from Spencer Liff (“So You Think You Can Dance”), was hatched in 2009 when co-creators Anderson Davis, Shane Scheel (then working a “thankless” job at a talent agency) and Christopher Lloyd Bratten began staging “supper club shows,” first at the now-defunct Mark’s Restaurant in West Hollywood and, later, at Rockwell Table & Stage in Los Feliz.
“We knew there was this amazing talent pool out there,” said Scheel, who also acts as executive producer and works with a legal team to secure the musical rights for each show. “Los Angeles is filled with people that come off Broadway shows or ‘American Idol’ or any number of competition shows, and there were very few places for them to showcase their talents.” “For the Record” started simply, with a few songs and a few snatches of dialogue drawn from Tarantino or Hughes films. “A few months into it we decided, OK, we’re a film-based town, we’re a music-based town, let’s create something original that combines both those things and truly reflects the L.A. market,” Scheel remembered.

The shows took up residence last year at DBA, a club that doubles as a concert venue, and the actors who enlist have, Scheel said, become a community that crosses L.A.’s entertainment worlds.

Even beyond L.A., word is catching on. “FTR: Dear John Hughes” recently played in Chicago, and the series hopes to expand its run to cities nationwide. It’s also attracting its fair share of celebrity admirers. Ed Helms, Tobey Maguire and Jesse Tyler Ferguson are all big fans.

But probably not to the same extent as Wood, who stars in “Dear John Hughes” through the end of its current run in April and will appear next onscreen in HBO’s series reboot “Westworld.”

“You get to act out your favorite parts of your favorite movies and you get to sing and I just love it,” said the actress. “They’re going to have a hard time getting rid of me.”

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