Theater Reviews: A Charlie James Brown Christmas, The Gay Mafia: Nu-Queer Winter | Theater | Los Angeles | Los Angeles News and Events | LA Weekly
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Theater Reviews: A Charlie James Brown Christmas, The Gay Mafia: Nu-Queer Winter 

Also Two Gentlmen from Verona and The Kid From Brooklyn: The Danny Kaye Story

Monday, Dec 24 2007
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A CHARLIE JAMES BROWN CHRISTMAS This new holiday effort by the Troubadour Theater Company is a loving poke at Charles Schulz’s TV cartoon classic featuring characters from his “Peanuts” strip. As Schroeder (Matthew Morgan) tinkles out Vince Guaraldi noodlings on a tiny piano, a golden, sequined cape stands draped on a center-stage mannequin — a portentous garment channeled from the Apollo Theater. Soon the program swings into gear, powered by hits from soul godfather James Brown. Positioned somewhere between a Groundlings parody sketch and Bert V. Royal’s Dog  Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, the show is mildly funny, but even at under an hour and a half seems 20 minutes too long. The evening follows the outline of the 1965 TV special, but with many detours spent imagining where Schulz’s characters are likely to be when they’re grown-up. Not a bad idea, but all these segments are announced by the Law and Order “stinger” and then are introduced by director Matt Walker impersonating Rod Serling doing a Twilight Zone walk-on, all of which drags things out. Standouts include Beth Kennedy’s turn as budding lesbian Peppermint Patty and Lisa Valenzuela as a diminutive Lucy who can belt out “It’s a Man’s World” with surprising ease. Sharon McGunigle’s costumes are stars in themselves: Many of the characters sport oversize foam heads approximating Schulz’s drawings, and that James Brown cape is decorated with Charlie Brown’s signature zigzag. The Troubadour’s seven-piece band is tight and brassy, with members sometimes drawn into the action. TROUBADOUR THEATER COMPANY at the Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank; Wed.-Sat., 8 p.m.; mats Sat.-Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Jan. 20. (818) 955-8101. (Steven Mikulan)


THE GAY MAFIA: NU-QUEER WINTER In the old Mickey and Judy movie musicals, “Hey, kids, let’s put on a show!” provided sufficient purpose to get them through the final credits, but in the real world one hopes for something a little more substantial. It’s not that the Gay Mafia (Starr Ahrens, Alex Garner, Kurt Hall, Nancy Kissam, actor-director Mike Player, Mark Rakow, Allie Rivenbark, and Diana Yanez) are less able than most of the sketch-comedy troupes around. The friendly audience was beaming happily, and the sketches targeted all the usual suspects: Senator Larry Craig singing “I’m the Bottom if You’re the Top!,” a song about breasts sung by a Titty Bear, and a trio of lesbian musicians called the Menses Minstrels, celebrating the winter solstice by hymning the glory of simultaneous menstruation. There’s a Reverend Ted Haggard call-in show, interrupted by a phone call from Haggard’s furious wife, and a crack about Oral Roberts University. The cast are bright and energetic, and the material is fairly amusing but so evanescent that two days later I could barely remember it. Going through my mind at the end was a familiar British locution: “What’s this in aid of?” LOUNGE THEATRE, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd., W. Hlywd; Wed., 8 p.m.; Jan. 9, 16 & 23. (323) 634-2820 or www.­thegaymafia.net. (Neal Weaver)


{mosimage}  THE KID FROM BROOKLYN: The Danny Kaye Story Sometimes the old showbiz stories are the best, and in Mark Childers and Peter J. Loewy’s peppy and assured musical biography of entertainer Danny Kaye, we find crackling showmanship interlaced with just a hint of irony. Performer Brian Childers offers a dazzling turn as the legendary Broadway star which is eerily convincing, even to the slight smirk. Childers channels a perfect mix of the sentimental, feel-good charisma that enchanted his audiences, and the inner emotional vacancy that led to a troubled and sometimes self-destructive personal life. Act 1 charts Kaye’s early rise to fame in a straightforward way, including his marriage to his bossy but increasingly scorned business partner, Sylvia Fine (Karin Leone, in a wonderfully brassy performance). In Act 2, as Kaye’s marriage frays, and as he gives in to the sultry advances of his Jezebel leading lady, Eve Arden (Christina Purcell), we see the layers of darkness behind Kaye’s pastel exterior. Although the play’s daunting two-and-a-half-hour length is a little top-heavy for material that is ultimately slight, director Loewy’s crisp staging is nicely complemented by Charlie Harrison and David Cohen’s tight musical direction. Childers’ beautiful tenor dazzles with spot-on renditions of such Kaye favorites as “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” and his famous gibberish patter-song, “Melody in 4F.” EL PORTAL THEATRE, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Jan. 20. (818) 508-0281. (Paul Birchall)


TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA William Shakespeare’s early and utterly average comedy stands out for its climactic scene, where antihero Proteus (Thomas Bigley) attempts to rape sweet, sensible ingenue Silvia (Jennifer Bronstein), only to find himself engaged to first love Julia (Amanda Marquardt) within five minutes. Like many good Bard heroines, Julia has disguised herself as a boy. Proteus’ pat reconciliation with both damsels can either be seen as the play’s weakness or its brilliance as it leaves us exiting the theater still chuckling, but with a knot in our belly. Otherwise, the play is a barrage of witticisms on love, and against love, that director Charles Pasternak (also playing Proteus’ best friend and rival, Valentine) can’t quite shape. He settles instead for trying to make his actors inflate the froth with plummy, fast-pattered recitations and a whole mess of screaming and mugging. It’s amusing and toothless fun that allows the beagle who sneezed throughout Act 2 to walk away with the most applause, along with his goofy master, Launce (Jack Leahy), who had the audience in giggles while listing the talents of his mistress: sewing, brewing, milking, washing, scouting, knitting, spinning, fetching and carrying — too bad she’s got bad breath, he shrugs. WHITMORE-LINDLEY THEATRE CENTER, 11006 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3:30 p.m.; thru Jan. 13. (310) 497-2884. (Amy Nicholson)
click to enlarge The Kid From Brooklyn (Photo by Ed Krieger)
  • The Kid From Brooklyn (Photo by Ed Krieger)

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