Zombie Joe's Goes Saucy in Down & Dirty, Memphis at the Pantages, Plus the Latest New Theater Reviews

Zombie Joe's Goes Saucy in Down & Dirty, Memphis at the Pantages, Plus the Latest New Theater Reviews
Mandi Moss
Mandi Moss
Fun well done

neatly sums up this brazenly silly and irresistibly funny show. Adam Szymkowicz's comic book parody involves an evil doctor (Keith Allan) pursued by a dedicated band of female crime fighters (Alysha Brady, Alina Phelan, Jennifer Lee Weaver) and a dauntless heroine named Lisa (Lauren Dobbins Webb) battling to save, among other citizens, her brilliant but fainthearted lover, Peter (Rick Steadman). Love unrequited is the recurring motif in this gender-bent spoof; it fuels the dastardly doctor's crime spree; inspires Peter, a dedicated physician with a damaged heart, to design an artificial one; and plagues the peace

of mind of all and sundry, even the staunch and sturdy Amazonian crusaders and the hitherto dazzlingly invulnerable Lisa. No small part of the comedy springs from fight choreographer Andrew Amani's smartly calibrated staging, which the ensemble renders in sync with designer

Mark McClain Wilson's singular sound. In a show where timing is essential, the performers are consistently spot-on, but it is Allan as the tormented evildoer -- his is a caricature with a soul -- who scores the most theatrical thunder.Grace Eboigbe charms as the love-smitten nurse, mad for the oblivious Peter. Composer Michael Teoli's atmospheric music and Brian Griego's props -- two humongous blue-tinted syringes, the killer's weapon of choice! -- highlight the spooky humor. Jaime Robledo directs this goofy gem.Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N. Cahuenga Blvd.,

Hlywd; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through Sept. 1. (323) 856-8611,  (Deborah Klugman)

I, CALIGULA Eight highly skilled, classically trained operatic singers showcase their voices in this world-premiere musical venture -- but the question is, why? Director-writer Kai Cofer bases the script loosely on Albert Camus' anti-fascist 1938 play with a weak nod to Peter Weiss' Marat/Sade as asylum inmates take on the roles of the mad Roman Caesar and his courtiers. Cofer's disjointed story and torturous direction of cruelty and sexual power plays seem as embarrassing to the diffident performers (most of whom brave the most humiliating of costumes) as they are to the audience in the intimate theater. The music by Cody T. Gillette is occasionally affecting, but the absolute predictability of Cofer's lyrical rhymes is ultimately comic -- though still more interesting than the seemingly endless recitative. Were this a spoof in the spirit of Waiting for Guffman, the agonizing, overwrought playing would begin to make sense, but by all accounts this is a serious outing. High production values are far from expected in small theater, but some sense of effort is. Since no designers are credited, it is clear why the costumes and settings are so haphazard. Secret Rose Theatre, 11246 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.; Fri-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Aug. 26. (323) 822-7898, (Tom Provenzano)

 GO  MEMPHIS In Memphis, Tenn., in the 1950s, even the music was segregated. Anything written or performed by black artists was called race music, and branded indecent, immoral or even un-Christian. When such music began to cross over into the mainstream, it made for dangerous and turbulent times. This supercharged, Tony-winning musical, with book and lyrics by Joe DiPietro and music and lyrics by David Bryan, provides a dynamic picture of that era. Huey (manic Bryan Fenkart) is a white boy who loves black music and, as a DJ, wants to promote it, despite his disapproving Mama (Julie Johnson) and his uptight white bosses. The white establishment regards him as a loose cannon and a dangerous subversive, until it finds out there's an eager audience for this music -- and money to be made. Huey falls for black singer Felicia (Felicia Boswell), who's singing in an underground club run by her brother, Delray (Quentin Earl Darrington), but in an era when interracial relations are verboten, the results are explosive. Director Christopher Ashley keeps the excitement nearly nonstop, assisted by Sergio Trujillo's choreography and his dedicated dancers and spectacular performances by Fenkart, Boswell, Darrington, Johnson, Will Mann, Kent Overshown and Whitney Cooper. Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; Tues.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 1 & 6:30 p.m. Produced by Junkyard Dog Productions. (800) 982-2787, (Neal Weaver) 


Zombie Joe's Goes Saucy in Down & Dirty, Memphis at the Pantages, Plus the Latest New Theater Reviews
The Complex

This reality-show musical parody starts off with a halfway decent dose of comic writing and acting, but by show's end the laughs get buried under a convoluted plot, a crumbled narrative structure and countless missed opportunities. Modeled after Bravo's postseason reunion episodes of the genuinely disturbing Real Housewives franchise, the musical, by Kelly Holden-Bashar and Bill Haller, finds a cast of bejeweled divas being interviewed about the season's exploits. Musical numbers build backstory: Pepsi (Jen Rhonheimer) is a gold digger, Rikki (Robyn Roth) is a drunk, Rene (Leah Mangum) is a slut and so on. Things are mildly entertaining until Rikki's sister is introduced and the reunion episode format literally and figuratively goes south, eventually ending up in Mexico. Roth is the ensemble's standout comedian and singer; Rhonheimer is a close runner-up. A good parody should exaggerate and heighten the comedy of that which already seems ridiculous, but the Bravo show needs no parody, offering far more examples of despicable human behavior than this supposed send-up. The Complex, 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Hlywd.; Sat., 10 p.m.; through Aug. 25. (323) 465-0383, (Amy Lyons)


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