Ken Roht's 99 Cent Only Calendar Girl Competition

Now in its sixth year, director-choreographer Ken Roht’s 99 Cents Only Theater is beginning to look like a one-trick pony. As in past years, the trick is to limit his costume (Ann Closs-Farley) and set (Jason Adams) designers to use only what they can scrounge from the titular discount chain for Roht’s decidedly silly burlesques of Radio City–style, holiday musical spectaculars. It’s a funny gag — thanks mainly to the wit and ingenuity of Closs-Farley, whose show-stealing creations dress this year’s ostensible lampoon of beauty pageants in the highest of camp. It almost makes one overlook Roht’s failure to gird his polished production numbers with the narrative spine of a coherent book. Instead, he and co-composer John Ballinger are content to let their parody coast on their pastiche of Godspell-vintage, R&B show tunes and the bare structural framework of the pageant form itself. And while their clever lyrics often connect, the lack of a story arc or character through-lines means the evening never amounts to more than a concert of disconnected — and increasingly monotonous — musical sketches. If storytelling isn’t Roht’s forte, however, he again proves his genius at talent recruitment. This year’s 28-strong, pitch-perfect company generates enough singing and dancing power to light up an entire Broadway season. Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through Feb. 1. (213) 389-3856.
Thu., Dec. 4; Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: Dec. 4. Continues through Feb. 1, 2008

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