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AUDITION! THE MUSICAL Between her third and 12th birthdays, 1950s child
star Evelyn Rudie earned an Emmy nomination, a Walk of Fame star, and
the highest salary of her peers. Decades later, a musical by Rudie and
her husband, Chris DeCarlo, rehashes the horrors she and her
competition faced as they grinned their way to the top. Playing a
black-hearted casting agent, a has-been, and a host of never-will-bes,
Rudie and energetic co-stars Rebecca Coombs and Serena Dolinsky burn
through a dozen wigs while belting out ditties about stage moms,
back-stabbers, narcissism, self-doubt, desperation and the
impossibility of being yourself. The tinny, synth simplicity of Rudie
and Matt Wrather’s tunes (musical direction by Linn Yamaha-Hirschman)
only underscores the elementary insights in the lyrics, and despite the
players’ enthusiasm, this scattered and nearly plotless j’accuse is
repetitive and overlong. (In the night’s best number, Rudie chants the
names of deceased child actors — Jonathan Brandis, Dana Plato, Judy
Garland — who lost their battles with Hollywoodland.) Rudie has
passionate sympathies for their plight, but in her opening monologue,
she takes pains to separate herself from the rabble. “I never had to
audition,” she declares — an actor’s ultimate trump card. SANTA MONICA
PLAYHOUSE, 1211 Fourth St., Santa Monica; Sat., 7:45 p.m.; Sun., 6:45
p.m. (note: arrive at least a half hour early for complimentary preshow
dinner); thru Jan. 28. (310) 394-9779. (Amy Nicholson)

BUON
NATALE! CHRISTMAS EVE ITALIAN STYLE Writer-director Rita Andriello
builds her amiable comedy around an old-fashioned Italian papa (Richard
Branco), whose stern dictates cause friction with his grown-up
children. Long estranged from his daughter, he’s beside himself one
Christmas Eve when his son Vittorio (Carmine Manicone) brings home a
buxom blond bimbo (Sharon Grambo) and introduces her as his wife. That
same evening a second son, Luigi (Al Coronel), decides to come out.
Familiar but engaging, the script comes peppered with amusing
one-liners, many delivered by Sandra Kinder as the clueless patriarch’s
sardonic sister-in-law. Unfortunately, only Kinder and Patrick Feren
(in a droll, nuanced performance as Luigi’s gay partner) do much to
enable the comedy. Under Andriello’s direction, the timing is
frequently off, while some performances range from anemic to
irritating. NOHO ARTS CENTER, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., N. Hlywd.;
Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; thru Dec. 23. (323) 969-4761. (Deborah
Klugman)

THE CHASE LOUNGE Recalling Charles Ludlum’s The
Mystery of Irma Vep, in which two actors play eight roles,
writer-director David Rackoff’s comedy features one actress portraying
five characters. The very funny Heidi Sulzman ably handles the
challenge, racing through multiple parts in overdrive. Danny Cistone’s
set includes several doors (mostly slamming) for one character to exit
and another to enter. The play also employs various stage tricks (a
large hat, a fake leg, a wheelchair covered in fabric) to suggest the
presence of another person on stage, and these devices amp up the
hilarity precisely because they look so cheesy. The improbable plot
about three sisters vying for a bag of diamonds is really beside the
point. In addition to playing the sisters, two of whom are twins,
Sulzman also plays their mother and the one-legged lesbian partner of
one of the sisters — all without pace-hampering costume changes. While
Sulzman is more than proficient at spoken dialects, her attempts at
ventriloquism are side-splittingly inept. 68 CENT THEATRE, 5419 Sunset
Blvd., Suite D, Hlywd.; Tues.-Thurs., 8 p.m., thru Dec. 21; reopens
Thurs., Jan. 4, 8 p.m.; perfs Thurs., 8 p.m.; indef. (323) 960-7745.
(Sandra Ross)

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS See Stage feature.

JACKSON FROST There’s no logical connection between Jack Frost and
musicians named Jackson, but that’s no problem for actor-director Matt
Walker and his merry gang at The Troubadour Theater Company: They’ve
built their career out of such unlikely juxtapositions, including
Little Drummer Bowie and Santa Claus Is Coming to Motown. Here they
marshal Michael Jackson and all his ilk for a zany musical about that
chilly elf Jack Frost (Michelle Anne Johnson) who must compete with the
arch-villain Krubla Krause (Walker) for the hand of the beautiful but
vapid Elissa (Audrey Siegel). And other Jacksons, including Jackson
Browne, Mahalia Jackson, Jesse Jackson and Andrew Jackson, are
shoehorned into the mix, along with an oversexed dog named Humper (Andy
Lopez), a busy groundhog (Joseph Leo Bwarie), weatherman Fritz Coleman
(Walker), and a stilt-walking Father Winter (Beth Kennedy) who bears a
striking resemblance to the Crypt Keeper. The deliberately slapdash
script comes packed with puns and room for improvisations and inside
jokes, and it’s enlivened with dizzily eccentric performances (by
Jennie Fahn, Lisa Valenzuela and Matt Morgan, among others), puppets,
ventriloquism, black light, flying actors, audience participation, and
athletic, hip-hoppy choreography by Nadine Ellis and Bwarie — and, of
course, the songs associated with the various Jacksons. Troubadour
Theater Company at THE FALCON THEATER, 4252 Riverside Dr., Burbank;
Tues.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 4 p.m.; thru Dec. 30. (818) 955-8101. (Neal
Weaver)

PAGEANT OF THE FOUR SEASONS, A 99¢ ONLY MODERN
SOME-THING! Ken Roht’s annual 99¢ Only shows suggest a demented blend
of low-budget Ziegfeld Follies, an earth-bound Cirque du Soleil and the
kind of performance neighborhood kids put on in somebody’s garage. Ann
Closs-Farley’s grand and kitschy costumes and Karen Steward’s sets are
made mostly of items from the 99¢ Only stores. Christmas-tree
ornaments, tissue paper, plastic wastebaskets, garbage bags, shopping
bags and coffee filters are conjured into wildly inventive attire that
suggests all the world’s cultures, combined and scrambled into an
homage to the four seasons. Summer features Mother Nature, fish and
other pastoral creatures. Fall follows, with evocations of falling
leaves. Winter suggests falling raindrops and light reflected off ice
and snow, with trancelike music. And spring is an exuberant outburst,
featuring giant flowers, insects and a song that proclaims “Hi-Ho, I’m
Alive!” Roht provides the direction, script and choreography, with
music by Marc Jackson, Curtis Heard, Roht and O-Lan Jones. The music is
so densely layered that lyrics aren’t always comprehensible, but that
hardly matters in a show so filled with spectacle and eye candy. An
Orphean Circus Production at BOOTLEG THEATER, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.;
Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 7 & 9 p.m.; Sun., 5 & 7 p.m.; thru
Dec. 17 (then Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; Jan. 4-28). (213)
389-3856. (Neal Weaver)

RUDOLPH THE RED-HOSED REINDEER With
book and lyrics by David Cerda and music by Cerda and Scott Lamberty,
this yuletide comedy sends up Rankin and Bass’s beloved stop-motion
animation classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Narrative duties
still rest with Sam the Snowman (Jim Keily, channeling Burl Ives), but
everything else in Christmastown has changed: Santa (Danny Lopes) is a
cruel tyrant; Mrs. Claus (Marina Mouhibian) is a drunk; Santa’s elves
are gay, gay, gay; and Rudolph (Eric Bunton) is a cross-dresser.
Closely following the plot of the original, Rudolph runs away with
oddball elf Herbie (Jeffrey Christopher Todd), but in this version,
Herbie is a misfit because he’s not gay enough. Shrewdly directed by
Richard Israel, the comedy is hilarious because the source material is
so recognizable. Cerda’s lyrics and Cerda and Lamberty’s music
amusingly parody the original’s songs, while Cerda’s dialogue is
laugh-out-loud funny. Among a terrific cast, Brett Hren stands out in
three roles: Elfano, the head elf; Coach Comet; and the Half-Naked
Cowboy on the Island of Misfit Toys. Mark Landres makes a fabulous
Abominable Drag Beast, while wearing one of Mouhibian’s clever
costumes. The SpyAnts at the ELEPHANT THEATER, 6322 Santa Monica Blvd.,
Hlywd.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; thru Jan. 13. (323)
860-8786. (Sandra Ross)

SLAVA’S SNOWSHOW See Stage feature.