By Pat Launer
Holiday theater is winding down,
And so’s the show at Theatre in Old Town ,
But before they go, I set my sights
On “I Love You, You’re Perfect” and “Northern Lights.”
I guess fourth time’s a charm. When I first saw “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change,” I thought the best thing about it was the title. But it’s started to grow on me. So now, with the latest incarnation of the show winding down its one-year run at the Theatre in Old Town, I can report that it boasts a wonderful cast, it’s totally entertaining, and you should catch it quick, before it closes on January 2.
Two of the four performers are a married couple. Three of the four are SDSU alums. And the entire quartet is terrific. The super-talented Nick and Rebecca Spear came in from New York to assume these roles, and they show a great deal of amiability and versatility. He’s’ especially delectable as the milksop-turned-macho-man when he gets behind the wheel (“On the Highway of Love”) and the flirtatious old geezer at the funeral parlor (“I Can Live with That ”). He even makes the syrupy “Baby Song” go down easy. Drummond is in deeply excellent voice (both speaking and singing), and he’s funny as hell (in his prior roles, he didn’t always get to show his comic shtick). He’s especially amusing in “A Stud and a Babe” (which Rebecca also pulls off with aplomb) and touching in “Shouldn’t’ I Be Less in Love with You.” Susan De Leon is witty in “We Had it All” and the ever-amusing “Always a Bridesmaid.” Rebecca doesn’t overdo it in “He Called Me” or her first post-divorce singles video. It’s the understatement that makes this work so well. The quick-change costumes (uncredited) are cute but not extreme, the set (James Kronzer ) goes virtually unnoticed. But the vocal and acting prowess make the production really sing.
At the Theatre in Old Town , through January 2.
LOW-KEY FAMILY CONFLICT
If this were the way my family interacted, I’d LOVE the holidays. Well, except for the bigotry. But even that gets neatly resolved in Lamb’s Players’ 27th Festival of Christmas, “Northern Lights ,” written, as they all are (a dozen Christmas shows and counting), by Lambs resident playwright Kerry Meads. Lovely array of characters in this one, and a very funny Grandma and Grandpa for comic relief: Jim Chovick is riotous at the crusty oldster and Darlene Trent is his perfect foil. Many of the Lamb’s regulars are here: KB Mercer (so missed on local stages since she and Doren went into the producing business) as the eccentric aunt; David Heath – stolid as the grieving widower next door; Tom Stephenson, credible, as always, as the father of the family; Kerry Meads as his put-upon wife; Sandy Campbell and Cris O’Bryon as the ace singers who can’t conceive; Gail West as the man-hungry middle- ager ; and Greg Thompson, playful and athletic as the Army son of the Baxter family, with Keith Jefferson affecting as his holiday ‘surprise,’ an African American buddy whose presence freaks out half the family. Added to the benign merriment are three young people as the Baxter kids: high school sophomore Ian Gilligan as Bruce, the “Sport,” a small role well played. 16 year-old Courtney Evans totally nails female adolescent angst. Then there’s 10 year-old Michael Drummond, a little dynamo with perfect comic timing, who’s stepping into the shoes of Bix Bettwy , another theater prodigy whom Lamb’s discovered years ago. Bix was 12 seven years ago when he played the role of the precocious, ever-inquisitive Buzz. Each young performer brought a different energy to the character; both are fine actors and singers (though Drummond, no relation to actor-singers Ryan and Lisa, was a bit hoarse the day I saw the show).
Meads may have tweaked the second act since the show premiered seven years ago. It seemed like a mismatch before, more serious and treacly than the highly amusing, character and complication driven first act. There are still some loose ends (so what about that couple that can’t have a baby??) but everything turns out all right in the end. Impressively, a good proportion of the cast gets to play a little piano – what a talented bunch! Cris O’Bryon is, of course, the ivory-tickling master (and his bass-baritone sounds delicious!). We will surely miss Vanda Eggington’s outstanding and unpredictable musical arrangements (the Eggingtons , Paul and Vanda, moved out of town and will leave a big hole in the Lamb’s family). The singing couldn’t have been better. All in all, a Midwest delight , circa 1962, swiftly paced by director Deborah Gilmour Smyth. Jeanne Reith’s costumes are wonderful, so perfect (and in some cases, perfectly hideous!) for the era. This holiday season, take a trip back in time, and visit a non-dysfunctional family. Believe it; they do actually exist (well, onstage anyway).
At the Coronado Playhouse, through December 26.
And if you’ve never seen Lambs’ An American Christmas at the Hotel del Coronado, it’s a real treat, too. Through December 29.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR FOR…
…the 20th annual Plays by Young Writers , brought to us by the Playwrights Project. January 13-23.
… The 8th Annual Patté Awards for Theater Excellence is already sold out! Besides the awards, the entertainment is gonna be OUTSTANDING! So don’t miss it on KPBS-TV, Sunday, Jan. 16 at 3:30pm (channel 15, cable 11). This is a killer theater community; cheer it on any way you can!
… The book launch party was great – and the book itself is even better. Buy ‘em for gifts – and don’t forget to keep one for yourself: “The Play’s The Thing: A Photographic Odyssey Through Theatre in San Diego ” by Ken Jacques (with Intro by Sam Woodhouse and Foreword by me). Order it online at www.sunbeltbooks.com (extra bonus: free shipping!), or check it out it at a bookstore near you!
… “Big River, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” in English and American Sign Language, at the Ahmanson Theatre in L.A. , Jan. 11-23.
A BIT OF THEATRICAL TRIVIA …
… Darn, you missed the bidding… for the rarest piece of English pornography. This week, a bawdy, 17th century play sold for over $88,000 at a Sotheby’s auction. “ Sodom , or the Gentleman Instructed,” attributed to the Restoration wit, writer and libertine John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, was bought by an anonymous bidder for the surprisingly large sum (the estimated pre-sale price range was $48-68,000). S/he’s now the proud owner of the only known printed copy of the play, which was believed to have been written as a private entertainment in the 1670s. The Sotheby catalog described it as “outrageously obscene in its sexual and scatological references, language and content.” Think it’ll be a movie soon?? Sotheby’s said the play, while “in every sense, and in almost every line, pornographic,” was a cautionary tale, a literary parody and a political satire of the ribald court of King Charles II. Stay tuned! Johnny Depp (be still, my beating heart!!) plays Rochester in “The Libertine,” a new film based on the short and eventful life of the scatological Earl, who died in 1680 at age 33 (must be a magic death-age: same as for Jesus and Evita ).
…Moving on from the Earl to the Queen… the Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach , in cooperation with the Globe of America, a non-profit Shakespeare Theatre Organization, is adding a new on-board attraction — classic actor training and play production. The Globe Academy for Dramatic Arts begins January 15 with classes in Acting in Shakespeare, Voice, Movement, Fight Choreography, Clowning, Mask and Mime, in styles ranging from Greco-Roman through Shakespeare, Commedia, Restoration and contemporary. For a complete course listing, info and fees, go to QueenMary.com/GlobeofAmerica or call 562-499-6646.
In Spring 2005, the ship will launch The Queen’s Young Globe Company, which will present theater for families and young audiences, under the aegis of playwright/director James Engelhardt . Next November will mark the debut of the Queen’s Globe Company, a fully professional acting troupe that will present a 3-play subscription in the Exhibit Hall and Boiler Room of the historic oceanliner . All aboard!!
NOW, FOR THIS WEEK’S ‘NOT TO BE MISSED‘ LIST:
“I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change” – cute, poignant and often funny, with a GREAT local cast. Catch the long-running musical revue before it’s gone! At the Theatre in Old Town , through Jan. 2.
“Northern Lights” – Lamb’s 27th Festival of Christmas is sheer family fun. Quirky characters excellently played, amusingly dated 1960s costumes and the Lambs’ signature inventive musical arrangements and outstanding singing.
At the Lamb’s Players Theatre, through December 26.
“Late Nite Catchism ” – hilarious; you don’t need to have a dashboard Madonna to love it. Totally ecumenical, but if you went to Catholic school, you’ll laugh your dutiful, ‘Yes, Sister’ head off. At North Coast Repertory Theatre, through December 28.
“Kimberly Akimbo” – reprise production of great performances, an outstanding ensemble wonderfully directed. The craziest family this side of yours! A fundraiser for the new Moxie Theatre. At the Lyceum, through December 24.
“A Christmas Carol” – the Rep’s 29th version, a delightfully streamlined, intermissionless ghost story that hits all the notes, wrenches the emotions and features a stellar ensemble.
At the San Diego Repertory Theatre, through December 26.
” Jersey Boys” — smash-hit world premiere musical, telling the rock ‘n’ roll, rags-to-riches story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Fantastic fun! Run, scamper, scurry — see it!
At La Jolla Playhouse, extended AGAIN!! through January 16.
In the final few days of the year, make your season theatrical – and your wishes dramatic!
©2004 Patté Productions Inc.