Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nomination for Best Christmas Show of 2009

On the set of Winter Wonderettes at Laguna Playhouse, I hereby nominate this show as Best Holiday Show of 2009.

review - Winter Wonderettes

Winter Wonderettes
written & directed by
Roger Bean
musical arrangements by Brian Baker
Moulton Theatre
Laguna Playhouse
through December 30

What makes a successful musical revue? Look no further than Roger Bean and his Wonderettes, the Marvelous Wonderettes, that is. It's Christmas, so they're the Winter Wonderettes and what sheer heaven! They sing and dance and never stop moving for 90 minutes with enough delicious schtick for 2 shows. Whatever works, keep it coming!
It's 1968, about ten years after we've last seen the Marvelous Wonderettes, and we find our gals working for Harper's Hardware in Springfield; it's the annual Holiday Happening, and you guessed it, the gals are this year's entertainment. We are treated to 25 endearing tunes, among them "Little Saint Nick", "O Tannenbaum" "Jingle Bell Rock" and "A Marshmallow World", among many others, all with beautiful vocal arrangements by Bean and Brian Baker. Misty Cotton as Missy, Julie Dixon Jackson as Betty Jean, Bets Malone as Suzy and Susannah Hall as Cindy Lou make up the tight ensemble. They are all dynamic singers and harmonize like a quartet of angels. Cotton soars with "Santa Baby", Jackson seduces with "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?", Hall wins our hearts with "Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day" and Malone is a scream with "Suzy Snowflake" and "Donde Esta Santa Claus?" Together, there's nothing finer than "Snow Fall" or "Winter Wonderland".
Moments of silliness abound, as with Suzy's brainstorm game Find the Elf. It involves a tiny hand puppet that will...well, the whole encounter will leave you in stitches. There's an hysterical medley with "It's Christmas Time All Over the World", a crazy audience participation with "Ring Those Christmas Bells" and a body hoppin' "(We Wanna See) Santa Do the Mambo".
Director Bean's frenetic pacing is fantastic and choreographer Janet Miller keeps our girlfriends happily busy, busy, busy. For those attempting to mount a revue of this type, pay heed to this clue: more action, less cause for boredom.
Vicki R. Davis does wonders dressing the girls in glorious shades of dark blue, and her set design, though a tad overdone with XMas decore, confines the performers' moves to centerstage and keeps the show as intimate as possible.
Winter Wonderettes is a joyous, tuneful merry, merry Christmas present that never wears thin. In fact, it will keep you happy all year long. It's adult fare, though, so take the kiddies elsewhere... to the Grinch or Mary Poppins!
5 out of 5 stars

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Grigware's Christmas message

Happy Holidays, everyone! We're on the brink of 2010 - can you believe it? Keep healthy, happy and stay true to yourselves! If it's a question of heart over mind, follow the beat!

My year-end list involves tough decisions this year, as I have seen some truly superb work everywhere in Southern California. It's never easy to pick the Best, but I will do my best and will narrow down the categories this year and include a maximum of 10, 11 winners in each.

List will be up December 21. Follow some of the more memorable nominations below and stay tuned for the winners!

Thursday, November 26, 2009



Best Production Anita Bryant Died For Your Sins

Best Lead Actor Leslie Uggams in Stormy Weather
Best Singing Guest Artist Jennifer Holliday w/GMCLA
Winners up December 21.



Best Production Twist @ Diversionary Theatre, San Diego
Best Production Bonnie & Clyde @ La Jolla Playhouse
Best Production The First Wives Club @ Old Globe, San Diego

Best Lead Actor Stark Sands in Bonnie & Clyde
Best Lead Actor Laura Osnes in Bonnie & Clyde
Best Lead Actor Jacob Caltrider in Twist

Best Featured Actor David McBean in Twist
Best Featured Actor Mare Winningham in Bonnie & Clyde
Best Featured Actor Sam Harris in First Wives Club
Winners announced December 21. Check back!



Best Production

Best Lead Actor
Eduardo Enrikez in

Best Solo Show (Cabaret Artist)
Marilyn Maye @Catalina Jazz Club

List of Winners up December 21. Stay tuned!!



Best Production
Life Could Be a Dream

Best Lead Actor
Chris Pine in
Farragut North

Best Solo Show (Cabaret Artist)
Florence Henderson @
Magic Castle


Grigware makes his choices and List up December 21!!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bonnie and Clyde Cast Party

(top Stark Sands, who plays Clyde Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde at La Jolla Playhouse and bottom director Jeff Calhoun before entering the after party) Calhoun told me he is so proud, as well he should be. My review (below) up this week!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

review - Women Behind Bars

Women Behind Bars
written by Tom Eyen
directed by Kurt Koehler
Celebration Theatre
through December 20

For gays, it's a camp! For straights - after all, this is a sendup of the prison exploitation films of the 50s seen by a mainstream audience -it's satirical fun! Tom Eyen's WBB has some great oneliners and visual laughs, but does have a tendency to be on one note and is somewhat dated: prison life... shocking? We've seen and heard it all. Nonetheless, the Celebration's revival has a great cast, smooth direction...and with clips of the actual 50s movies on a screen behind to set the tone, the whole ambience is a blast!
Momma plays the Matron and makes the role devilishly her own. Oversized like Divine, the original star of the play's 1975 off-Broadway run, she struts around the stage like a cat in heat, ready and eager to pounce upon her victims with Bette Davis-like vocal inflections and sickeningly vengeful tactics. Her assistant Louise is played to the hilt by Kimberly Lewis. I particularly like how she opens and closes the play with explicit directives to both crew and audience.The other prisoners are equally terrific: Arianna Ortiz wins our hearts and sympathies as Guadalupe; Jessica Goldapple is a find as Mary-Eleanor, who becomes the Matron's main target of abuse when she spurns her affections - lesbianism is here, if only implied; Tara Karsian makes a strong, foul-mouthed Gloria, Mary-Eleanor's chief ally; Pip Lilly is boldly hilarious as JoJo; Mary DeVault is sweet and precious as prostitute Cheri; Randi Pareira is slick and very amusing as the bible-toting Granny and then returns surprisingly in a different role; Dudley Beene makes Blanche appropriately ethereal and dramatically desperate; Ted Monte, the only male onstage, serves triple duty quite admirably as Paul, Mary-Eleanor's louse of a husband, the jailhouse therapist and as a drug dealer at play's end, and DawnMarie Ferrara (stepping into the role with only a week's rehearsals) ably completes the winning ensemble as Ada, the second Latina inmate.
Koehler's pacing is at the right tempo and the entire staging is pleasingly effective. Some may get bored with the lack of plot - there are only so many catfights one can watch without losing interest. But the loose character structure and very funny lines - "I asked for a cigarette, not a fucking monologue!", make it more than sufficently entertaining fare.
4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Momma decries, "Look, it's our Christmas picture!" Go see her as The Matron in Celebration Theatre's revival of Women Behind Bars!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

review - Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins
book by Julian Fellowes
music by The Sherman Brothers
new songs by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe
directed by Anthony Lyn (from Richard Eyre's original direction)
Ahmanson Theatre
through February 7, 2010

Mary Poppins with its glucose rush was a film I could not resist in the early 60s, since I was such an impressionable kid. I loved Dick Van Dyke's "Step in Time" dance extravaganza with all the chimney sweeps... and the Bird Woman's admirable mission to nurture our feathered friends. Seeing the stage version in 2009, however, was not at the top of my wish list. But, I must say, I'm glad I saw it. What an uplifting experience with such oustanding production values! Some material from P. L. Travers' stories has been judiciously added to the story from the screenplay, and the overall effect is enchanting.

Ashley Brown plays Mary without one false move; like the new song says, she's "Practically Perfect". Gavin Lee as Bert is another delight. Narrator, dancer, chimney sweep, painter: Lee is as pleasurable as a chameleon changing colors. The precocious children Jane and Michael Banks (double cast -Katie Balen or Bailey Grey; Bryce Baldwin or Carter Thomas) and their parents George (Karl Kenzler) and Winifred (Megan Osterhaus) show us an early version of the typical dysfunctional family that could be a puzzlement for a nanny were she not of the Mary Poppins school of etiquette. Such is the case with George's old nanny Miss Andrew (Ellen Harvey) who believes in a firm hand and treats with "Brimstone and Treacle". The added scene at the top of Act II provides some fun dueling moments for Brown and Harvey, and proves once and for all that dysfunctional treatments will never cure dysfunction. Harvey makes a delicious 'nanny from hell'. Others worthy of note are Q Smith as Mrs. Corry and Mary VanArsdel as the Bird Woman. (the haunting "Feed the Birds")

Bob Crowley (scenic and costume design) does a superb job especially in the "Jolly Holiday" sequence where everything black and white turns to vibrant color. The house on Cherry Lane that opens as in a storybook is a wonder, as are all the toys in "Playing the Game".
These stories are for children and adults of all ages. Remember: "A Man Has Dreams" and "Anything Can Happen". Let yourself go and "Let's Go Fly a Kite"!
4 out of 5 stars

review - Baby It's You

Baby It's You
written by Colin Escott & Floyd Mutrux
directed by Mutrux
Pasadena Playhouse
through December 13

Extended for months at West Hollywood's Coast Playhouse, Baby It's You was a superhit musical revue (with a scattered storyline) about The Shirelles that really packed in the crowds. Word of mouth was that it was sensational. Now it's been restaged for the Pasadena Playhouse - and, the result, I am sorry to say, is that going BIG is not always the way to go.
I did not see the original production, but, within the first few minutes of this one, I could sense the underlying problems and questioned the logistics of taking it away from an intimate ambience. The set (Anna Louizos) and costumes (Lizz Wolf) look super, and the cast - cool - but, somehow, between numbers - love those late 50s, early 60s superhits - the action starts to lag, especially after Florence Greenberg (a fine Meeghan Holaway) establishes her record label. Here things should pick up and move, but for some reason or other, they do not. More blocking and more costume changes do have a tendency to slow things down, despite actors' valiant efforts. Even the musical arrangements start to disappoint, as we are not given full songs, but rather partial treatments. So, the music dynamics slip too, even with obviously good singing and musicianship. A bigger space allows for the play to grow into more of a book musical, and that's what cries out to happen here. So far, it's a music panorama or kaleidoscope with snippets of events suited to the small stage.
The 'revue' chronicles a period in much transition. There are rear projections, like photos of Ike playing golf and JFK's entry into the political arena that trace historical events that also show changing trends in culture and music. In the early 60s there were Burt Bacharach, the Beatles and, of course, the Supremes who eventually replaced the Shirelles as the ultimate all girl group.
Florence has an affair with her partner Nathan Dixon (Allan Louis), an African American, called a Negro in those times, and this kind of affair was shocking to say the least. The affair as controversial is barely touched here, as is Greenberg's failing marriage to her husband of many years, Bernie Greenberg (Barry Pearl). Controversies are avoided in a musical revue. However, in this new opened up show, there must be a clearer perspective of how Florence made positive changes for all women, and these issues should be dealt with. Alas, again, a book musical is the tall order, if the show is to remain on the big stage.
The cast, in spite of the varied flaws, are all excellent. Erica Ash, Berlando Drake, Paulette Ivory, and Crystal Starr Knighton make up the effervescent quartet The Shirelles. We see them on the outside, their successes, but never see what's going on within any of them. Geno Henderson struts his versatile stuff as Ron Isley, Chuck Jackson, Gene Chandler and Jocko, and Barry Pearl as Bernie Greenberg gets an opportunity to also play Milt Gabler, the conniving head of Decca Records, who knows a good thing when he sees it. Mutrux directs fairly smoothly. The tiny gaps will most likely straighten themselves out as the show plays 8 times a week.
This is a good show that ought to be great, but isn't. A lot is missing. As is, other period plays like The Marvelous Wonderettes and Life Could Be a Dream are far glitzier and more enjoyable fare. They are smaller shows that have stayed in smaller venues. Baby It's You as is is more suited to off-Broadway than Broadway. If the goal stays Broadway, then the entire show must be reworked, rewritten and perhaps then we'll see more of a surefire hit!
3 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

review - Bonnie & Clyde

Bonnie & Clyde
book by Ivan Menchell
music by Frank Wildhorn; lyrics by Don Black
directed by Jeff Calhoun
La Jolla Playhouse
Mandell Weiss Theatre
through December 20
Every once in a while a musical production comes along that is just about perfect in every way.
Every element is in place and works optimally:
good book, great music and lyrics, superb direction and acting. Yes, the musicalization of Bonnie & Clyde is a gem of a show, that, at present, is a ready entry to this or any Broadway season.
Frank Wildhorn has been a controversial composer in the past, creating majestic scores for The Scarlet Pimpernel and Jekyll & Hyde. He is also the creator of some very lovely ballads. But, somehow, he's been passed over or unduly criticized. The times... they are about to change. In this show - I firmly believe he has fashioned his finest score - there's a little pop, a little blues, a little country, a little gospel - it's almost unrecognizable Wildhorn. It's totally upbeat and suits the idyllic optimism of Bonnie & Clyde like a glove.
This is a love story, ill-fated, but still a love story of two real people who had a plan - not a dream - but a plan to rise above everyone else in their small average Texas town.
They never really wanted to be bad, just famous; once defined by criminal behavior, they were trapped and could not go back: they truly believed that they were the idols fans made them out to be. In fact, they became real folk heroes. And, during a time of Great Depression, they were oft willing to give something back to the people. And, they really loved their was this insistence on being with their family that brought them to their violent demise more quickly.
Laura Osnes (Bonnie) and Stark Sands (Clyde) inhabit these roles fully, and like the common folk that became their fans, I found myself being drawn to their story, liking them...almost eerily admiring them. Anyway, at least feeling deeply for them. Mare Winningham (Emma) adds another trophy to her mantel. In this role of genuine feeling as Bonnie's mother, she is simply wondrous. She sings the ballad "The Devil" in Act II so very beautifully. Melissa van der Schyff (Blanche), reminding one vocally of Dolly Parton, is equally genuine in her outbursts of raw emotion. Claybourne Elder as Buck Barrow has the reverse disposition of Clyde; he could be your neighbor, your friend, your sibling, a good man unwittingly gone bad. Also outstanding are Wayne Duvall as the sheriff, Michael Lanning as the preacher, and Chris Peluso as Ted, the cop so smitten with Bonnie.
Scenic and costume design by Tobin Ost are simply marvelous. The set has wooden panels that serve to create indoor and outdoor venues to period perfection. John McDaniel's music direction is also excellent. In praise of Menchell's book, I so admire the artistic, nonviolent ending. The violence worked on the big screen, but onstage, we need an extra special touch to preserve the memory of the romance, like a lovely waltz as the rest of the world looks on.
To be described as ravishing made Bonnie's day; this ravishing musical surely makes a difference, as it tributes the good as well as the bad side of Bonnie & Clyde.
5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Alex Billings A Knockout @ Sterling's

Actress, friend Cissy Conner agrees that Alexandra Billings is incredible!

review - Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas The Musical

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical
book & lyrics by Timothy Mason; music by Mel Marvin
directed by Matt August
Pantages Theatre
through January 3, 2010
What a pleasure to see a stage show that lives up to the book from which it was conceived! Sadly, the movie version of Grinch, starring an overbearing Jim Carrey was gaudy and overdone, but the stage version is sheer delight with some pretty superb singing.
The entire cast, with the exception of a listless John Larroquette as Old Max, is a treat to watch. Stefan Karl inhabits the Grinch ideally without pretense or fake overacting. His mannerisms, voice and reactions are all within control. He's great! Also terrific is James Royce Edwards as Young Max, whose energy and puppy demeanor made me want to take him home and cuddle him up to me. Kayley Stallings is adorable and sweet as Cindy-Lou Who (she's in the red cast; some younger roles, like this one, are double cast). Other Whos from Whoville worthy of mention are Danny Gurwin as Papa and Melinda Gilb as Mama. Larroquette is OK, but usually turns in a far more riveting performance. Donning a dogsuit is definitely not his thing. Yes, he's supposed to be old, but old dogs too can be surprisingly spunky and feisty.
John Lee Beatty's sets and Robert Morgan's costumes with their pinks and cartoonishly drawn whites and blacks would make Dr. Seuss proud. I cannot believe this show has not been recorded for CD. Loved "Who likes Christmas?" "It's the Thought That Counts", "One of a Kind" and "Now's the Time".
Karl and the actress who plays Cindy-Lou will tug at your heartstrings. And who can resist sentimentality at Christmastime? Shedding a tear or 2 is what brings out the humanity in all of us, even from mean ol' green Mr. Grinch!
5 out of 5 stars

CABARET review - Alexandra Billings

Alexandra Billings brought her cabaret show Everybody's Girl, under the musical direction of Bill Newlin, to Sterling's Upstairs @ Vitello's Sunday November 15 - and I must admit, after seeing so many great cabaret artists lately, this lady tops them all. Her instrument has an astounding range, she can act your socks off and... she is raunchy and deliriously hilarious, all in one breath.
She opened the 75 minute set with "Being Alive", a Sondheim winner, and, for the first time, I heard it the way it is supposed to be sung. Start off soft and slow and let it build and build to a gigantic finish. She then proclaimed what a fancy room Sterling's is, like a New York club - "So what the hell am I doing here?" She said she realized she would have to watch her language, "don't insult the audience" and "don't hump the piano!" "Then what's left? That's my show!!" There followed a splendid rendition of "Just In Time", then a dynamic "Rich, Famous and Powerful", followed by the showstopper of all, "The Music That Makes Me Dance" (Jule Styne from Funny Girl) that here served as a tribute to her late father, a professor and musical director for many years at Harbor College. She shifted to "I'm Checkin' Out", which she called country music a la Shel Silverstein - "What versatility! She does it all!" Other highlights included "Stars and The Moon", "Everybody's Girl" from Steel Pier - "I had to find a song that sums me up", a gorgeous low-key medley of "Lost in the Stars" and "Some Enchanted Evening", a brilliant arrangement of "Come Rain or Come Shine" which was sent to her from the Wally Harper estate (he had arranged it with Mort Lindsay for Judy Garland) and as her finale, the Carly Simon hit, the philosophical "Let the River Run" from Working Girl.
She told some very funny stories about Liza, Earth Kitt, Stockard Channing and talked of a condition called FPT (Famous People Turrets disease) that she has been known to get when confronted with a celebrity.
Billings need never worry about hobnobbing with famous people, as her brilliant artistic talent already places her at the star level. She is one artiste that deserves to go straight to the top.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sammy Williams' Birthday Bash at the Gardenia

(Ron Dennis, left, original Chorus Line cast member, and Stan Mazin and I wish Sammy Williams a happy birthday and cheer him on after his stunning cabaret debut at The Gardenia Saturday night, November 14.

CABARET review - Sammy Williams

(photo by Stan Mazin)

Sammy Williams made his theatrical cabaret debut at The Gardenia Friday and Saturday, November 13 and 14 with musical director Ron Snyder at the piano and under director Tom Pardoe's skilled hand. Williams is no slouch, having won a Tony Award for 1975's phenomenon A Chorus Line. His was a milestone performance as Paul, a drag artist who had to deal with the shame it brought to his parents and family. It was a dramatic and scintillatingly sympathetic portrayal which will live in our memories forever. Now at age 61, Williams embarks on yet another high point, the beginning of his night club career. As a friend truthfully pointed out, "it's not just the voice, but the whole package!" Williams is a real first class showman. He's a good singer, a superb dancer, and possessing an electric personality that knows its way around an amusing story or two.
In his first Broadway show The Happy Time, Williams had the great pleasure to work with Roubert Goulet, who, in those days, according to our storyteller, had quite a delectable set of buns. And in one musical number with his back to the audience, Goulet flexed his butt quite frequently, and because he was wearing a very tight pair of pants, the flexes were deliciously apparent. On the sidelines Williams giggled so hard, he claimed it was amazing that he was not fired off the show.
Highlights of the one-hour set included: Goulet's number "I Don't Remember You" from Kander and Ebb's Happy Time, the serious and tender part of Paul's monologue from Chorus Line, climaxed by a gorgeous "Someone Remember Me" by Bill Dyer, "I Can Do That", sung originally in Line by Wayne Cilento, a tribute to New York "Carry Me Back to Old Manhattan", a loving salute to his mom with "I've Got a Crush on You", 2 songs from Too Old for the Chorus (done 10 years ago at the Celebration Theatre): "When 50 Wore a Tux" and the plaintively beautiful "Dog Passages" and his encore by Karen Carpenter "Look to Your Dreams". During the evening Williams changed jackets, wore a hat and silken white scarf, and then - the piece de resistance -donned a pair of red slinky high heels to interpret Albin's "A Little More Mascara" from La Cage Aux Folles - this, undoubtedly his finest hour.
Williams is a truly engaging performer, and hopefully, this little gem of a show will carry him through at least another couple of performing decades. Watch for him at a theatre or cabaret near you!

Monday, November 9, 2009

All the Lives of Me @ The Inner Circle of the Magic Castle

Stan Mazin (far right) and I agree:
Y & R's Kate Linder loves Florence Henderson too.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Florence Henderson Exhilarating at the Magic Castle

A radiant Florence Henderson presented her newly revamped live one-woman musical show All the Lives of Me at the Magic Castle Monday and Tuesday, November 9 and 10. The lady is still beautiful, can still sing - and is one hilariously engaging cabaret performer.
All the Lives of Me (song by Peter Allen) is divided into the various chapters of Henderson's life: daughter, aspiring Broadway performer, TV mom, real mom, wife, and, of course, with no influences from Shirley MacLaine - her next life.
It's a musical journey. Henderson's instrument is still marvelously in tune. She's best in the lower registers, but can still hit the high notes and sustain them. Highlights included: "Moonshine Lullaby" (her daddy in Kentucky was a dirt poor sharecropper and moonshiner), "You Are My Sunshine" (as a little girl, Henderson's mother forced her to sing for money to feed their family) and "My Old Kentucky Home". She passed a hat amongst audience members like she did in Kentucky as a girl and later , true humanitarian that she is, declared that all cash received was being donated to Project Angel Food.
In the Broadway segment, she recreated the song that served as her audition for Richard Rodgers, "Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin'", and then a gorgeous "Where or When" followed as Nellie Forbush from South Pacific by "I'm In Love With a Wonderful Guy". Not to worry, "The Brady Bunch" theme, which she referred to as the National Anthem, was rendered, as well as a lovely warm "My Heart Stood Still" and her intimate hommage to her 4 children, "My Babies and Me".
Henderson's sense of humor was unleashed as she told some very funny stories and jokes, one in particular that I will never forget about producer David Merrick. Phyllis Diller was quoted to have said, "If you need a heart transplant, try and get his, as he's never used it!"
A fun Q & A with the audience allowed Henderson to disclose her favorite leading men: Ricardo Montalban (The King and I) and Ezio Pinza (Fanny), and to compare her career with Shirley Jones, "We had similar beginnings, singing for Rodgers and Hammerstein. I didn't get the movie of Oklahoma. We all know Shirley Jones did. The little bitch!" She laughed saying she loves Shirley and that she (Jones) knows about the inclusion of the story in Florence's show. Robert Reed received a loving tribute as actor, costar (The Brady Bunch) and friend as she dedicated "One" from A Chorus Line to him. "He was a brilliant actor. He wanted so much and tried so hard to be a song and dance man". The Brady Bunch Variety Hours are considered cult classics in the gay community.
She promised to tell only the truth about everything, was honest about her Catholic background and her 4 pregnancies and expressed genuine regret about her divorce from first husband Ira Bernstein.
Let's not forget to praise Glen Roven, her musical director, who set the stage by introducing himself as one of Henderson's greatest fans. He has all of her Broadway cast albums. He was great, as were the 3 gals who provided backup singing and accompaniment on the sax, cello et al.
The 90 minute set went by in a flash, literally, and Henderson heartfully accepted a standing ovation. Florence Henderson - I've always loved her! - is, yes, TV's most remembered mom (a role she never wanted), a humble human being and an overall dandy entertainer par excellence. Brava!

review - Polyester The Musical

Polyester The Musical
book by Phil Olson; music: Wayland Pickard
lyrics by Olson & Pickard
Directed by Pickard & Doug Engalla
Actors Forum Theatre
through December 20

Breaking out of routine and treading new ground about sums up my 70s experience; pretty typical, huh? Novelty was a welcome choice back then.
What about the music? Disco, which imitated rock, but found its own unique place in the music world, at least momentarily. It was flashy, but oh so ephemeral. Looking back on it all, the 70s are a tad hard to pin down; they came and went so fast. Wayland Pickard, a relatively conservative pianist/musician and Phil Olson, a comedic writer of far less restraint combine divergent talents to create a cream puff to the 70s, a cute little musical show called Polyester (no relation to the John Waters film), which is loads of fun to watch with a very appealing cast.
Christopher Fairbanks, Pamela Donnelly, Gwendolyn Druyor and Jim Staahl are The Synchronistics, a 70s singing group reunited in 1999 at TV station WKLN for a fundraising telethon. Barry (Fairbanks) and Mindy (Donnelly), the 2 lead singers who were once a team on and off, have split up and much of the dialogue and musical content too chronicle the details of the breakup and serve as an appeal for reconciliation. Peggy (Druyor) factors into the split big time... and Carl (Staahl)? He's a mama's boy with a different set of issues. All four actors work splendidly together and help to fashion a smoothly flowing scenario. Robert Moon plays Lance, the station's telethon emcee, who, with a forced smile and sardonic delivery like Paul Lynde, tears up the scenery as often as he can. It's great fun, but stretched to the max. The whole show would fit much better into a one-act, 75-80 minute format instead of with its current 2 acts. Pickard teases with a few bars of a hit 70s song and cleverly changes the rest to create his new tune. For example, "Shake Your Booty" becomes "Bump Your Booty Rump". And with Olson's fearless approach to lyrics, it all pretty much hangs loose. But those were the 70s and it matches!
Engalla directs with good pacing and Michele Bernath provides some snappy choreography for the foursome.
The innocence of love, of course, wins out in the long run, and everyone leaves the theatre refreshed and optimistic. Good entertainment for our troubled times!
4 out of 5 stars