It is my pleasure this time to tell you about two worthy productions…

Both running at our local jewel of a theatre, The El Portal. Booked and ambitiously run by Pegge Forrest and Jay Irwin… with blood, sweat, tears… and a lot of heart… they keep this gorgeous historical theatre rockin’! Congrats!

Cinderella

Veronica Dunne as Cinderella, and Eddie Driscoll and Mark Edgar Stephens

A delightful and extravagant holiday show for “kids” of all ages… this is an eye-popping, ear-pleasing, heart-tugging and unforgettable interactive audience production! You must invite a couple hundred of your best friends and family members to see it with you! Presented in the style of “British Panto,” we are encouraged to cheer, jeer and spontaneously react to the zany events bursting before our eyes. My press sheet explains: “‘British Panto’ or pantomime, is a modern-day musical play based on classic fairytales, that includes contemporary references… and has no relationship to the silent mime performed in whiteface.” A British family affair, this one is beautifully produced by the Lythgoe family (…as in Nigel Lythgoe of So You Think You Can Dance and American Idol fame) and Jason Haigh Ellery. Joyously written by his son Kris Lythgoe, and directed with whimsical genius by his wife Bonnie Lythgoe, the madness never stops! There are plenty of clever “spicy references” for the adults that zoom right over the heads of the “kiddies,” making it a perfect theatrical choice for all.

This ever-changing, awe-inspiringly impressive sets and costumes, shipped from London, are spectacular, as was the lively choreography by Mark Ballas, magic direction by Ed Alonzo and musical direction of Andrew Street. This is the age-old familiar story of Cinderella and her handsome prince… but with endless twists ‘n’ turns weaved in… much to our total enjoyment. The shenanigans open with “Buttons” (our host/narrator) introducing himself, (played by a loveably upbeat Benny Harris), and a rousing dance routine by the adorable “Fairy Kingdom Dancers.” As Cinderella, Veronica Dunne (who won the role over 780 hopeful auditioners) was sparkling in spirit and sweetness, and had the singing voice of an angel. Freddy Stroma was dashingly debonair as Prince Charming, and Jerry Mathers (“The Beaver”) was goofy fun as Cinderella’s father. Broadway star Jennifer Leigh Warren, a “fab” singer, was sassy as The Fairy Godmother, and James May was comical as Dandini. Saving the most outrageous characters for last… just wait ‘til you get a look at Cinderella’s ugly step sisters! Played “in drag” by Eddie Driscoll (as Cowel) and Mark Edgar Stephens (as Seecrest) with campy hilarity, in colorfully gawd awful costumes… they are a non-stop riot as they assault your eyes and sense of good taste all at the same time! The 15 great songs, (…some you’ll know) linked the story perfectly, and the dance routines are a joy! Everything from ballads to hip hop! I took along two guests, (Ilona and Cag) and we all had a blast! Running through December 19th at The El Portal Mainstage – 5269 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. For seats, call (866) 811-4111 or visit www.elportaltheatre.com.

Remembering the Ladies

Toni Morrell.

A nostalgic, heartwarming, “feel good” powerhouse musical treat, starring British dynamo Toni Morrell… this is a wonderful show! It’s a loving tribute to legendary ladies of music, stage, and screen, who have touched our hearts for decades. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you will love every magical moment… as we did! The show is lovingly produced and dynamically directed by noted celebrity authority, interviewer and T.V. director Karen G. Cadle. Under the brilliant onstage technical and musical direction of Toni’s husband David Dial… the multi-talented, charismatic, singer/storyteller, knocks ‘em dead! In her own gut-wrenching style, she sings the signature songs of some of history’s most revered female vocalists. She shares personal stories and runs film clip segments of their lives, as well as those of countless, unforgettable actresses. On a bare bones set, surrounded by large red poinsettia plants, this funny, “down to earth” diva captivated us from start to finish! Saluting such legends as Marlene Dietrich, Barbra Streisand, Debbie Reynolds, Liza Minelli, Cher, Bette Midler, Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, Edith Piaf, Liz Taylor, Carol Channing, Bette Davis, Lena Horn, Tippi Hedron, and many more… in songs and a lovely retrospective montage… the emotional joy is endless! A stunning Tippi Hedron (at 80) was there and honored the night we went, and other surprise “star” guests are expected to show up during Toni’s run. You just never know who you might see… why not gather up a group of friends to share in this highly-entertaining, nostalgic experience? They’ll love you for it! Running through December 31st at the intimate El Portal Forum Theatre – 5269 Lankershim Blvd. in NoHo. For seats, call (866) 811-4111.

Note: Two Special Holiday Performances! December 24th at 5 p.m. — A “kosher” Christmas Eve show will include a Chinese food buffet, and December 31st at 8 p.m.. The New Year’s Eve show will include yummy desserts and champagne. Both nights will cost $50 a seat.

Oops… Apologies!

In my review last week of “Inspecting Carol,” I goofed on two actresses’ names. It was Diana Martin who hilariously played multiple roles, and Linda Alznauer who played the feared N.E.A. Inspector. I must have had too much egg nog!

See you next week…


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