Totally caught up in the L.A. Lakers in the finals…

Dana Abrams and Steve Rizzo in “Baby.”

I managed to schedule and see two enjoyable productions – GO LAKERS!

“Baby”

In its West Coast premiere, this fun lovin’, “baby boomin’” musical delighted the audience from start to finish. Loaded with entertaining and meaningful songs, and boasting some stellar vocal performances, Baby is a clever and touching look at pending parenthood. We peek in on three couples who are considering the complicated process of expecting “the stork.” Three generations of loving duos whose concerns, joys, and anticipations of bringing a wee one into the world differ greatly… we are privy to their personal bedroom chats. (Cute set by Chris Winfield.) With music written by David Shire, lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and book by Sybille Pearson, Baby ran on Broadway in 1983 for 241 performances, garnering multi-theatre nominations. Playfully directed here by the highly respected Cate Caplin, with lively musical direction well handled by Jeffrey Rockwell… there’s plenty of fun to be had! Couple one are co-habitating college students. Couple two are “thirty-something” married folks. Couple three are parents of college kids, whose night of spontaneous passion went wrong… or right, depending on how you look at it! Robert Allen is loveably effective as Danny, and Emily Thompson as Lizzie, is a sizzling showstopper! What a “fab” voice! Her performance singing “The Story Goes On” brought on thunderous applause. Pam and Nick, played by Dana Abrams and Steve Rizzo, are heart touchingly hilarious. Alan, played with soulful sensitivity by Lloyd Pedersen and Luise Heath, share a touching duo on “And What If We Had Loved Like That.” Though some of the melodies, for me, felt discordant and difficult for the singers, the lyrics were spot on in speaking to the “heart” of the delicate issues at hand. The remainder of the quirky cast, in multiple roles, included: Beckett Arnold, Klair Bybee, Michael Cassano, Lauren Faye, Tonilyn Horung, and Jeremy M. Sage. Adding admirably to the fun: Joseph “Sloe” Slawinski on sound, Rachel Jaime Miller on lighting, and Maro K. Parian for flairful costumes. A touching and fun-filled musical play that will lighten your day… Running through July 11th at The Lonny Chapman Theatre on 10900 Burbank Blvd. in North Hollywood. Call 818-700-4878 or go to www.thegrouprep.com

“The Socialization of Ruthie Shapiro”

“The Socialization of Ruthie Shapito” at Theatre West.?Clockwise from left: Nick McDow, Constance Mellors, Heather Keller, Claire Partin.

This is an endearingly wonderful and “emotion stirring” play. It will take you back to your own “growing pains” at age 12, time and time again. We enjoy every moment of Ruthie’s search for acceptance! Beautifully written with a feast of “food for thought” by Barbara Nell Beery, it is billed as a memory play. The playwright’s program notes state in part “…the period of time when a young girl crystallizes a distinct sense of self, which she can then lose in the socialization process of adolescence…” Poignantly and beautifully directed by Susan Morgenstern, the quartet of actors fare well! As the play opens (on a most appealing set by Jeff Rack) we meet Ruthie. Now in her 30s… a wife, mother, and teacher, she takes us back to her insecure pre-pubescent years as a lonely and unpopular young Jewish girl… struggling with more questions than answers. In a poignantly multi-layered and triumphant portrayal, Claire Partin plays both the adult and the young Ruthie in turns. Bravo! Ruthie feels invisible in junior high, overshadowed by her critical 15 year old brother, Ronnie. A popular school baseball hero, he doesn’t want to be seen with his studious “wallflower” kid sister. As Ronnie, Nick McDow gives a spirited and cocky performance. With her father away on business (selling ladies “undies”) most of Ruthie’s conversations/ concerns are discussed with her mother. A richly rewarding portrayal by Constance Mellors offers some of the play’s finest moments, as the dutiful wife/mother who considers her family as her entire reason for living. Finally, while quietly eating her lunch alone, as usual, Ruthie makes a new friend! New student Loretta, a goofy, freakishly tall Texas transplant doesn’t know a soul here. They instantly form a bond and become inseparable. As the sweet but kooky Loretta with family problems, Heather Keller is a hilariously ditzy delight! The two lonely girls are thrilled to have each others’ constant company, and plan to try out for the school talent show. Sadly, soon something happens that strains the bond of their friendship. Ruthie’s passionate quest for acceptance in those difficult formative years is a sweet, funny, and relatable story… sure to stir up your own private memories along the way. Reality, confusion, “fitting in” and loss of innocence are tough lessons to digest. Try to see this one! Running through July 11th at Theatre West – 3333 Cahuenga Blvd. (near Universal City). For seats call 323-851-7077 or go to www.theatrewest.org.

Oops! So Sorry!

In my favorable review last week of White People, running at The Road Theatre in NoHo, I made a “switcheroo” error. I reversed a character’s name with the actual actor’s name. My apologizes to fine actor Tom Knickerbocker, who excellently plays the role of Martin Bahmueller.

Back next week with three new reviews… I’m gonna be pretty busy!


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