I caught three musical productions last week.

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(I feel like I’m speaking in a “sing-song” meter…) I saw In the Heights at The Pantages just for fun, and the latter two for “review.” All of them were enjoyable! There’s nothing like a musical to lighten your mood, and escape from everyday life!

It’s Top Secret

photo by Janet Fishman

Lucky (Adam Miller), Notelli (John Albert Price), Milton (Dan Wilson Davis), and Carol (Megan Campbell) in “It’s Top Secret.”

If it is unbridled “slapstick” comedy you seek, your search is over. This is a maniacally zany musical wartime murder mystery, set in Washington, D.C. in 1942. With the infamous “Marx Brothers” playing crime scene investigators, there are plenty of belly laughs to be had! Full of old-fashioned high steppin’, toe tappin’ dances, storytelling songs, foreign intrigue, and forbidden romance, this is a looney and entertaining romp! Cleverly written by Steven A. Muro and Dan David, and snappily directed/choreographed by Robert Petrarca, this madcap farce ran previously at Canoga Parks’ spacious Madrid Theatre, and now explodes in NoHo. As the wackiness begins at the Avendale estate, Dr. Avendale (a solid John Walsh) is murdered, and his “top secret” formula is about to be snatched by two German spies. His grieving wife (a riotous Dimitri Toscas in drag) and daughter (a sweet Megan Campbell), while being comforted by a smitten police officer (a quirky Stephen Vendette) are devastated. The housemaid (a buff & bawdy Allene Quincy) and man servant (a zany Kyle Nudo) deviously pursue their own agendas. Erin Daigle plays multiple mini roles. Enter the Marx Brothers… here to solve the mystery! This trio of actors are hilariously effective, and commendably mirror the antics of Chico, Harpo, and Groucho! Dan W. Davis plays Dr. Malpracticus, John Albert Price plays “private dick” Notelli Bordello, and Adam Miller is divine madness as the wordless Lucky. Under the musical direction of Paul Taylor and his band, the songs and cast’s vocal talents were a treat, as were the costumes of Rachel Stivers and set design by David Goldstein. A barrel of nostalgic laughs… Do catch this one! Running through July 11th at The NoHo Arts Center (11136 Magnolia Blvd.) in North Hollywood. For seats, call 818-340-2538.

Oklahoma!

photo by Tina Babajanians

Travis Dixon as Curly and Jean Altadel as Laurey in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!”

A timeless slice of Americana, this beloved musical, also adapted into the Oscar-winning 1955 film starring Gordon McRae and Shirley Jones, was blessed with wonderful songs and honorable values. The first musical play co-penned by the iconic duo Rodgers and Hammerstein, it first opened on Broadway in 1942, running for over 2,000 performances. Having enjoyed the film many times through the years, but never “live” onstage, I was amazed at how many of the song lyrics that I (and other audience members around me) remembered, as we silently mouthed the words. This popular musical has at least half a dozen unforgettable songs that will linger in our hearts and memories forever! This well-performed, produced, and directed, and slightly grittier, version offers a wildly enjoyable ride, as we mosey on back to the “Oklahoma Territory,” in the days when men were “men” and women were “ladies.” Beautifully directed by Robert Marra and energetically choreographed by Tania Possick, both with passionate vision, in perfect harmony with the musical direction of Greg Haake… I enjoyed every “yee-hah” moment! Eye appealing period costuming by Ann McMahan, and the rustic set by Craig Pavilionis added greatly to the Western tone. This whole cast of 20 actors, singers, dancers (too many to comment on all) seemed to be having a ball! It is the day of the yearly “box social” affair, charitably hosted by the no-nonsense Aunt Eller (a loveably focused performance by Maura Smith). Everyone in town is a-twitter! Cowboy Curly, enamored with the lovely Laurey, desperately wants to escort her, but she’s going with Jud, the darkly brooding farmhand. Will has designs on Ado Annie, who’s currently toying with a shady local peddler. Most of you know the familiar story… as the local guys and gals attempt to secure dates for the annual big night. In the two lead roles, Travis Dixon as the kindly Curly and Jean Altadel as the innocent Laurey are delightfully convincing, and both are gifted singers, sharing a chilling duo on “People Will Say We’re In Love.” Jillian Gomez is adorably flirty as Ado Annie, singing “I Cain’t Say No,” and Jay Rincon is menacing as Jud. Rounding out the lead characters: Ryan Oboza is high spirited as Will Parker, and Matt Dorio is a riot as Ali, the peddler. Act One closes with a gorgeous ballet dream sequence, and song performance by Laurey and the girls, and Act Two closes the show with a rip-roaring full cast performance of “Oklahoma!” An infectiously rewarding evening at the theatre! Why not “saddle up” your loved ones and share this rousing version of one of America’s most-loved musicals? Running through July 18th at The Met Theatre at 1089 N. Oxford Ave. in Los Angeles. For seats call 323-960-7735.

Mark Your Calendar: Thursday nights at Playclothes, 7 till 9:30!

Catch The Painkillers! Stop in to check out Magnolia Parks’ newest vintage clothing store! It is gorgeous and huge! This hot band of working musicians will “rock” your shopping experience on Thursday nights. All of these guys have toured with bands including Rod Stewart, Dwight Yoakum, Ludinda Williams, Liza Minnelli, Carla Bonoff, and more. The Painkillers’ lineup is Taras Produniak, Steven Moos, Phil Parlapiano, Scott Babcock, and Don Kirkpatrick. See you there?

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