I caught two highly entertaining productions on the weekend. As different as they could possibly be… but both WINNERS!

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Always…Patsy Cline

Sally Struthers and Carter Calvert in “Always…Patsy Cline.”

Sally Struthers and Carter Calvert in “Always…Patsy Cline.”

Written and originally directed by Ted Swindley. A triumphant two character show and a NON-STOP DELIGHT from start to finish… my cheeks still ache from smiling! It is the heartfelt true story of an unlikely relationship between a lonely single mother in Houston, and a world famous country music star. Their relationship lasted until Patsy’s untimely death in 1963 at the age of 30 in a plane crash.

Sally Struthers portrays Louise, a spirited and kooky gal who is a die-hard fan of Patsy Cline. Alone in her kitchen with the radio on non-stop, she lives vicariously through the music of the country music star. When she finally attends one of her idol’s live performances, the two gals meet, and begin a deep friendship that would last until Patsy’s death.

After that fateful evening of bonding, Louise invites her home for bacon and eggs, and an overnight stay… during which they become forever friends. Although they never actually met again, they stayed in touch through countless letters until Patsy’s sudden death. Cline always closed her correspondence by writing… “Always, Patsy Cline.” Hence, the title of this play…

This is a touchingly funny journey from start to finish. The audience loved every moment, and responded repeatedly with thunderous applause! Sally Struthers (from All in the Family) was BRILLIANTLY LOVEABLE, and hysterically entertaining! The “sold-out” audience clearly adored her. Carter Calvert as Patsy was DELICIOUSLY DYNAMIC throughout, capturing Cline’s voice perfectly. She flawlessly sings twenty five of Cline’s HIT songs, with an EXCELLENT back up band onstage (musical director John Randall), called “The Bodacious Bobcats Band.” I was surprised to realize that I knew the lyrics to nearly every song, as did most of the audience. Just to name a few: “I Fall to Pieces,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” “You Belong to Me,” “Walkin’ After Midnight,” “Crazy,” and “Anytime.” Classic songs.

The myriad of stunning costumes were eye appealingly “country perfect” throughout (by Gordon De Vinney), and Bruce Goodrich designed the colorfully delightful set.

A nostalgic page in history, this dynamic show is a non-stop crowd pleaser, loaded with whacky unscripted moments, offered by the zany Struthers. A blast back to the 50s and 60s, loaded with familiar songs, fine performances, and a lot of heart! This is the show to catch! Book seats today… because opening night was a total sell-out!

Running Thursday through Sundays until August 3rd at The El Portal Theatre in NoHo. 5269 Lankershim Blvd. For tickets/info, call (818) 508-4200 or go to www.elportaltheatre.com

Without Annette – A World Premiere

(Performing July 10th Opening Night, including Mark Beltzman, not pictured) - From l, Jason Frankovitz, Andrew Villarreal, Kersten Haile, Gary Robinson, Matthew Shane, Timothy Walker, Angie Jaree, Charlie Mount, Julia Morizawa and Tara Ciabattoni.

(Performing July 10th Opening Night, including Mark Beltzman, not pictured) – From l, Jason Frankovitz, Andrew Villarreal, Kersten Haile, Gary Robinson, Matthew Shane, Timothy Walker, Angie Jaree, Charlie Mount, Julia Morizawa and Tara Ciabattoni.

HILARIOUSLY created and written by Hope Juber and Jeff Doucette (who also directs the production), this one is LAUGH OUT LOUD FUNNY! My head is still spinning from trying to keep up with the insanity. Now, I’m facing the task of telling you about this maniacally fast-paced comedy, taking place in an actors improv class. Each show is a unique hybrid of scripted and improv performance. It stars actors/comics from such notorious groups as the Groundlings, Second City, iO West, and others…

Running only on Thursday nights with two alternating casts of seasoned actors… no two evenings will be exactly the same, but will undoubtedly “tickle your funny bones.” The cast I saw was great fun and undeniably talented… as each bared their characters’ souls with HYSTERICAL and HEARTWRENCHING skill, in turns.

The action takes place at “Sam’s Improv Workshop,” hosted by Sam (a LOVEABLY SOLID Mark Beltzman). We, the audience, are auditors of the class, who supposedly learned about it on Facebook. As Sam leads his actors through spontaneous scene work, often from audience suggestions… “real life issues” of the class members explosively intermingle with their improv performances. Too many to comment on all… but my personal “faves” included: Andrew Villareal as Trevor, a flamboyant young gay man; Angie Jaree as a housewife, re-discovering herself; Matthew Shane, as a darkly offbeat teen; and Charlie Mount as a middle-aged script writer.

In act two, emotions soar as inner truths reveal themselves among the group. I loved the wardrobe switch “cat fight” between Libby (Julia Morizawa) and Jackie (Kerston Haile)! The entire cast seems to be having a blast! Too many to comment on all… the remainder of this “quick thinking” cast includes: Timothy Walker, Tara Ciabattoni, Jason Frankovitz, and Gary Robinson.

Footnote: Grammy-winning guitarist Laurence Juber “WOWS” us with his live performance throughout the show. An excellent musician, he toured with Paul McCartney’s Wings, and has recorded with countless superstars. Come early to catch his mini-concert at 7:45. He is exceptional! For a gut-busting good time… catch this ever-changing evening of improv comedy! Running Thursday nights only through October 2nd at the Whitefire Theatre. 13500 Ventura Blvd. in Sherman Oaks. For tickets, go to www.plays411.com or call (323) 960-5773.

Shame on Me!

In my review recently on the hilarious set of one acts, Summer Shorts (still running at the Whitefire on Tuesday nights), I somehow left out one of the actors’ names. Sophia Louisa Lee was SASSY in “Full Disclosure” with David Svengalis. This whole evening is a riot! To book seats, call (818) 990-2324.

That’s my story for this week…

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