Sunday, November 16, 2008

Review - The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood


The Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood

book by Robert Emmett; music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Bob Merrill

directed/choreographed by Todd Nielsen

9 O'Clock Players:

Assistance League of Southern California
1370 N. St. Andrews Place, LA

Sundays through December 7 @ 2pm, except November 30; Saturdays - November 22 & December 6 @ 2pm

To recreate on stage a 1965 TV film that starred Liza Minnelli, Cyril Ritchard (remember the Captain Hook?) and Vic Damone: that is courageous. The wonderful 9 O'Clock Players are celebrated for taking risks. I first reviewed them in 2001 when they staged the fascinating Mr. Scrooge. It was as rich as a fine Christmas pudding. A volunteer cast of women, some with professional theatre credits, others not, give their all to bring theatre to LA children of every age, including the less fortunate.
Helmed by skilled professional director Todd Nielsen, the theatrically campy Dangerous Christmas of Red Riding Hood works best for die-hard theatre lovers. With music composed by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, fresh from the success of Funny Girl, it's show time, folks! How can one resist lines like "People who give people presents are the luckiest people in the world." But it takes a theatre buff to understand and appreciate where it's coming from. Barbra Streisand's "People" from Funny Girl was a number one hit and remains a theatrical treasure.

That firmly established, this mounting has other merits in that it's cute and pleasing for the toddlers, for, although they will not understand much of the theatre humor, they assuredly will enjoy the animal characters singing and skipping around the stage and through the audience whilst dangling snowflakes over their heads. There are no 4 letter words to gripe about, thank heavens, so you don't have to plug up their ears. The multiple play on words throughout the script will keep you, their adult guardians chuckling. So you will all have a good time. What more could a family want for Christmas?
The cast is uniformly enjoyable. Andrea Saccone makes Red Riding Hood a precocious attention grabber, craving a flashy cape for Christmas and a glance in the mirror at herself more than a visit to grandma's house. Like Funny Girl Fanny Brice hogging the spotlight as the greatest star, she's meant to be a little diva. Saccone could have gone further, but that's OK; she does a dandy job. Christina Doren covets the role of Lone T. Wolf, who as narrator of this fairy tale parody, tries to prove that 'Lillian", Little Red Riding Hood's real name, at least according to author Emmett, twisted the facts against him and deprived him of the friendship for which he was 'famished'. What strength Kim Harrison lacks in song, she makes up for in presence and ego as the self-centered Woodsman. Arlen O'Hara, Roxie Amdur and Mary Ferrara make a deliciously silly trio of backup wolves, Jann Cobler is perfectly agile as The Mute Mouse and Shelly Berman is adorably cuddly as Skunk.

Bill Brown is an energetic musical director, the forest set by Stephen Gifford of snowcapped trees is appropriately wintry and the costumes by Carol Onofrio, just right.

Styne and Merrill's score is tuneful, especially Lillian's "I'm Naive" and "Ding-A-Ling", but hardly memorable. Despite the flaws, it's overall a fun-filled afternoon, as The 9 O'Clock Players, as always, have their heart in the right place and know how to satisfy!!!

4 out of 5 stars


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