J. P. Nightingale, a longtime staple of local children's theater, is doing a short-term stint at the Improvisation Theatre, courtesy of Little Broadway Productions.
"J. P. Nightingale in Concert" features a potpourri of material from past shows, with musician Joe Tripoli and the husband-and-wife team of John and Pam Wood (familiar to many over the last 10 years as the hosts of "Open House at the Hollywood Bowl").
Though this bits-and-pieces program lacks continuity, the mix of music, stories and audience involvement retains a comfortable charm.
Undaunted by the small audience turnout on a recent summer-like day, the troupe opened the show on a cheerful autobiographical note.
Joe tells us that he was adopted, Pam was "the ugliest 3-year-old you've ever seen" (things got better) and John is from England. "How many know where England is? Raise your hands." A shy showing. "How many hate being asked to raise your hands?" Appreciative laughter, and the timid feel less so.
A sketch about a little girl (Pam) who wants to play baseball is overlong and predictable.
The pace picks up with a sketch about a boy (John) who isn't happy with who he is, but finally realizes that being himself isn't such a bad thing.
Music is an integral part of J. P. Nightingale. John and Joe are skillful musicians--on guitar and keyboard, respectively--and Pam provides popular accompaniment on spoons and kazoo.
The songs, a collaborative effort between Laura Plotkin-Young, the Woods, Tripoli and Denny Boushard, deliver messages of communication and friendship quickly, with an upbeat rock tempo.
(A low-key presentation of Shel Silverstein's gentle classic, "The Giving Tree," provides a change of mood.)
In the last segment, children are called up on stage to pull a favorite story out of an "invisible black box." The troupe humorously acts out the child's choice (made with a little coaching from Pam) and the audience guesses the title.
By this time, the J. P. Nightingale members seem like old friends.
The show plays at 8162 Melrose Ave., Hollywood (739-4940), at 1:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday (final performances). Lunch, drinks and a birthday package are available.