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'A Little Like Magic'--fast-paced Visual Treat

February 20, 1987|LYNNE HEFFLEY

It was quite a night. Liza Minnelli belted out "New York, New York," Stevie Wonder circled the stage on a spinning disc and Michael Jackson moonwalked to "Billie Jean."

In "A Little Like Magic," an extravaganza of blacklight theater and life-size puppetry for children of all ages, anything can happen, and does, courtesy of Canada's Famous People Players.

At Norwalk's Excelsior Auditorium Wednesday, disembodied lips, arms and legs cavorted, hens played fiddles and fish swam in the air above undulating seaweed.

Blacklight theater, an intriguing mix of fluorescence and ultraviolet light, makes the impossible possible. Giant shoes tap-dance in mid-air, pianos stand on end, and birds turn into water buckets.

The Famous People Players add extra zip with their celebrity puppets: Kenny Rogers becomes Superman and soars offstage, Elvis Presley belts out "Viva Las Vegas" surrounded by giant roulette wheels and spinning dice, and Barbra Streisand sails across the stage in a tugboat.

Despite some glitches Wednesday--the lights shone a bit too brightly and, until corrected during intermission, the taped sound track boomed alarmingly--the show was a fast-paced visual treat with an emphasis on humor.

Competition for the spotlight was fierce among a wacky company of fowl dancing to "Swan Lake" was fierce and the winner's death scene a comic delight. A raincoated flasher and an enthusiastic stripper provided a few surprises.

One of the best segments, however, a classic routine about an endearing little clown on a tightrope done to "Send in the Clowns," was as touching as it was funny.

Equally touching was an announcement preceding "Aruba Liberace," offering the segment as tribute to the late performer.

Liberace has always had a special place in the show. He was instrumental in giving the troupe its start in 1975, featuring it several times in his Las Vegas act.

Since then, the Famous People Players, under the direction of founder Diane Lynn Dupuy, have been featured in several television documentaries, were the subject of a CBS TV-movie, have toured internationally (including a trip to China in 1986) and played on Broadway--where they've been booked again this year.

The Famous People Players are old hands at magic and accomplishing the seemingly impossible: 10 of the skilled troupe's 13 members are developmentally handicapped.

Watching them perform, that fact becomes only incidental. It is when company members come out to take their bows, that the force of their accomplishment is felt.

The evening is "A Little Like Magic" in more ways than one.

Performance continue at the Beverly Theatre Saturday at 7 p.m. (213) 274-5865, and Sunday at Pepperdine University's Smothers Theatre at 2 and 8 p.m. (213) 456-4522.

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