With "Johnny Appleseed," its new musical for children, the Hollywood Film School brings a pleasant, if uneven, touch of country to the well-groomed industrial park area of Westlake Village.
Featuring children and young adults at varying levels of professionalism--some are very much beginners--Jan and Gene Casey's original work uses humor and a bouncy score to tell the story of itinerant lay preacher John Chapman, who trekked up and down the Midwest in the 19th Century, planting apple trees.
The one-hour show is a series of loosely knit scenes. Director Gene Casey, who provides piano accompaniment, offers little in the way of creative vision--the sets are minimal, the choreography simple and some of the songs are corny. But the good nature of the piece and Mark Meredith's attractive performance in the title role make it a bit more than a student exercise.
Meredith, a sandy-haired young man with a pleasing smile and an outstanding singing voice, gives his character substance and shading. The lack of experience in most of the rest of the cast is obvious--one young woman in Saturday's performance fluffed her bangs while waiting to say her lines.
Adult actor Lloyd Pedersen, however, does his comic, drawling turn as Corky the Dog with Jonathan Winters relish. He and Meredith play off each other with obvious professional enjoyment.
The Hollywood Film School is part of a talent/modeling agency and production company complex run by Carol Lynn and Dick Woody. Using students and/or clients to present children's theater is new at the school--this is its second production. There is a sense that with added care and commitment, the venture could grow beyond self-promotion and stage experience for students.
\o7 Performances run through June 25 at 2488-A Townsgate Road, Westlake Village, Saturdays at 1 p.m. Tickets: $5; (805) 496-5306 or (818) 706-8422.\f7