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THEATER REVIEW: 'JERRY'S GIRLS' : One-Man Show : There's lots of action and ambitious costumes, but little continuity, which may be an advantage.

September 06, 1990|TODD EVERETT

No, "Jerry's Girls" isn't a Labor Day weekend telethon. Rather, it's a revue of songs composed by Jerry Herman for several Broadway plays, among them "Hello, Dolly!," "Mame" and "La Cage aux Folles." A local production of the show debuted over the Labor Day weekend--just coincidence, we're sure--and can be seen at the Conejo Players Theater in Thousand Oaks, Sunday afternoons through Sept. 23.

In the Conejo Players version of the show, a cast of 12 women perform just under 40 numbers gathered from each of Herman's Broadway plays (except "The Grand Tour"). The players also perform a number that was added to "Hello, Dolly!" for the film version, a number contributed to the Tommy Tune revue "A Day in Hollywood," and two songs ("Two a Day" and "A Show Tune") from "Parade," an off-Broadway revue predating his first Broadway production, 1960's "Milk and Honey."

There's plenty of singing, lots of dancing, ambitious costumes and precious little continuity, which may be an advantage, since instead of a plot, even more songs can be packed into a show that comes in at two hours, including intermission.

The show is so much an ensemble production that only two of the women are not spotlighted in solo or duet numbers, and everybody gets to step out for at least a couple of lines. Some of the performers are stronger singers and/or dancers than others, but even with its occasional clumsiness ("Tap Your Troubles Away" from "Mack and Mabel" comes to mind), the music and the performers' undeniable enthusiasm compensate for the lack of spectacle. And some of the amateurism is deliberate: "The Man in the Moon" (from "Mame") is a much more successful Busby Berkeley parody than anything in "Dames at Sea."

Another highlight is Devery Holmes' reading of "Nelson," the number from "A Day in Hollywood" purportedly sung by Jeanette McDonald to Nelson Eddy--when she isn't too pleased with him.

Lady Jan (that's evidently her name, not a title) Faulkner captures low comedy honors with two numbers from "Mame." In "Put It Back On" she portrays a none-too-desirable burlesque dancer, wearing a feather boa that looks as if someone had ripped the tail off Selsdon, the Conejo Players' house cat. In "Gooch's Song," she is the pregnant secretary.

A section of songs from "La Cage aux Folles" seems tacked onto the show, as indeed it was--"Jerry's Girls" was conceived (by Herman and Larry Alford) and originally produced before Herman's most recent success. Still, the numbers are imaginatively performed. As it would be odd to have women portraying female impersonators, Anne Evans and the other singers in three of the four numbers are dressed as men. The fourth song, "I Am What I Am," is sung by Irene Strickland, in a dress.

The costumes range from rather demure swimsuits to elegant cocktail dresses, with the singers also dressed as waiters, burlesque dancers and so forth, as the numbers demand. No individual costume credit is given, but Betsy Henke is listed as coordinator and Ruth Swain credited with hat design and construction.

Pamela Matheson, Darren Franks and Jim Holmes are the director, choreographer and musical director; their work shows ingenuity and skill. A live band--Holmes on piano, plus drummer Ken Dayton and bassist Steve Bringleton--accompany all of the numbers save one, which was inexplicably danced to a prerecorded track.

In addition to the singer-dancers already mentioned, the cast includes Jennifer Beall, Melinda Bridges, Susan Goodman, Trish Hallier, Kathleen Hobson, Shelley Saxer and K. Jill Sorgen.

* WHERE AND WHEN: "Jerry's Girls" is performed Sunday afternoons at 2:30 only, through Sept. 23. The Conejo Players Theater is at 351 S. Moorpark Road in Thousand Oaks. Admission is $5. No reservations are accepted, so you're advised to arrive early. For further information, call (805) 495-3715.

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