It's the classic show biz tale: performers forced to choose between chances at individual stardom and the group's struggle for fame.
The DuBois sisters--a singing quartet--have been playing the lounge at Reuben's in Santa Ana for 10 years. Suddenly, they're approached individually by agents dangling hot prospects before them. Imagine, going solo at the Velvet Turtle or the Bowl. Or grabbing the spotlight in dinner theater or at the Orange County Fairgrounds. Hey, a girl's gotta dream!
That's the scenario let loose in, "Ahhh, Those Lounge Swingin' DuBois Sisters," a musical comedy set in Orange County.
Starring Lauri Johnson, Dee Dee Hanson, LizAnne (she uses only a single name) and Anji Limon--Orange Countians, all--as, respectively, Lillian, Vivian, Adrian and Marian DuBois, the revue opens Saturday in the Century High School theater in Santa Ana.
More or less rated R--or at least PG-13--it's from the producing wing of the local comedy troupe, the Orange County Crazies. In fact, it's a spinoff of an earlier Crazies show, "It's Not Easy Bein' Orange," which introduced the "sisters" in November, 1990.
"They were immediate show-stoppers," recalls Cherie Kerr, the Crazies'/DuBoises' producer and artistic director. Indeed, the tacky, campy, bickering quartet--which specializes in singing requested song titles in requested musical styles--was initially featured in the revue's first act. But after proving popular, they were moved toward the show's end--better to keep the audience waiting.
Hanson chalks it up to balance. "It's like in a marriage: The sisters, who are each so different, help to balance each other."
Says Johnson: "They love as well as tolerate each other. There's such a dependency there, they feed off each other."
Adds Limon: "People look at us and say, 'Sisters'? That's part of it. Also, we're no ordinary lounge act."
"You look at 'em and you gotta love 'em. They're trying so darn hard," says LizAnne, adding, "You don't expect much from them, but, you get a lot ."
There's no denying the musical lengths to which the DuBois sisters will go to try to please. Among the audience requests they filled during their inaugural appearance with "It's Not Easy Bein' Orange": "Waltzing Matilda" in punk rock; "O, Holy Night" a la Madonna; "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" a la Janis Joplin; "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window" in opera; "The Girl from Ipanema" in country-Western.
As to who the DuBois and the women behind them are, consider the following resumes:
* Lillian (Johnson, 41), who's the oldest, was classically trained. As such, she aspired to follow in the footsteps--and high notes--of the likes of Beverly Sills.
"She thought she was going to sing at the Met. But she never got out of Orange County," Johnson says.
Still, Lillian stretches her chops by delivering songs in operatic style to the lounge crowd. Along with her vocal range, she's set apart by her fashion sense, which includes a fondness for royal blue spandex.
Johnson studied voice with her mother, Annette Warren-Smith, a veteran of Broadway and New York night clubs and the singing voice for non-singing movie musical stars, including Ava Gardner in "Show Boat" (1951) and Lucille Ball in "Fancy Pants" (1950).
Johnson's credits include voice-over work in animated series such as "The Jetsons." She also provides the voice for one of the crooning cubs at Disneyland's "Country Bear Playhouse." She, her husband and 4 1/2-year-old daughter ("a budding star" who has already gone on several commercial auditions) make their home in Garden Grove.
* Vivian (the "35something" Hanson) is a dingy blonde whose "major goal" in life--aside from being a star--is to have bigger breasts.
"The bleach has sunk into her brain," Hanson admits. "She doesn't want to age. She thinks bigger boobs is what it's all about." Songwise, Vivian generally opts for jazz and blues.
An account executive (and sometimes entertainer) for an Orange entertainment company (which does company picnics, catered affairs, etc.), Hanson says she's sung in every job she's had. A former real estate agent and loan officer, she recalls once startling a homeowner by singing out, "Pardon Me, Maam, Have You Been Thinking About Selling?" to the tune of "Chattanooga Choo-Choo."
Hanson, who does a singing/stand-up act that includes impressions of celebrities such as Joan Rivers, grew up in Huntington Beach and attended Cal State Fullerton, where she appeared in theater productions. She lives with her husband in Orange.
* Adrian (LizAnne, 32) is the group's tough cookie. She's aggressive, sarcastic and caustic; not surprisingly, she's also got a chip on her shoulder.