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THEATER REVIEW 'THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE JOLLY' : Elves and Schemes : Moorpark Melodrama puts music first--with uneven results--in a charming, energetic seasonal offering.

December 05, 1991|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

This month's Moorpark Melodrama offering, "The Good, the Bad and the Jolly," is atypical in that the group concentrates on seasonal music, with the drama being a second priority.

Sure, there's a plot, with Santa Claus flying a couple of miscreant elves around the United States and Mexico, demonstrating how Christmas is celebrated in various territories. Usually, it's with a song.

Typical of the Melodrama, music drawn from all kinds of sources is worked into the story, this time ranging from the semi-spiritual "Do You Hear What I Hear?" to the comic "Santa Baby" and "All I Want for Christmas Are My Two Front Teeth."

There's so much music, in fact, that the company has dispensed with its customary post-Melodrama variety revue and instead draws out the show to three acts, about 2 1/2 hours. Afterward, kids can get their photographs taken with Santa.

Unfortunately, while the cast is filled with typical Moorpark Melodrama energy and charm, the singing is--to put it kindly--uneven.

That's fine during one of the group's regular productions, where comic acting skills are stressed, but it presents more of a problem when so much emphasis is on the music, some of it relatively difficult. Several singers during Saturday afternoon's performance had trouble projecting beyond the lip of the stage. The audience's attempts to clap in rhythm often drowned them out entirely.

The good guys in Scott Martin's script include Santa (Dan Inloes), Mrs. Claus (Kate McIntyre) and three elves. Caryn Faye is cute as all get-out as Bitsy, Timothy King is the object of her unrequited love, and Nels Jorgensen is the senior member of the trio.

D. W. Miller and Susan Slome play the two anti-Establishment elves. He is upsetting the system by installing computers (a potentially rich plot line that goes nowhere in particular) and is recycling toys for his personal profit. She follows along until she finally shows some spunk.

The supporting ensemble, many playing multiple roles, consists of Chadwick B. Lortie, Laura Walker, Corinne White, Kevin McCurly, Lisa Mikolajczyk, Heatherly Lortie, Grant George and Melodrama perennial David Barry.

Most of the Melodrama's budget seems to have been spent dressing Santa's Workshop gorgeously enough to be a holiday greeting card. Much of the show is played in front of the curtain.

The costumes, designed by producer Linda Bredemann and executed by Susie Hafer, are top-notch, and some large plush animals are better than that. A shamelessly executed low-budget special effect of Santa's sleigh crossing the sky earns some of the show's biggest laughs.

Nancy Honaker stepped in at the last minute to take over as pianist and musical director; she's much better than adequate. Bass guitarist Brian Lowe is the other half of the band.

The Moorpark Melodrama encourages, nay, demands audience participation, this time even more than usual. Grinches, take heed--try for a seat in the rear of the theater, unless you enjoy singing lines of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" time after time after time.

* WHERE AND WHEN

"The Good, the Bad and the Jolly" continues through Dec. 22 at the Magnificent Moorpark Melodrama & Vaudeville Co., 45 E. High St., Moorpark. Show times are 7 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with matinees at 3 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Reserved-seat tickets are $11. For reservations or information, call 529-1212.

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