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Blast to the Past : The musical revue "Sock It to the '60s" at the Center Stage in Woodland Hills is a satire of the people and events of that decade.

August 20, 1993|JANICE ARKATOV | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Janice Arkatov writes regularly about theater for Valley Life.

Everywhere you look these days it's '60s nostalgia: bell-bottoms, miniskirts, peace signs. Now theater joins the trip down memory lane with "Sock It to the '60s," a five-member music-and-sketch revue at the Center Stage in Woodland Hills.

Gene Casey and Dick Woody co-directed it. "All of the material was written in the '60s--satirizing people and events in the '60s," says Casey, the show's musical director. Thirty years ago, he and choreographer Woody were living in New York when they began performing and producing a series of these revues. "I saved the material, revamped it a little, but kept it in period," Casey adds. "There are a lot of '60s references."

Some of the subjects recalled include presidents Kennedy and Johnson, Nancy Sinatra, Tiny Tim, Joan Baez and Ed Sullivan. "I had to explain some of the references to cast members," Woody admits. "People like Maria Callas, George Wallace, Sam Rayburn and Giancarlo Menotti." Generally, such identifications are not a problem for audiences; although some of the theatergoers are in their 20s and 30s, the majority are between 40 and 60.

Casey describes theatrical revues of this nature as forerunners to such TV shows as "Laugh-In," which debuted in 1968, and "Saturday Night Live," first seen in 1975.

"Of course, the songs of the '60s are no longer topical,but they're funny from a historical perspective--as nostalgia," Casey says. The sketches and 27 songs were written by eight to 10 writers, he says, including himself, Leslie Davidson, Suzanne Buhrer and Jerry Herman.

They are all performed on a set designed as a montage of '60s magazine covers.

Friends for more than 30 years, Casey and Woody met in 1961 doing a show in Cape Cod. "I was a performer; he was the pianist and musical director," Woody recalls. Woody went on to perform in a series of revues--he figures at least 30 gigs in summer stock and hotels and on cruises. Then, starting in 1972, he became an agent for 20 years. Most recently, he produced Michael Kavanagh's show, "Bein' with Behan."

"While Dick was changing from an actor to an agent to a producer, I've been writing full time," Casey says with a chuckle. Formerly musical director of the old Mayfair Music Hall, Casey also wrote revues for the now-defunct Variety Arts Theatre. He was co-writer of the musical melodrama, "The Orphans Revenge," which played locally at the Cast Theatre, moved to the Ford Theatre in Washington, and is now being performed on the Becky Thatcher Showboat on the Ohio River.

With "Sock It to the '60s" barely on its feet, Casey and Woody signed on with Bill Fegan Attractions to oversee a touring production of their revue "Hollywood Sings!," which debuted in February, 1992, at Center Stage. Casey is also represented with the revue "Crazy Words, Crazy Tunes," which he created with Milt Larsen. It bowed last fall at Center Stage and is running at West End Playhouse. But he takes no credit for the idea to revive this '60s showcase.

"That was all Dick's idea," he says. "He thought the time was right."

Where and When What: "Sock It to the '60s." Location: Center Stage Theatre, 20929 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills. Hours: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. 7 p.m. Sundays. Indefinitely. Price: $15. Call: (818) 509-9376.

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