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VENTURA COUNTY WEEKEND | THEATER NOTES

2 Companies Close Year With Musical Revues

Marquie Dinner Theatre plays favorites of Rodgers, Gershwin and Porter, while lesser-known holiday tunes entertain at Simi arts center.

December 19, 1996|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Two local companies are ending one year--and bringing in another--with musical revues. The Marquie Dinner Theatre in Camarillo is presenting a collection of romantic songs, while the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center will offer a more seasonal program.

Rex Waggoner's script for the Marquie show, "Star-Crossed and Cross-Eyed Lovers," finds three songwriters meeting in heaven, watching and commenting as a group of singers and dancers perform their songs.

Waggoner, who also directed, plays Richard Rodgers; co-musical director Kevin Parcher is George Gershwin; and Marquie producer Paul Marquie is Cole Porter. It's a thin premise--none of the principals resemble the person they're portraying--and neither Ira Gershwin nor Lorenz Hart (Gershwin's and Rodgers' lyricists for the songs performed here) were invited to the party.

Diann Alexander, Jennifer Beall, Kevin Carranza, Deidre Fisher, Jim Harlow and Ray Mastrovito comprise the energetic and appealing vocal ensemble, backed by an instrumental trio led by Parcher. Fisher and Carranza choreographed; Alexander shares musical-direction credits.

Rodgers, Gershwin and Porter explain that, among them, they didn't write a single Christmas number, so the program ends with four Christmas songs written by Alexander's sister, Phyllis Wolfe. So, they couldn't have invited Irving Berlin?

Berlin shows up--or his 'White Christmas" does--at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, as part of "Happy Holiday!," an ambitious revue assembled by Gary Poirot, who also acts as musical director, pianist and one of the large cast of singers.

Here, the songs are entirely seasonal, though Poirot assiduously avoids the hymns and carols associated with Christmas.

Further, and to the show's credit, many of the songs are relatively unknown, providing a bit of surprise to those who, for the first time, are hearing "The Cabbage Patch Song," the Christmas variation of "Mister Sandman," or what happens after "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

Those with a fear of the unknown needn't worry, though; highlights also include the likes of "Count Your Blessings," "Winter Wonderland" and "Santa, Baby."

The songs are imaginatively staged, divided among various assemblies of adults, teens and younger children with a special appearance by one "Earleen Bumpass," for "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," a song that many people evidently continue to find amusing.

Sunday's matinee was performed despite continuing heavy winds in the area, so although the cast could be cited for an apparent lack of enthusiasm, perhaps they should be commended for showing up at all.

In any event, there's plenty here to enjoy. And, after Christmas, the group promises to drop several of the Christmas numbers, and add some New Year's songs.

* "Happy Holidays!" continues through Dec. 31 at Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, 3050 Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays and 2 p.m. Mondays, Dec. 23 and 30. Tickets for performances are $15, adults; $12, seniors and students; and $8, children 12 and under. On New Year's Eve, the 8 p.m. performance will be followed by a late supper and champagne toast; all seats, this night only, are $30. For reservations or information, call 581-9940.

*

'Lady' on the Move: Unable to find a hometown venue, the Ojai Civic Light Opera is holding its production of "My Fair Lady" at Ventura College, in the round. Whatever the vices and virtues of this show may be, this is probably the closest you'll get to Eliza Dolittle without having to buy flowers from her.

That said, the performances range from tolerable on up, with Michelle Skankey appealing as the cockney Eliza, and Ron Rowe standing out Saturday afternoon as Col. Pickering.

Although it's not advertised, director Wayne Pickerell fills in for Douglas Friedlander as Professor Higgins at matinee performances. He was fine Saturday afternoon, despite dropping a couple of lines in his songs.

Several of the costumes, it's noted, were used in the Warner Bros. film of "My Fair Lady." The orchestra is conducted by musical director Laurel Renteria. Choreographer Karen Moncarsh imaginatively moves actors around quite a small space.

* "My Fair Lady" concludes Saturday at Ventura College Circus Theatre, located in the college's main-stage theater building on Loma Vista Avenue between Ash and Day roads in Ventura. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are $14.75 for evening performances; $9.75 for matinees. For reservations or information, call 646-1899.

*

Casting Call: The Ojai Civic Light Opera holds auditions in Ojai this weekend for its production of "The Sound of Music," scheduled to open in March. For location and time of auditions, or other information, call 646-1899.

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