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FAMILY

A Magical Transformation

Imagination Station showcases its strengths in an offbeat 'The Frog Prince.'

March 13, 1997|LYNNE HEFFLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In Imagination Station's latest fairy tale romp, "The Frog Prince," once again a familiar story has been given a twist with the company's deft brand of light, offbeat humor and rhythmic wordplay. The result is an appealing theatrical diversion accessible to young children that also is entertaining for their older siblings and parents.

In this frothy tale, nobody in the kingdom has been quite the same since the princess' betrothed mysteriously disappeared a while back. The once demure queen (Jennifer Brandt) is now a tea-swilling toughie with a Bronx-ish accent. The princess (Shari Getz) has become bored and surly, and faithful Sir Harry (Jon Reed) is afflicted with all manner of verbal and physical tics.

When the prince (Jake Eberle) returns in the guise of Mr. Showbiz, an enchanted frog with a gift for gab, the big problem is how to get the princess to give him that spell-breaking kiss. In his green garb, sporting long froggy toes and fingers and standing at least 6 feet tall, the bearded Eberle is a rather large and hairy frog.

Luckily (and inexplicably, in the ensemble-created script), Sir Harry alone recognizes the prince beneath the green amphibious form and agrees to help.

Each cast member contributes to the humor in the piece and Eberle is an assured presence, but as usual, it is Reed, with his gift for zany physical and verbal humor, who gets the biggest laughs, especially when the prince, in order to trick the princess into a kiss, persuades Sir Harry to disguise himself as the witch who devised the spell.

Sir Harry gets so carried away as he rehearses his part in the deception that he not only acts out the witch's role, but the princess' as well. It's a very funny, high-energy, back-and-forth exchange.

When it's time for Sir Harry to actually play the witch, wearing his hastily thrown-together costume--a black wig, lipstick, petticoat and big red high heels--Reed is a hoot as he delivers dialogue peppered with stage-fright-induced malapropisms.

The only fault to find with this smoothly executed, small-budget little show is that there's not more to it. It would be nice to see this now-seasoned ensemble stretch itself and its trademark smart quirkiness with more substantial material.

* "The Frog Prince," Morgan-Wixson Theatre, 2627 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, Saturdays, 10 a.m. and noon through March 29. $5 (children and seniors), $7 (adults). (310) 828-7519. Running time: 1 hour, 10 minutes.

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Big Bird's pal, Bob McGrath, the longtime "Sesame Street" resident who has been raising his mellow voice in song there for 28 years, will be making two Southland appearances to promote his humorous, confidence-building new book for kids in training--potty-training, that is. Its urgent title is "Uh Oh! Gotta Go! Potty Tales From Toddlers."

McGrath will also sing songs from his latest children's album, "Sing Me a Story."

* Borders Books, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, on Saturday at 3 p.m., (805) 497-8159, and Barnes & Noble, 16461 Ventura Blvd., Encino, on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. (818) 380-1636. Free.

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"Toonful" singer Michelle Nicastro, the recording artist and musical stage actress who was featured in the L.A. company of "Les Miserables" and who is the voice of "The Swan Princess" in that animated Turner film, will appear in concert Friday at the Treehouse Club in Agoura Hills.

Nicastro, whose family music albums on the Varese Sarabande label--"Toonful," "Reel Imagination" and "Toonful, Too"--offer lush and perky renditions of classic animated and family films, will be appearing in the popular indoor playground's casual new family concert series for ages 3 to 9.

* Treehouse Club, 28716 Roadside Drive, Agoura Hills, Friday, 7 p.m. $3-$5; (818) 597-TREE.

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