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Clinging to Childhood

Strong acting and exceptional songs highlight a clever play about growing up--and not liking it.

May 01, 1997|LYNNE HEFFLEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Trying to hang on to their childhood sense of wonder and the ability to inhabit worlds of their imagination, eight young friends decide they simply won't grow up in "Adults, Keep Out!," an unusually clever musical fantasy at the Santa Monica Playhouse's new second stage.

Written by Evelyn Rudie and Chris De Carlo, this cerebral protest against growing up too fast occasionally falls prey to an overdose of earnestness, but it's mostly an exceptional mix of smart, entertaining wordplay, well-crafted songs and tight staging.

Directed by Rudie, the action weaves in and out between the real world and the kids' fantasy land, Glimmermore, where they're on a quest to find a "suitable suitor" for the Princess Ickybell (Leslie Rutberg), led by the heroic Minnesota Murphy (Matt Wrather) and his sidekick Staunchio (Emily Nella), and guided by advisor Lord Sethric (Ben Levine) and magician Gandor (Noah Gershman).

But, with the arrival of a stranger who becomes the damsel in distress Lady Alisandra (Lauren Blumenfeld), and with the kids' realization that their entry into Glimmermore is threatened by the inevitability of their rapidly approaching adolescence, the quest turns into a struggle against losing their fantasy world and the childhood it represents.

The experienced teenage and young adult actors who portray the children offer strong performances, and the songs, variously and successfully styled after Gilbert and Sullivan, Brecht and Weill and others, are mostly exceptional.

The highlight is Matt Wrather's terrific rendition of a resonant musical litany of the everyday embarrassments, humiliations and disappointments kids experience as they make the transition to adolescence.

Yes, adulthood as represented here is pretty bleak, but in the end, there's an uplift: Time doesn't have to close the door to Glimmermore: "The way there is in your heart."

* "Adults, Keep Out!," Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St., Santa Monica, Friday, 5 and 7:30 p.m.; May 9, 5 p.m.; May 11, 2 p.m. $12. (310) 394-9779, Ext. 1.

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The "18th Annual Very Special Arts Festival," at the Music Center's outdoor plaza on Saturday to celebrate the creative achievements of physically and mentally challenged Southern California children and young adults, is chock-full of free family fun.

The educational multiethnic event, with its "Stars" theme, features celebrity appearances, strolling cartoon characters and clowns, continual performances of music, dance and more on two stages, workshops and exhibitions of drawings, paintings and sculpture.

* "The 18th Annual Very Special Arts Festival," Music Center, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free. (213) 202-2286, (213) 202-2287.

At the Los Angeles Zoo, lions and tigers and bears won't be the only star attractions on Saturday. At 12:30 p.m., the touring Kathy Brow's Suzuki Violinists, ages 3 to 18, will perform a 30-minute concert that will include works by Vivaldi, Paganini, Schumann and others and will wind up with "Variations on Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

* Kathy Brow's Suzuki Violinists, Los Angeles Zoo, Eucalyptus Grove. Free with zoo admission, $3.25-$8.25. (213) 664-1100, Ext. 392.

And, on Sunday, pack a lunch and attend a special family "Picnic and Concert With the Orchestra," at UCLA's Schoenberg Hall. The event begins with groups of musicians playing and demonstrating instruments during a noontime picnic on the lawn. Lunch will be available for purchase, or picnickers can take their own; free lemonade and cookies will be supplied. The concert that follows will feature Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" and Aaron Copeland's "Rodeo," performed by the UCLA Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Jon Robertson.

The goal of the annual event, presented by UCLA's Design for Sharing community outreach program, is to introduce children ages 5 to 12 to the instruments of the orchestra. The program will be narrated by UCLA professor Robert Winter.

* "Picnic and Concert With the Orchestra," UCLA, Schoenberg Hall. Parking, Lot 2, entrance at Hilgard and Westholme avenues. Sunday, picnic: noon; concert: 1 p.m. $5 to $7. (310) 825-2101.

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