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Reflecting the Audience in 'Magic Mirror'


Darth Vader, Tom Cruise, Cinderella, Batman (and Batfrog): That was the lineup at the Third Stage Theatre in Burbank on Sunday.

Well, sort of.

These unlikely co-stars and more appeared, with the help of the audience's imagination, courtesy of "The Magic Mirror," a long-running comedy improv show for ages 5 and up in which audience members determine who will turn up onstage.

Who's your favorite superhero? Fairy-tale character? Movie star? What's your secret birthday wish? Where would you least like to go?

It's up to kids to fill in the blanks and give the Magic Mirror Players, a rotating troupe of adult performers led by Raf Mauro, fodder for the day's show.

The show begins with cast and audience volunteers carrying in an invisible "magic mirror" through which anything is possible, with a little fairy dust and a magic word to get things started.

The results are mixed. At Sunday's show, featuring Mauro, Andre Diamond, Wendy Johnson and Mark Slaytor, an opera was created with characters based on what kids said their parents did--"My parents are actors and writers," "Mine clean the house," "My parents clean the pool." It began promisingly as the actors invented "cleanup" lyrics to a "Carmen" melody.

The cast soon dropped the opera themes in favor of noisy vocal overlap, however, losing the way in a loud free-for-all.

A scripted version of an Aesop fable, "The Grasshopper and the Ant," fared better, with Diamond as the humorless, hard-working ant raising "couch potatoes" for the winter, and Mauro as a happy-go-lucky grasshopper with a French accent. After the audience is polled about whether the ant should let the starving ne'er-do-well share his bounty, the grasshopper meets an unusual fate.

An improvised rap song incorporating audience descriptions of superheroes worked well, too, as kids from the audience were invited up onstage to provide the musical accompaniment, consisting of "eep" and "boom" sounds and many enthusiastic raspberries.

This combination of raucous energy, humor and varying degrees of inspiration has been a Sunday afternoon staple for more than five years, and its appeal is obvious: Every child who's willing to offer suggestions and take part in onstage antics can participate.

Of course, there is the risk that a pint-sized would-be star might steal the show, as happened on Sunday when one curly-headed tyke eluded his mother's clutches for an unplanned onstage romp. But at this show, extroverts are not only welcome, they're necessary.

* "The Magic Mirror," Third Stage Theatre, 2811 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank, most Sundays, noon (call ahead). $7. (818) 842-4755.

For Mom: Mothers will receive a song-and-dance tribute from the All About Kids Performing Arts Conservatory--60 young people ages 6 to 16--in "All About Moms," a theatrical presentation happening Saturday at the Hollywood Playhouse.

This family variety show is staged by adult professionals, including set designer Leon King ("The Jamie Foxx Show") and noted dancer-choreographer Chester Whitmore, who choreographed the young hoofers in a tap performance to "My Mama Done Told Me." The performance features acting, dance, singing, poetry and more.

* "All About Moms," Hollywood Playhouse, 1445 N. Las Palmas, Saturday, 3 and 7 p.m. Advance tickets: $5 to $10; at the door: $7.50 to $12.50. (213) 389-7287.

Advance Notice: Notable local children's recording artist Jim Rule, who really knows how to nail both parenthood and childhood in his comical and thoughtful original songs, will perform his "Let It Shine" family concert at the Brea Curtis Theatre, Brea Civic & Cultural Center, 1 Civic Center Circle, on May 18 at 1 and 3 p.m. Tickets are a bargain at $6. (714) 990-7722.

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