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THEATER | Theater Review

'Up the Week Without a Paddle' Is a Fun Ride

August 10, 2000|F. KATHLEEN FOLEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Never mind the clunky title. Overlook, if you can, the thin subject matter, stereotypical characters and overworked female bonding elements.

That's not what "Up the Week Without a Paddle" is all about. This original musical, presented by the Neurotic Young Urbanites at the Celebration Theatre, is formidably flippant, a brightly festooned package of pure pizazz that has little to do with content or believable character arcs. Merry and unapologetically flimsy, it's an unexpected gift that leaves us buzzing with pleasure in spite of its fragile construction.

The show features music by Curtis Moore, lyrics by Amanda Green and book by Lauren Cohn and Lauren Bowles. The daughter of Broadway legend Adolph, Green is nothing if not audacious, but she backs up her brashness with genuine wit.

Moore's music is durably breezy, while Cohn and Bowles (both also in the cast) bring a refreshingly offhand humor to the proceedings.

The plot revolves around Nora (Cohn) and her circle of intimate friends: Caroline (Jodi Harris), a beleaguered mom with a piggish husband (Jamison Newlander); M.J. (Bowles), an in-your-face dresser to the stars who has a problem managing her anger; and Lexi (Michelle Azar), Nora's nouveau riche sister, who is about to wed a philandering Hollywood star. Nora, we learn, is newly pregnant by her best friend Dennis (Christopher Shea), a gay man who is developing cold feet about the prospect of fatherhood.

As the lights dim, Cohn comes onstage to remind the audience to turn off pagers and cell phones--then rips directly into the opening number. The show comes at you like a freight train and, under the clever ministrations of co-directors John Patrick Langs and PatrickFischler, the momentum never flags. Musical director Kevin Parcher keeps the musical sequences unfailingly crisp. The cast, which includes Jenna Macari and Rob Moore, a genuine comic find, has ample opportunity to shine.

Frank McKown's lighting, Robbin E. Broad's sound and Sara Huddleston's spare but versatile set are sterling examples of low-tech professionalism on a budget. All in all, this is unadulterated piffle--and one of the sweetest theatrical trifles of the season.

BE THERE

"Up the Week Without a Paddle," Celebration Theatre, 7051-B Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Indefinitely. $20. (310) 572-6748. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

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