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THEATER REVIEW

A zany nosh at 'Route 99'

December 10, 2005|David C. Nichols | Special to The Times

"Happy eatin', ever'body," says Orange Star (actor-chef Michael Dunn) of "Route 99: Orange Star Dinner Show," and believe me, she means it. By whipping the surefire ingredients of this annual festival of budget-savvy bedazzlement at the Evidence Room into dinner theater action and peanut gallery voyeurism, subversive magus Ken Roht and a fabulous service crew dish up a sublime franchise benchmark.

As ever, 99 Cents Only Store items provide decor, wardrobe and in-jokes. While maitre d' Florence (Kirk Wilson), in tablecloth chic and Rosemary Clooney hair, herds diners inside, marching band imps Colleen Kane and Jamie Hebert hustle dieters through the kitchen.

Both groups descend on a psychotropic playing area, bisected by set designer Keith Mitchell, video designer David Lee Kelting and sound designer Chris Grote into a Dadaist salute to Dollywood.

Once Bosco Flanagan's lighting locates frustrated Yellow Moon (Joe Fria), the cast, clad in the extraordinary creations of designers Ann Closs-Farley (costumes) and Mark Crowell (wigs), belts out "Why Oh Why, Wyoming" ("Why not?").

Mama (Laural Meade), who suggests a singing eggplant, introduces her "lucky charms." Besides Yellow Moon and Orange Star, jealous Green Clover (Jabez Zuniga) nurses sibling rivalry worthy of Bette Davis.

As the gallery watches, Mean Fillies and Happy Chappies keep Roht's choreography galloping about the helpless eaters, to Roht and John Ballinger's Nashville-centric score, under Graham Jackson's musical direction. Sissy Boyd's garbled Ramblin' Rita, Ian Rotundo's show tune-screeching Corky and Don Oscar Smith's canine fancier are among the standouts in a fantastic ensemble.

Their frenzy peaks at the climactic "Who Killed Her?" verbal fugue and the agreeably hokey "This Land Is My Home" finale. Such unleashed ingenuity, which rivals "The Drowsy Chaperone" and "J.O.B.," makes "Route 99" the most nourishing spread in town.

*

'Route 99: Orange Star Dinner Show'

Where: Evidence Room, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.

When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays

Ends: Dec. 18

Price: $15, with dinner $25

Info: (213) 381-7118

Running time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

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