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All wacky on the domestic front

September 12, 2008|F. Kathleen Foley, Charlotte Stoudt, David C. Nichols, David Ng

If the pun is the lowest form of humor, then the creative team behind "It's the Housewives!" are theatrical spelunkers of the most audacious sort.

A bit of history. It seems that many of the numbers in this cheerful new musical, now at the Whitefire in Sherman Oaks, were originally performed by the novelty rock 'n' roll group the Housewives, which had a fling with fame a few years back. The songs, co-written by original group member Hope Juber and her husband, Laurence Juber, all deal with various aspects of a housewife's domestic duties and travails -- for example, "Ironing Bored" and "In Sink and at Your Disposal."

Before you start groaning, be assured that the songs themselves are genuinely clever and almost surreally goofy. Kay Cole's lively and crisp choreography -- Motown funk as filtered through a Martha Stewart special -- augments the general wackiness, as does Sharell Martin's colorful, extravagantly silly costume design. Best, the Housewives themselves -- Jamey Hood, Corinne Dekker and Jayme Lake -- are bouncy, hugely appealing "domestic divas" who, under the solid musical direction of Laurence Juber, deliver the best harmonies since "The Marvelous Wonderettes."

The problem is Hope Juber and Ellen Guylas' book, a fictionalized, purely campy account of the housewives, their rise to fame, and their painful breakup (over a disputed guacamole recipe), as related by former member Rebecca (Terri Homberg-Olsen) to her plumber (Vince Cefalu). Obviously cobbled together to accommodate the Housewives' existing repertoire, the narrative provides sufficient excuse for the musical "flashbacks" but remains a leaky premise in need of plumber's tape.

Leaky, also, is Kelly Ann Ford's direction, which never quite incorporates the show's floundering subsidiary characters into a smooth flow. The shining exception is Roger Cruz as Hugo, the lovable laundromat owner who gives the Housewives their first big break. A layered performer, Cruz makes his caricature convincingly real.

-- F. Kathleen Foley

"It's the Housewives!," Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 12. $30. (323) 960-5563. Running time: 2 hours.


A satirical turn on the disco floor

If your idea of a good night out is watching five guys in suits dancing to disco classics, "Bouncers" at the Lost Studio has your number. British playwright John Godber's rapid-fire sampling of human traffic in and out of a Yorkshire disco is back in Los Angeles and having a ball in director-choreographer Cinda Jackson's spiffy new production. On a nearly bare stage, a nattily dressed, turbocharged cast of five (Chris Coppola, David Corbett, Mark Adair-Rios, Dan Cowan and Phillip Campos) quick-change into a range of night clubbers and bust some decent moves to '70s and '80s pop classics.

Godber's satirical collage debuted at the 1977 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and achieved cult status here in 1986 when L.A. Theater Works' production ran for 11 months. With its unapologetically pelvic emphasis, you can see how the show brought a much-needed whiff of sweat and stale beer into polite English theater. Thirty years on, it's less than revolutionary but still a winning showcase for actors and a sly compendium of people watching: Hail Mary hookups, loo gossip, sidewalk dust-ups and Brit drollery. One only wishes Godber had thoroughly pursued his conceit: Building a show around bouncers -- the ultimate doorkeepers -- is a brilliant idea, but we never get much insight into who these guys are or what they want.

This is the sort of freewheeling, drink-along entertainment that belongs in a cabaret setting, with the performers dodging waitresses as they break into Michael Jackson parodies. In the formal setting of the Lost Studio, the show's raucous fun has a slightly misplaced feel despite the terrific ensemble. Here's hoping someone will move "Bouncers" to a venue where you can liquor up, dance, flirt and applaud simultaneously.

-- Charlotte Stoudt

"Bouncers," the Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea, Los Angeles. 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. Ends Sept. 27. $20. Contact: (323) 933-6944. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.


Groundlings are good for guffaws

"The Groundlings, Your Body and You" has been running since July, which may account for its offhanded adherence to the sketches-and-ad-libs formula. With director Ted Michaels keeping his alternating cast of writer-performers in trim, this latest offering from L.A.'s premier improv troupe is generally representative mayhem.

As usual, the title is a catchall, less thematic than pragmatic, as are the interludes from music director Willie Etra and cohorts Howard Greene and Larry Treadwell. Physical humor plays a notable role in the evening. For instance, "Francisco Manor," where Andrew Friedman and Michael Naughton as hotel ghouls milk more howls from their "SCTV"-flavored inability to spook stalwart Steve Little than the premise does.

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