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Out to Lunch
valerie Harper as Tallulah Bankhead
Vallerie Harper, Ray Buktenica, Karen
Valerie Harper, Chad Allen
Valerie Harper as Tallulah Bankhead. Karen with Valerie Harper and one of her favorite “Rhoda” co-stars,
Ray Buktenica, who played her sister Brenda’s boyfriend, Benny Goodwin.
Valerie Harper and co-star Chad Allen,
late of “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”


Shockingly, though a major old movie buff, I knew scant little of the legendary Tallulah Bankhead before this week’s opening of “Looped” at the Pasadena Playhouse. I was most anxious to see the play, though, because it stars one of my favorite actresses, Valerie Harper. (“Rhoda,” for you Martians out there.)

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve known Valerie for years, though not well, and absolutely adore her. We kind-of have a mutual admiration society going on. But if the show wasn’t as fabulous as it is, I’d probably just not review it.

Knowing Valerie actually made it harder to watch because you get nervous for actors you know personally. And I admit that before it started, I was a tad apprehensive about the New York-y “Rhoda” pulling off a portrayal of the most dramatic, high class-accented Miss Bankhead.

But pull it off she did--in spades!!! I actually forgot who she was most of the time, which is the best thing a famous actor can accomplish. Her performance had us all rolling in the aisles. And jumping to our feet for a prolonged standing ovation.

Even great actresses need excellent material. The play was extremely well-written by Matthew Lombardo and directed by Rob Ruggiero. It’s essentially a 2-person play about a difficult loop session (re-recording dialogue from a movie), with a few lines here and there by the mainly-hidden-from-view “sound engineer.” Chad Allen was also very good as Tallulah’s sparring partner in the piece.

But the night belonged to Valerie. It was a unique experience to witness her remarkable comic timing in person. I hope to have the chance to do so again when, fingers crossed, “Looped” makes it to Broadway. Then “Rhoda” will be back where she belongs!

“Looped” running through August 3, 2008
Pasadena Playhouse 39 S. El Molina Ave. Pasadena 626-356-7529


Man in Chair
  The Drowsy Chaperone
The “Man In Chair” narrator, of sorts.   Most of the cast of “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

I used to say that I wish every show could be “Beauty and the Beast” because I’m so very sick of seeing heavy, angst-ridden plays that think that makes them super-artsy. I love to see the audience leaving the theatre with smiles on their faces, especially mine.

Then, almost three years ago, I saw the marvelous new musical “The Drowsy Chaperone” premiere at the Ahmanson, and it shot to the top of my list as the new standard bearer. I saw it again in NY last year, with the same cast, and laughed just as hard as the first time.

I’m happy to say that it’s now returned to the Ahmanson for, sadly, the briefest of runs, and I heavily suggest that no one miss it.

Georgia Engel, is the only actor reprising her role, but all the new talent is excellent also. I must be honest and say that I slightly preferred the original cast, but I’ve never been one to enjoy change, so I’m sure that’s part of it.

Everything about the show is fabulous: the story, songs, production numbers, performances, and even just about every line. Every second is so incredibly entertaining. that you just don’t want it to end.

But end it must, in just a brief 12-day run, so if there’s anything you treat yourself to this entire year, it must be this show. The happiness effect lasts much longer than a trip to the spa.

“The Drowsy Chaperone” running through July 20, 2008
Ahmanson Theatre 135 N. Grand Ave. 213-628-2772

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