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Out to Lunch

Karen's Restaurant Revue airs on Oct. 30 at 9PM, and Nov. 13 and 20, both at 8PM on Time-Warner Cable, Channels 98, 77, or 3. Check your local listings for stations in your area.

 
EVENTS
 
Here’s the dish on some semi-recent fabulous L.A. events. Enjoy!

THE NEW MARK TAPER FORUM

I was there for the first opening night of this incarnation (which they’re calling “Mark Taper Forum--Act II“), and was thrilled that I could actually move my legs in my seat! (I'm sure the people in front of, the ones I used to kick in the head with my big boots every time I moved my legs, are equally thrilled.)

In addition to more legroom, they built a gorgeous new ladies room on an additional downstairs level, and there’s now space to hobnob at intermission without having to go outside with the smokers.

There are other changes, as well, such as new carpets and walls. All in all, this new space was well worth waiting for.

“9 TO 5, THE MUSICAL” OPENING

I can’t tell you what a magical night this was! I’m so grateful to have been included. I’ve read some overly dramatic stories of the evening (for example--“Dolly Parton saves the World Premiere of '9 to 5' Musical as 'Technical Difficulties' almost stop the production cold”) and I’m here to tell you what REALLY happened, word for word.

I sat just four rows directly behind Dolly and her movie co-stars, Jane Fonda and Lily toiling, which was exciting enough. Seriously, I hardly ever care about famous folk, (unless it’s Nick Lachey or Tom Welling), but this trio is royalty. Jane was already seated, but Dolly, then Lily, made late entrances to raucous applause, which is a rarity for this venue.

About twenty minutes into the show, after a musical number, the curtains closed and the announcer asked us to stay in our seats during the delay. After about a minute in the dark, Dolly called out from her seat, “Don’t make me have to sing!”

As the audience went wild, they brought up the house lights and by some magic, someone swiftly put a mike in Dolly’s long-nailed hands. She proceeded to do what some after-party guests called a country version of MY show (talking on and on by herself is what they meant) and was absolutely adorable and charming. I can see why she’s so loved. She explained about the previews, “We did have this problem before, but if I have to sing, this time I’m making Lily and Jane join me!”

She chatted a little more, then announced, “I don’t know what we’re supposed to do but sing ‘9 To 5’!,” and led off an audience sing-along. At the end, she said, “Good thing I’m such a show-off!” Good thing for US!

She then told us the history of this production, introducing all the important players in the audience, and offered to take questions, saying, “I’ll tell y’all whatever you want to know, and if I don’t know the answer, I’ll make something up.”

She was about to sing “And I Will Always Love You,” Clarence’s favorite to song to sing on our show, “Karen’s Restaurant Revue,” so I was particularly wanting to hear it, when, to the entire audiences’ disappointment, someone told her the show was ready to resume. When we let out a collective negative sigh, she said,” Let’s save it in case we break down agin!”

As fun as the actual show was, I’ve been obsessing over missing hearing Dolly Parton sing that song for days now. So, remember y’all, you can’t ever tell me something that you’re going to do and then not do it.

Okay, back to the show. I really enjoyed it all, except for one thing, that I feel bad to mention, but I think it’s pretty important. How do you cast a musical with a lead who can neither sing nor dance? It’s just nutty. While Allison Janney, in the Lily Tomlin role, is a good actress, I just cringed every time she tried to sing. The other two were so phenomenal that her lack of musical ability was even more egregious. Are there no good actresses who can also sing??? I’m sure there are, so how do you explain this casting? Many of us in the audience just didn’t get it at all. And I’m sure there’s no re-casting before Broadway. Shame.

On the other hand, Megan Hilty, in Dolly’s role, was just brilliant! I was looking down for a second when she made her entrance, and when I heard her talk, I thought that Dolly was really surprising us by being in it! And her singing was amazing. (And I rarely use that word.)

Sephanie J Block, Allison Janney, Megan HIlty
Stephanie J. Block did herself proud, as well, in Jane Fonda’s part. She sounds like a non-New York-y Barbra Streisand. I felt like I had heard her sing before and sure enough, she had played Liza in the miraculous “Boy From Oz” on Broadway. What a talented cast.

I liked the show itself, also, which is strange because I hated the film. I saw nothing wrong with the production, except that Janney’s love interest looks like he should play her son, which makes you not know if that’s part of the storyline or just bad casting. (Okay--so they need to find a younger female who can act, sing, and dance.)

Many people at the generous after-party were whispering that the show really needs work before Broadway, but I seriously didn’t notice. I’m always so easily bored and I truly did enjoy “9 To 5.” I think Dolly wrote varied and perfect songs, the very many sets were perfect, the costumes colorful and the cast talented--what’s not to like? I think audiences will go nuts just the way it is now. As well they should. I can envision this being a hit on Broadway for a long, long time.

“9 To 5, The Musical” ran through October 19, 2008
Ahmanson Theatre 135 N. Grand Ave. 213-972-4400 www.CenterTheatreGroup.org
Now on to Broadway!




MCDONALDS’S FAMILY TRIBUTE ON ICE

This is the season when NBC starts airing the wonderful Disson Skating shows. Though I’ve seen just about all of them over the years, I had never had the good fortune of watching one being taped. (I’m still sick that I was invited to the taping of the Christmas show last year, with Clay Aiken as the musical guest, and I couldn’t go due to my busy life of being a bon vivette! But one of us has got to do it!)

But that just changed. They’re usually taped in other states, but recently, the first one in the series came to the downtown Los Angeles area. The McDonald’s Family Tribute On Ice was different from the customary shows in that it featured all amateurs, with Sasha Cohen being the only pro. (I had been wondering why we hadn’t bumped into each other at any Emmy gifting suites this go-round. Turns out she was training while I was getting gifted!)

The skaters were all wonderful, especially first-time US Champ, Mirai Nagasu, current World Champion, Jeffrey Buttle, and adorable young American, Ryan Bradley. But for me, the highlight of this presentation was the music.

Mark Ballas
Karen with current “DWTS” champion, Mark Ballas

Kristi Yamaguchi hosted, which, in this case, means that she just welcomed us--watch for her Family and Friends special, which she’s much more a part of. But the beauty of her being involved in this one is that she got to feature people she met through “Dancing With The Stars,” of which she’s the current champion.

Her darling partner from that show, Mark Ballas, and his best friend and fellow dancer, the amazing Derek Hough, performed with their rock band, Almost Amy. With that voice, dancing talent, and face, if that latter boy doesn’t get a starring role on Broadway soon, I’ll be shocked. He should star in Elton John’s upcoming “Billy Elliott,” if you ask me! (Remember--you read it here first!)

Derek Hough
Karen being squeezed by the adorable Derek Hough, who is the front-runner on this season’ “DWTS,” with hi partner,
Brooke Burke.



Mario, the adorable R and B singer who should have come in second last year, but still wound-up fifth, did two numbers, as well. I know the teen-age girl skaters were swooning over him.

I reserved my swooning for my biggest crush, outside of Mr. X, Nick Lachey. His little bro, Drew, is the season two champ of “DWTS,” so I’m sure that Nick and Kristi have also crossed paths. Which he and I did a couple of years back, but that’s another story for another time. Unfortunately, this night, he left before I made it down to the after-party. Maybe he heard that I would be there, stalking him.

But I got hugged by Derek, Mark, and Ryan, and chatted with the most aware skater I’ve ever met, Ben Agosto, so I temporarily forgot my missing-Nick disappointment. By the way, I sat with Ben’s parents at the 2002 Nationals at the Staples Center, and I can see where he gets his loveliness from.

I’m happy to tell you that I’m giving you plenty of notice for viewing this entertaining show on TV. See below and enjoy!

McDonald’s Family Tribute On Ice airs on NBC on November 16, 2008 at 11AM PST. www.dissonskating.com

“BACKSEATS AND BATHROOM STALLS”


I’ve rarely had a better little theatre experience than the one I had at the newly renovated Lyric Hyperion Theatre Cafe in Silver Lake. The evening started off brilliantly with snacks at the attached Lyric Café.

I highly recommend getting to the theatre early for just that purpose. My friend and I had come from an hors d’oeurvre party, so we were thrilled to see desserts. We tried 5(!), with various beverages, and they were all excellent. I’ll definitely be going back soon to do a full review of their fun menu and to visit the amiable Jose Solomon, who operates it.

The whole café situation put us in a great mood, so it worked out perfectly to see the light, clever, (and only 80 minute!) relationship comedy “Backseats and Bathroom Stalls.” There were 6 actors and not a weak one in the bunch, which is such a rarity, I can’t express it enough. It’s impossible to even single anyone out.

Backseats and Bathroom Stalls Cast
The “Backseats and Bathroom Stalls”
cast with director/playwright Rob Mersola


I had the pleasure of meeting them all at the fun after-party , and they were nice, too. I had to check to make sure I was still in LA!

And we attended the 10:30PM show, which made everything that much hipper. It’s the perfect time for the clubbies and scenesters, who can’t be seen out before 10PM.

Great snacks, funny play, and nice people, too. What a good use of a Saturday night!

“Backseats and Bathroom Stalls” running through Nov. 23
Lyric Hyperion Theatre 2106 Hyperion Ave.
Silver Lake 323-960-7829


SYLVIE’S SKIN SPA ANNIVERSARY PARTY

Though I don’t live that far from the valley, I had not heard of Sylvie’s Skin spa before. But through a friend, I got invited to their 25th Anniversary party. Wow, that’s a long time to be in business! Very commendable.

The party was so well done that I must tell you about it. When we walked in the door, we were given a goodie bag immediately! What a welcome change than the rest of the events that don’t give them out until the end when guests are either too drunk or tired to care, or schnorrers grab several. Then there are those of us who are distracted by hoping they don’t run-out before we leave, which happens quite often. At Sylvie’s we were free to relax and eat!

We did just that on the fabulous food catered by the near-by Coral Tree Café. I had never been a fan of their food till this party, when I couldn’t get enough of it! The pastas and salads were absolutely delicious! The choices complemented each other so well. I actually tried to hide in a corner by myself because I didn’t want to chat instead of concentrating on the flavors.

Even better than the food, though, was the chair massage by Jeremiah Madero, the strongest guy I’ve met in a while. When he felt my tight-as-a- neck and shoulders, he incredulously asked when my last massage was. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had had two earlier that day, at different gifting suites. He got right to the heart of the matter and is the only one who actually helped me.

Sylvie’s Skin Care 17071 Ventura Blvd. Encino 818-905-8815
www.sylviesskinandbodycare.com

SOMALY MAM FOUNDATION DINNER

Somaly Mam

I put in just a brief appearance here because I had to tape my show the next day, and had a lot of work to do. But it was for a great cause (check out the charity’s site below), the food was catered by master Thai chef, Tommy Tang, with water provided by VaVa Water, and Three Boy Productions goodie bags, so it had no downsides (except for being held outdoors in frizzy weather. But it was so dark that we couldn’t see each other anyhow, so what the heck.)

The highlight to me was meeting the adorable Robbie Jones, who just finished his run on “One Tree Hill,” which is one of my favorite shows. He played the late teen basketballer, Quentin Fields, and I cried my guts out during his character’s funeral.

I had co-starred with another actor from that show, Antwon Tanner, in the most recent film I did (don’t ask!), so I was brave enough to talk to Robbie at the party and tell what a fan of his I had become. Man, is he adorable! What a lovely, charming, enthusiastic young guy he is! How great for our business. (BTW--”OTH” has a knack for casting actors with few, or no, previous credits, and they all work out. Maybe I should send the casting department my limited resume for consideration! I already know everything about the show!)

Somaly Mam Foundation www.somaly.org

 

 
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