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theatre reviews

Volume 15/Issue 17

Trodding the Boards.GIF


Li'l Abner is a long-running newspaper comic strip created by Al Capp about a town called DogPatch inhabited by yokels who nevertheless represent commonsensical America coping with the idiocy of governmental bureaucracy-Damon Runyon in coveralls. At its popular height-in the Cold Warring novocained Republican fifties-Li'l Abner was more a political cartoon for harried adults than titillation for tots. This did not stop Broadway hacks Norman Panama & Melvin Frank from creating a plot about the government deciding to nuke Dogpatch unless the citizens can find one genuine reason not to and then sprinkling it liberally with some of Capp's more flamboyant characters, like Moonbeam McSwine, Marryin' Sam, Sen. Jack S. Phogbound, Earthquake Magoon, Available Jones, but mainly concerned, like the strip, with getting the overgrown Baby Hueylike Li'l Abner, the dim but charming son of Mammy and Pappy Yokum, married to Daisy Mae, the pulchritudinous progeny of the Scraggs family who have been feuding with the Yokums for years. With finger-snapping citified country music by Gene dePaul and perfect peapatch lyrics by Johnny Mercer, Li'l Abner was a modest hit and then began gathering the dust of datedness making its revival less and less of an event.

That is, until the wily Ty Tracy, saddled with his annual commitment to the City of New Orleans and its New Orleans Recreation Department Summer Youth Workshop, decided to revive it as this summer's production vehicle. With a racially mixed number of youngsters from 6 to 18, (a total of 135 both on and offstage), he has restaged it with the very professional help of his musical director, Gloria C. Fallo, his choreographer, Leo Jones, his costumer Bob Bruce and production and vocal assistants David Tringali and Christopher Wecklein with his usual farcical signature. These kids have been rehearsed to an almost perfect turn-their enthusiasm, talent and self-discipline are humbling and happifying at the same time, making this one of Mr. Tracy's more memorable endeavors.

Kudos go to everyone. I'll mention some of the leads, like, of course, Li'l Abner himself, Kasey Marino, who has "exciting new theatre discovery" written all over his still growing square-jawed big-boned frame-here is a walking, talking, SINGING 8 X 10 glossy-think young Robert Goulet. Coupled, as he is, with Angela Mannino's Marilyn-blond Daisy Mae, you have the penultimate musical comedy couple, but then add the domineering hilarity of Althea Williams' Mammy Yokum and the hen-pecked foil of Zack Kron's Pappy Yokum and who cares what happens-as long as the laughs keep coming and they do, supplied as they are by Brandi Coleman's Moonbeam McSwine, James St. Juniors, Jr.'s Marryin' Sam, Mark Weinberg's Earthquake McGoon, Ryan Berger's Available Jones, Deanne Duke's Stupefyin' Jones, Beau Landry's diminutive president, Meghan Gibbens' Appassionata Von Climax and especially Chris Melohn's Evil Eye Fleagle--pure camp.

In its usual myopic way, the City of New Orleans, led by its jiving mayor, hasn't an inkling of the fine, immeasurable work of Tracy and his dedicated cohorts. If they did, they would never schedule cocktail events in Gallier Hall at the same time one of these delightful musicals is being staged. They cannot simply have a cocktail party for whatever-raising ever more money for the Mayor's coffers, stroking political cronies, etc.-they must also book electronically amplified music whose percussive decibels cut through the centuries old building and smother the work of the children below. The vandals are at the gates and this time it's the Establishment. Welcome to New Orleans.

Auditions For James And The Giant Peach
The Rivertown Repertory Theatre will hold auditions for the opening production of the Imagine Theatre season, James And The Giant Peach, on Sun., Aug. 24, 6pm to 9pm. Director Uncle Wayne Daigrepont is interested in seeing actors: male and female 18 years and up. Also, boys between the age of 10 & 15 years of age, 5 feet tall or less. Technical people are also needed: stage manager, lighting board, sound board and spotlight operator.

James And The Giant Peach will open Mon., Oct. 13 and will run for two consecutive weeks to Sun., Oct. 26. All positions are paid. Auditioneers should be prepared to read cold from provided scripts. Actors and technical crew will be needed during the weekdays and weekends between Oct. 13 thru Oct. 26. For more information, call 504.468.7221.

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