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Theatre Review (LA): Little Me by Neil Simon, Cy Coleman, and Carolyn Leigh at the Alex Theatre

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The Musical Theatre Guild in Glendale loves to produce the more obscure musicals that have faded from memory. One such musical is Little Me, based on a novel by Patrick Dennis (author of Auntie Mame) who also appears as a character in the musical. The script is by Neil Simon (who is having some sort of renaissance of late) with music by Cy Coleman and Carolyn Lee. The piece is seldom produced since it demands a singular actor to play the lead, Noble Eddleston, originally created by the inimitable Sid Caesar and more recently played by Martin Short.

Luckily MTG has such a versatile comic actor in showman Jason Graae, who tears through the script with obvious relish. The script is not Simon’s best but in capable hands wrings plenty of laughs from the audience. The show also has a very pleasant score with songs like “The Other Side of the Tracks,” “I’ve Got Your Number,” ”Real Live Girl,” and “Here’s To Us.” It features one of LA’s upcoming stars, Jen Malenke, who has a sweet voice and is gorgeous to boot. The cast also boasts the talented Eileen Barnett and MTG regulars Pamela Hamill, Joe Hart, and Roy Leake (the last two as a very funny duo). The musical also had a very capable director, Todd Neilson.

Still something was very wrong and left much of the evening flat and unfunny.

The obvious reason for the less than stellar results is the fact that the cast only gets 25 hours of rehearsal and this is a bear of a show. But beyond the limited rehearsal time (the company has produced miraculous shows under that restraint) there was one simple prop that was missing, HUGE. BOOBS. The story concern Belle Poitrane, and in a series of burlesque routines chronicles Belle’s rise in society. The active word here is burlesque, which is often centered on feminine pulchritude—in Belle’s case, HUGE BOOBS. There lies the humor, the plot line, and the whole thrust of the show. Noble and several other characters go through hoops trying to be near her assets. I don’t know if it was budgetary or a misguided prudery, but Ms. Malenke, though lovely, had normal-sized breasts.

The show was still amusing, it was Neil Simon after all, and the cast was game, but the whole venture fell, well, flat. Little Me played at the Alex Theatre in Glendale April 18 for one night.

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