Category Archive for: ‘Judy Richter’

Palo Alto Players’ spend ‘Day in Hollywood/Night in Ukraine’

“A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine,” presented by Palo Alto Players, is two one-act musicals.

The first, “A Day in Hollywood,” is set outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in the 1930s and salutes movies from that time.

There little dialogue as eight uniformed ushers (costumes by Pat Tyler) sing and dance their way through songs by Frank Lazarus, with lyrics by book writer Dick Vosburgh.

Except for Ralph Rainger’s “Thanks for the Memory,” most of the songs are unfamiliar. In “Famous Feet,” dancing feet and legs seen at the upper level allude to stars of the time, such as Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, and Judy Garland.

All of the dancing, choreographed by Lee Ann Payne, is quite good.

The highlight of this act is “Doin’ the Production Code,” in which all eight performers tap dance and chant in unison the morality rules in the Motion Picture Production Code, also known as the Hays Code, which governed U.S. films from 1930 to 1968.

However, this act is marred by tinny, loud sound (by Jeff Grafton) and mediocre singing. The men have trouble staying on pitch.

The second act, “A Night in the Ukraine,” is roughly based on “The Bear” by Anton Chekhov, but it’s really a Marx Brothers routine.

The agile Andrew Ceglio plays Groucho playing a Moscow lawyer who’s come to a home in the Ukraine to collect unpaid fees from a client’s widow.

Mohamed Ismail as Chico plays the woman’s Italian footman, and Patty Reinhart as the silent Harpo plays her gardener.

The formidable widow is played by Sarah Cook. Completing the cast are Jessica Ellithorpe as her daughter, Andrew Kracht as the daughter’s suitor, and Michelle Skinner and Michael Saenz as servants.

Those who enjoy the Marx Brothers’ antics will probably be amused by them, but others might find their shtick silly and tiresome.

The show is directed by PAP artistic director Patrick Klein, who doubles as set designer (lighting by Edward Hunter). Musical direction is by Katie Coleman, who pairs with Lauren F. Bevilacqua to provide piano accompaniment.

It runs a long two hours and 15 minutes with one intermission.

There’s a reason why it’s rarely seen (the Broadway production came to San Francisco in 1982). It’s not a great show.

“A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine” will continue at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, through Feb. 5. For tickets and information, call (650) 329-0891 or visit www.paplayers.org.

 

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