By Daedalus Howell
DREAMWEAVERS Theatre of Napa's season opener, Blame It on the Movies, is a blameless, shameless, and ultimately brainless romp through Hollywood's songbook that, owing to the sheer moxie of its performers, declares, "No one is going to rain on my hit parade!"
A hasty pastiche of songs from the silver screen spanning the history of cinema (conceived by Ron Abel, Billy Barnes, and David Galligan from an original idea by Franklin R. Levy), the show features an enthusiastic (if uneven) brood of seven chorusers caught in the twilight zone between a bona fide song-and-dance revue and a community talent show.
Comprised of nearly 70 songs (one can only imagine the licensing nightmare this production brings with it), the show includes such first-act chestnuts as Casablanca's "As Time Goes By," as well as "April Love" and "An Affair to Remember" (from movies of the same titles). The second act confirms that cinematic songwriting peaked just before the '60s, when it showcases such campy ditties as "The Blazing Saddles Theme," "Goldfinger," "What's New, Pussycat?" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." Imagine the AFI 100 confined to a jukebox and less 77--most of the numbers are sugary, forgotten relics only occasionally framing a timeless gem.
Throughout, director Howard flirts with the notion of mixed media by including a number of projected video clips from the films whose soundtracks make up the bill. The danger in this is that the movies are often more compelling than the onstage players. It's like when some gangly, sexually ambivalent teenager flails about in front of the Rocky Horror Picture Show and you just want to holler, "Hey, you in the fishnets, vamoose!"
But then, this show is about the music, not the spectacle. The song list notwithstanding, many of the performers shine in their solo performances, and they all benefit from pianist Ellen Patterson's fine accompaniment.
YOUNG SONGSTRESS Brooke Aved does a fine turn with the humorous "I Get the Neck of the Chicken" from 1942's Seven Days' Leave. Sung from the perspective of a young woman used to life's leftovers, the tune includes the clever lyric "That's how they give me the bird" and other allusions that conjure up the banter found in contemporary locker rooms. Aved later steals the show with her haunting rendition of the title track from The Town Without Pity.
Crooner John Kelley time and again proves that he truly has golden tonsils and seems to make a conscientious effort not to overshadow the other performers, especially his young sidekick Samuel Palmer, with whom he shares the show's regrettably brief Road to Morocco sequence--a sort of paean to the road movies of Bing Crosby and Bob Hope.
Palmer does well vamping Jerry Lewis' shtick in one of the show's many obtuse segues when he plays a pratfalling usher besieged by a sexually aggressive redhead.
Indeed, this show has more hams than a smokehouse on Easter, but then that's the beauty of it--there's a lot of room for broad performing, and the cast clearly enjoys dishing it out.
Though Blame It on the Movies is not pitch-perfect entertainment, you will leave humming a tune. At the very least, this production succeeds as an act of musical preservation, which is surely to be applauded, albeit sometimes with only one hand.
Dreamweavers Theatre's production of 'Blame it on the Movies' plays Friday and Saturday, Feb. 25 and 26, at 8 p.m., and on Sunday, Feb. 27, at 2 p.m. at the Uptown Cinemas, 1350 Third St., Napa. Tickets are $15. For details, call 255-5483.
From the February 24-March 1, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.
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