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AN INVISIBLE MAN

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A funny thing happened to R. Christofer Sands on the way to puberty. His boy-soprano voice never deepened. It's tough for a man to forge a career as an actor/ singer when he has a freak, four-and-a-half-octave voice that enables him to sing like a woman. "Being a countertenor opens and closes doors," Sands confides in this autobiographical musical show, directed by Michael Betts, which falls somewhere between cabaret showcase and candid confessional. Sands provides heartfelt reminiscences of his unorthodox career journey, incorporating 10 well-chosen, generally lesser-known show tunes to punctuate his narration.

He explains that he's not a drag queen but has been cast in many female roles. He mentions the historical tradition of actors in cross-dress and how the convention was seldom used for comic effect until some 20-30 years ago. Having played the hero/heroine in Pinafore!, sob sister Mary Sunshine in Chicago productions, and another cross-dress role in the cult hit Miss Desmond Behind Bars, Sands has also played many roles "straight." With remarkable candor, he tells how he was once rejected from a pizza commercial cattle call, being told he was "too ugly." He follows this with the poignant song "Why Wasn't I Born Beautiful." This leads to other observations on the common hurdles actors face, including the disadvantages of being an Equity actor in a town with so few Equity-contract roles.

He first enters in his resplendent red gown from Pinafore!, then halfway through the show he strips down to T-shirt and jeans, removing his makeup, as he celebrates his gender and his gift for chameleon-like transformations in wide-ranging roles. His voice is indeed amazing, as he performs songs ranging from Gilbert and Sullivan to Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin. One number, "Charles' Aire," relating the experiences of a cross-dress performer, is a stirring piece written for the late, great female impersonator Charles Pierce. Sands is a warm and gifted performer, whose unpretentious vehicle, bolstered by Ron Snyder's spry accompaniment, provides an endearing and inspirational glimpse at the professional life of a part-time diva and full-time devoted thespian.

"An Invisible Man, or the Miss-Adventures of a Countertenor in Musical Theatre," presented by SanZman Productions at the Sierra Madre Playhouse, 87 W. Sierra Madre Blvd., Sierra Madre. Sun. 7:30 pm. Jan. 16 & 23. $18. (626) 256-3809.

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