TINSELTOWN

at the Crossley Terrace Theatre

Girl hates living on an Iowa farm. Girl meets Brooklyn boy who aspires to be a screenwriter. They head West, where both flourish in the 1930s film industry. Girl jeopardizes her career with a bad choice. Boy stands by girl. A happy ending is had by all. In this honoring of Hollywood musicals, composer Paul Katz and lyricist-librettist Michael Colby use more showbiz references and double-entendres than De Mille had extras in his Biblical epics. Still, this Los Angeles premiere, directed by Jeff Maynard and choreographed by Allison Bibicoff, veers wildly between moments of campy brilliance and the more common garden-variety caricature. As our corn-fed heroine and her East Coast beau, Gwen Hollander and Matt Lutz are a winsome pair. Her wide-eyed naivety and his crystal-clear tenor range combine for several lovely duets. Inventively cute is "Let's Go," a rousing travelogue in which recognizable landmarks fly by their stationary bicycle.

In most Depression–era musicals, second bananas had the best material. So it is with the hilariously bizarre supporting players of the fictitious NGN studios: Robert Marra's lecherous Gene Kelly/ Donald O'Connor; Stephen Van Dorn's prosthetically enhanced ugly duckling with the incredible operatic scope; and Suzanne Friedline, sporting a pair of stunningly shapely gams, as the wickedly jealous studio diva. But it's Gina D'Acciaro who steals this show as an Ethel Merman–esque Broadway belter. Her gut-busting rendition of "I Can Sing" stops the first act in its tracks, garnering her murmurs of audience anticipation at each subsequent entrance.

Unfortunately, Gus Corrado and Diana Georger as blustery studio head Norman G. Neinstein and Adele DeRale, a fanzine gossip columnist, suffered repeated memory lapses. Georger's character in particular, seemingly a cross between Joan Rivers and Margaret Hamilton, became manically annoying, and her songs seemed far too low for her vocal range. Paula Higgins' costuming is lovely, while Paul De Does' scenic design, including an upstage screen used for mood-setting projections, is amazingly resourceful, given the spatial limitations. Though Carson Schutze's music direction is crisp, a number of the actors suffered through terrible microphone quality on opening night.

Presented by Actors Co-op at the Crossley Terrace Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., Hollywood. Fri.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2:30 p.m. (Also Sat. 2:30 p.m. Jun. 9-16.) May 11-Jun. 17. (323) 462-8460. www.actorsco-op.org.

Reviewed by Dink O'Neal