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LA Theater Review


The hairdos stretch up into the stratosphere, the Aqua Net cans spray freely, and glorious sounds of the 1960s — from American Bandstand to Motown — are nostalgically conjured in Larry Gallagher's sprightly revue. Saluting female pop-rock soloists and groups by spotlighting a splendid array of vintage jukebox hits, Gallagher's bare-bones 1985 vehicle relies heavily on prodigious performers. Thankfully, director Nick DeGruccio selected six spirited and accomplished actors for this maiden effort from the Valley Musical Theatre, enhancing the proceedings with stylish and vibrant staging.

Incorporating minimal narration, related by the performers, Gallagher's text presents a skeletal chronology of social changes and stellar careers. The tone is bubblegum-bright throughout, except for a brief segment of solemn reflection during the first-act closing number, "The Beat Goes On," which recalls the JFK assassination, the Vietnam War, the African American battle for civil rights, and other challenging milestones of the post-Eisenhower years. Uncredited slide projections, scenic designer Andrew Hammer's attractive unit set, Thomas G. Marquez's authentic costumes, and Steven Young's lush lighting — highlighted by delicious shades of Pepto-Bismol pink — deftly capture the period. Lee Martino's delightful choreography, coupled with rousing work from music director Jim Vukovich and his six-piece combo, brings out the best in the parade of evergreen chart-toppers.

Yet the production's strongest asset is the ensemble of six triple-threat performers. They sing and dance with consummate polish, honoring the great singing ladies and their indelible songs. Top-billed LaToya London (of TV's American Idol) is a superstar in the making. Whether supremely leading her co-stars as Diana Ross in a Supremes medley or in the dazzling "Beehive Dance," she's a glittering presence. Other impersonations are also spot on: Tricia Kelly's take on booze-swilling Janis Joplin, Stacy Francis' explosive Tina Turner, and Lesli Margherita's showstopping re-creation of Connie Francis' "Where the Boys Are." Sylvia MacCalla has her moments of glory in an Aretha Franklin medley, and Kathleen Hennessey sparkles crooning Lulu's "To Sir With Love" and Lesley Gore's "It's My Party." This exuberant baby-boomer songfest provides an auspicious launch for producer Ronn Goswick's ambitious new company.

Presented by Valley Musical Theatre at the El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Wed.-Fri. 8 p.m., Sat. 2 & 8 p.m., Sun. 7 p.m. Sep. 22-Oct. 8. (866) 811-4111.

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