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LA Theater Review

The Girl, the Grouch, and the Goat

Composer Mark Hollmann's follow-up to Urinetown may bear some similarities to that riotous tuner, but it's a more conventional musical with a libretto by Jack Helbig that turns Menander's The Grouch into something resembling a family-friendly A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

The songs are light, breezy, and enjoyable, with only a few self-referential comments by the actors about being in a play (and one that refers to Urinetown when a character notes that at least the bad guy, who charges for water from his well, "doesn't charge you to pee!"). The romantic leads, Brooke Cannons and Armando Gutierrez, are innocent and attractive, while as the parents who don't like the idea of their kids seeing each other, Glenn Koppel and Eloise Coopersmith get in a lot of comedic huffing and puffing.

As the male lead's younger sister, Sarah Pierce conducts herself like an old showbiz pro, whether twirling her baton or trying to get the adults around her to open their eyes. Closer to the spirit of A Funny Thing Happened are John Paul Karliak and David LaMarr as slaves to Coopersmith's character. The two are obviously closeted gays, and with his slapstick skills and solid comic timing and line readings, LaMarr basically walks off with his every scene.

Production values are solid too, from John Robinson's set design with its huge, revolving well to Jeff Brewer's lighting, Bryan Barton's sound, and Cassandra Stone's costumes. Kelly Todd's choreography is aptly loose, silly, and fun. Holding it all together is Oanh Nguyen's staging and Bill Strongin's music direction and live piano performance of the score. None of the cast members are socko vocalists, but neither are any weak, and the choral singing of the ensemble is as good as, and frequently better than, the solos.

In its gentle spoofery of various aspects of Greek mythology, Helbig's book makes good on the show's ability to pay homage to A Funny Thing Happened. This show will deliver at least a chuckle per minute for adults while diverting and entertaining the audience's younger members.

Presented by and at the Chance Theater, 5552 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim.
April 18-May 24. Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 and 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 and 7 p.m. (714) 777-3033.

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