This is a masterpiece of modern theatre technology and performance art that brings back to live theatre the classic L. Frank Baum story. Originally written and published back in 1900, it has been re-released worldwide in hundreds of editions. It wasn’t until Ms. Judy Garland in the 1939 movie musical that it was even considered for a full-length theatrical musical stage production. In 2010, an idea began with legendary collaborators Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber to add more songs and “spice” to the already popular music of Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg from the feature film in order to create this lavishly beautiful stage production at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood called, “The Wizard Of Oz.”
“Nicely Done, “Doubting Thomason” Is A Play Within A Play”
“Quirky, Funny and Full of Stuff to Think About in the “Rainbow Bar and Grill”
(Back) Kenneth Steven Bernfield , Shane Palmerton, Melinda Browne, Christopher Ocepek, Michael James Thompson (Front) Cindy Dellinger, Linda Mayer
This play is fun and a little dated in terms of its stylized dialogue and set pieces but this production directed by Sherry Coon is a play with lots of surprises. Written by Bruce Graham, the setting is 1979 in a small town bar and grill where an apparent plague or apocalypse is taking over the world. This is what makes The Vagabond Players Theatre Company production of “Early One Evening at the Rainbow Bar & Grill” so much fun to watch at the Sherry Theatre in North Hollywood.
Shane Palmerton plays Shep who is an aspiring writer who has everything apparently he needs to get a very specific writing job done. Shane plays the quirky nerd of a writer wanna-be extremely well. His innocence and self-deprecation are real and extremely honest. He was fun to watch and his reactions are quite honest for the moments.
Linda Mayer plays Virginia, a lady who is the second person apparently required to get that same specific job done. Linda’s range of passion for her convictions and suddenly warming up to Shep and his causes was quite entertaining. Linda seems to have a great chemistry with Shane and it’s fun to watch the two of them interact with each others quirks and issues.
Shep has some very eccentric and somewhat usual friends like Roy, an overly excited mechanic played energetically by Christopher Ocepek and Willie, an overzealous, somewhat loony, gun wielding neighbor played by Michael James Thompson who does a convincing job of taking the ego driven megalomaniac to the extreme. The two of them have their own funny traits that seem to confuse and amuse everyone else.
Now add a misguided girlfriend with very little ambition other than what seems to be a little more than materialistic and shallow desires on her part and you have Cindy Dellinger playing Shirley. Cindy does the nagging thing quite well and tries to manipulate Shep into doing a lot of things that are not in his best interest.
There’s even a stranger in town who seems generous with his advice although maybe not the best suggestions to be taken seriously played unusually and uniquely by Kenneth Steven Bernfield. His overextended personality seems to match his overextended ideals for the group.
Now for my favorite part, with the world ending in 1979 in the outside world and people fearing it’s the last of everything, into the Rainbow Bar & Grill walks God. God is looking for a writer to take all the religious philosophies of the worlds and all the books, philosophies and extract the true beliefs from all of them and get rid of the rest. God needs a writer and a helper. God chooses Shep and Virginia for this task, doubtful as they are.
God (or “Jo” as God introduces herself) is creatively and whimsically played by Melinda Browne. Talk about having fun with a role! Melinda is snarky, witty and fun with her deliveries and amazingly real that I would often think if God were practical and reasonable he/she might come off as this sharp and intelligent as Melinda played it. It was just complete fun to watch Melinda play God for “real” with her own unique twisted smarminess.
What a great time you’ll have in this quirky town of the past that gets visitors of all kinds, some of which have a humorous yet poignant purpose. It's a wonderful production that is well performed and you can check them out at www.thevagabondplayers.com.
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