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Times Community News Coastline Pilot Opinion
Charming, funny ‘Lagunatics’ is worth your support
"Lagunatics," a local favorite satirical musical, runs through Nov. 5 at No Square Theatre. (Photo by Bree Burgess Rosen)
By David Hansen
If you heard a joke about goats every year for 25 years, would you still laugh? What about traffic, tourists or parking?
Somehow “Lagunatics” has been making fun of its beloved city for a quarter of a century with a recurring stable of topics, yet the jokes somehow never get old. Why? Because if quirky, ageless Laguna doesn’t laugh at itself, it’s likely to cry.
The local favorite satirical musical started its weekend run Oct. 13 and ends Nov. 5. For tickets, visit nosquare.org.
It’s clear the anniversary motivated the creators to put a little extra spice into the production: more bite, song and flair.
The writing seemed edgier, the music more spirited and the costumes more fabulous. Founder Bree Burgess Rosen admitted from the outset that the performers are really trying to impress the audience this year, not just over the anniversary, but because of a much-needed expansion project. In the playbill introduction, Rosen made a plea for support. “This won’t give us the 500 seats and parking we long for, but it will give us dressing rooms, a costume shop and separate rehearsal space — all game changers for our programs,” she wrote. “It will also just about double our overhead, and kill us financially. So now, we’re officially asking for money.”
For the first time, they are offering memberships that start at $40, hoping to add more income than just ticket sales.
“We promise to spend wisely and honor the town,” she said. As with every “Lagunatics,” the satire is always sanded carefully around the edges — but with an old, unpredictable rasp. Sometimes there are sharp splinters; other times it’s just smooth polish.
You can almost imagine writers Rosen, Chris Quilter, Rufino Cabang, Bridget English, Rebecca Lyles and Paul Nygro sitting around a table debating the details over wine and popcorn. The result, however, does not resemble something from a committee as much as discrete points of view — fun, barbed and thoughtful when needed.
The show on Saturday was campy but lovable. Authentic and reaching. The song selection and singing were surprisingly good.
There were new, young voices who added refreshing sincerity and bravado to the material. Evie Cant, a high school senior who first premiered in 2015 but missed last year, was captivating and poised. Chloe Lovato, also from 2015, has performed in several other No Square productions and the experience showed. Eric Anderson is another newcomer who stole the show with his pepper tree skit.
It was hard to pick a favorite among the more than 20 songs. Each had its own personality and charm. Some relied heavily on the diverse music and just-right costumes to keep the audience engaged. Others were packed with witticisms and asides. More often than not, audience members leaned forward, hoping to catch every word.
As is customary, city officials and dignitaries were in attendance, knowing they likely would be lampooned.
And this year was no different. There was a full city council parody that included a stand-in for City Manager John Pietig, who was in the audience, failing to suppress broad smiles. With skits poking fun at countless ordinances — drones, cigarettes and others — it was hard not to at least nod in agreement.
Rufino did a brilliant, saucy rendition of “Send in the Drones,” where he lamented the inability to flash for the aerial camera on the beach. Another funny, how-far-will-they-go skit involved the recent anti-immigration group on Main Beach. Called “Farinella,” the chorus belted out that there were “paparazzi — and one Nazi.”
One number that got some of the largest applause was “Uber,” with provocative lyrics by Quilter.
Imagine some cross-dressing seniors excited — maybe a little too excited — over the ability to order a hunky Uber driver at anytime. “Uber in the morning, Uber in the evening, Uber at suppertime … ride him all the time,” they sang.
Near the end of the show came Anderson as the pepper tree, which in real life was recently cut down at City Hall because it was old and dangerous with a nearly hollow trunk. He asked an expert how hollow and was told 90%.
“So there’s still a chance,” he said. If the real tree hadn’t been cut down already, you probably would have wanted to save it, just because of Anderson’s gusto.
There were too many highlights to name. From the clever writing to the practiced, hilarious choreography, this year’s “Lagunatics” was one of my recent favorites. But in order to keep this local brilliance going, you’ll have to support it.
It’s worth whatever they ask.
DAVID HANSEN is a writer and Laguna Beach resident. He can be reached at email@example.com
Copyright © 2017, Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot
Jason Feddy and Bree talk LAGUNATICS on kx93.5 FM
Directed by Bree Burgess Rosen, Choreographed by Paul Nygro, Music Directed by Roxanna Ward
Lagunatics is a must-see: Pepper tree skit brings entire audience to its feet, teary-eyed with laughter
Story and photos by LYNETTE BRASFIELD
Click on photo for a larger image
Pocket mouse (not actual size)
From pepper tree to pocket mice to police chief – Laguna’s peculiarities get the full Bree Rosen treatment, enhanced by a great cast, crazily good writers, and props and costumes that wow the audience, given how over-the-top, so giddily ridiculous and yet how apt they are.
Rebecca Lyles, who wrote several of the song lyrics, says, “I’m amazed at how the simple words we put on paper come to life with costumes, choreography, talented singers, and comedic point of view.
“It’s a special thrill to see theater-goers lap it up they way they did last night. How often do you see audience members dabbing at laughter-tears and jumping to their feet to applaud?”
I’m told Lyles’s “Chump” was also a great hit with the audience.
“Send in the Drones” sends audience into convulsions
The standout in the first half was unquestionably Bree Rosen and Bridget English’s “Send in the Drones,” sung by Rufino. It was a unique take on the issue and perfectly suited to Rufino’s brand of talent.
Sande St. John also praised the incredible skills of costume designer Brigitte Harper. “She’s just amazing,” Sande says. She adds that the trolley skit, featuring outer-wear of the automotive kind, was also enormously popular with the audience. “A hit!” Sande says.
Another of my favorites from the first half was “Farinella,” with lyrics by Chris Quilter, whose brilliant, quirky wit shone through many of the performances. Other standouts, I hear, were “My Shot,” which apparently had Gregg McGillivray moving to the beat, clearly enjoying the music and the lyrics, and another favorite was “I’ve Just Seen a Space” parodying parking problems.
You had to be there! So go!
Click on photo for a larger image
For a moment, I thought I was doing a dining feature: delicious al fresco dinner
And a word to the wise (oh, to the unwise, too, what the heck!): the dinner served beforehand, for just $10, is exquisite. Prepared by The White House, eaten al fresco, and paired with wine in the gloaming, as my Scottish father used to call the twilight hours, this is a great way to begin an evening of laughter and escapism, something we all dearly need these days – some days more than others.
ANNIE includes such unforgettable songs as “It’s the Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street,” “I Don’t Need Anything But You,” plus the eternal anthem of optimism, “Tomorrow.”
Book and Score by Tony Award®-winners
Thomas Meehan, Charles Strouse, and Martin Charnin
Directed by Joe Lauderdale
Choreographed by Ellen Prince
Music Directed by Roxanna Ward
Little Orphan Annie charms everyone with her plucky optimism, despite humble beginnings in 1930s New York City.
Performances Dec 2 - 3, 8 - 10, 15 - 17
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