**One Man's Theatre Journal, Nothing more, Nothing less**

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Li'l Abner

February 5th, 2008
Reprise, UCLA's Freud Theatre, Los Angeles
Musical, we went with Pam

Starring Eric Martsolf, Brandi Burkhardt (below), Cathy Rigby, Michael Kostroff, Larry Cedar, Robert Towers, Jamie Luner and Fred Willard (and many others). This may be the largest cast we've seen in a Reprise production.
It debuted on Broadway in 1956, and of course it's based on Al Capp's comic strip. This is the first professional production we've seen, and I have to say, the charm and voices of this cast carry any old-fashioned elements that would likely drag otherwise. The songs don't move the plot forward much, but many of them are very funny and charming, and with this cast and all the visuals, I didn't mind. Especially when the alternative is seeing this musical in its usual venue (at a high school).

Eric Martsolf couldn't be more engaging and charming as the strapping, laid-back, pure-hearted Abner. But he's also funny, and has a very strong and appealing voice. There's a genuine quality about his performance that makes you care about Abner. And Brandi Burkhardt (Daisy Mae) could sing the phone book and I'd listen. Beautiful soprano voice (we loved hearing her sing I'm Past My Prime ~ likely the most known song from this musical). I look forward to hearing her sing again. Strong voices really add some gloss to these old-fashioned musicals.

(Fred Willard, Jamie Luner and Eric Martsolf)

(Robert Towers as pappy, Cathy Rigby as mammy, Eric Martsolf and Brandi Burkhardt)

The broad characters and huge cast were full of energy and spunk, and our favorite songs were the above and The Country's in the Very Best of Hands and Namely You. The set & costumes were colorful and exaggerated and evoked the comic strip name-sake.

And I can't forget to mention how entertaining Larry Cedar always is; I doubt he could do a bad performance. Also notable in this production is the appealing Michael Kistroff as Marryin' Sam; we'd love to see him again in something.



Blogger carli said...

I'm actually listening to Cathy Rigby right now--Ugh A Wug.

And at least your version of Happy Days had Paul Vogt (love him). Mine did not, nor did it have any redeeming qualities at all that I could see. Since they veered so far off course from what the show was, I didn't feel any nostalgia at all.

Haven't seen Young Frankenstein yet, but yeah, the reviews are split down the middle.

11:11 AM  

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