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Genlemen Prefer Blondes

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Though Anita Loos wrote several books, contributed hundreds of magazine articles, and was a prolific screenwriter, she was best known for her book and subsequent play, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes:The Illuminating Diary of a Professional Lady. First written in 1925, it painted a picture of the jazz age that Loos cleverly made witty and fresh. It was a best seller and was eventually made into a Broadway musical in 1949 starring Carol Channing. Loos collaborated on the play's book with Joseph Fields, with Jule Styne for music, and with Leo Robin for lyrics. As produced by Musical Theatre Guild for their one-night staged reading series, it shows its age, but it provides a showcase for a cadre of talented musical theater veterans.


Lorelei Lee (Melissa Fahn) is the blonde of the title, and she charmingly wiggles and giggles her way through the gold digger role with plenty of sass and oomph. Accompanied by her friend, Dorothy Shaw (Kim Huber), the girls join the Ile de France headed for Paris. Lorelei's button-king boyfriend and sugar daddy, Gus Edmond Jr.(Kevin McMahon) leaves her alone on the journey, but she doesn't lack for male attention. She is pursued by married Sir Francis Beekman (Paul Keith), whose wife, Lady Beekman (Carol Kline) is on board to sell a diamond tiara. Naturally, Lorelei has her eye on it, though without Gus she has no money to buy it.


Dorothy, in he meantime, is beginning a romance with wealthy Henry Spofford (Will Collyer), though she is reluctant, feeling unworthy of him. Spofford's mother, Ella (Marsha Kramer), is promoting the match after she meets the girls.

To add spice to the story, Lorelei hooks up with the zipper king, Josephus Gage (Damon Kirsche). When Gus arrives unexpectedly and finds Lorelei with Gage, he angrily pairs up with dancing star, Gloria Stark (Jane Papageorge), in retaliation. Things get interesting when Henry's father, Esmond Sr. (Chuck Bergman) arrives.

In addition to the principals, Loos included some colorful additions to the show. Two Olympians (Michael Starr, Jeffrey Scott Parsons) jog through in A. Jeffrey Schoenberg's vintage athletic outfits. His costumes throughout are worthy of a full-fledged stage show.

Also enhancing Lee Martino's notable choreography are Mark C. Reis, Jennifer Brasuell, Ashley Fox Linton, and William Martinez. Martino makes the most of his talented dancers in tap routines (Reis, Parsons) and Papageorge's many solo moments.

Director Larry Raben, a musical theater star in his own right, has the perfect feel for creating pep and energy in this actors-on-book show. The production values are equal to any staging that might be done in a full-run production.

Some of the songs from the original production are revived here, notably "It's Delightful Down in Chile" and "I'm A'Tingle, I'm A'Glow," but the winners are "I'm Just a Little Girl from Little Rock," "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friends," and the charming "Bye Bye Baby."

The ubiquitous Corey Hirsch is a gift to local musical theater, and his musical direction in this production hits all the right notes. Though the show drags a bit toward the finale, it is always nice to see a seldom-produced musical revived when its cast can make you forget that you aren't watching a full-bore production.



Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”


Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.