Strawdog’s “Once in a Lifetime” Review- Madcap Romp is 1000% Fun

(L to R) Scott Danielson and Kat McDonnell

 

Watching Strawdog Theatre Company ensemble members and their guest artists perform George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart’s “Once in a Lifetime” you realize that even though your belly laughs are coming fast and furious, the actors on stage might be having even more fun than you are. 

 

 

(L to R) Michael Dailey, Scott Danielson, and Kat McDonnell

 

This is a great satirical spoof that Director Damon Kiely and Music Director Austin Oie have peppered with Vaudevillesque re-works of today’s pop tunes.  There are plenty of smart girl quips for lead Kathleen McDonnell playing May, who is the been-there-done-that one –third of a Vaudeville Act that has just cashed it in to make their fortune in the new talkies of Hollywood .

 

 If you got a kick out of watching Scott Danielson drop his pants and shake his booty in “The Full Monty”, you’ll just adore his dumb-as-a-plank “George”, another third in the Vaudeville Act.  Think Peter Sellars in “Being There”, except this one sings, dances and has an equally vapid love interest (Susan, played by Sarah Goeden) who is determined to make it as a Hollywood starlet.  

 

(L to R).Scott Danielson, Kat McDonnell, and Michael Dailey

 

Michael Dailey is the other third of their Vaudeville Team, who when in Hollywood is brilliantly dressed in a variety of dressed-for-success show biz suits that shout tacky, tacky, tacky and on-the-ready for a backup career as a used car salesman (Costume Design:  Sandra Bass)

 

(L to R) Michaela Petro, Brandon Saunders, Jamie Vann, Scott Danielson, Kat McDonnell, and Michael Dailey

 

As good as these leads are, their equal stars are the supporting actors who switch costumes and roles in fast blinks.  One moment Michaela Porto is a silent film star with a nails-on-chalkboard high-pitched nasal voice.  Then she re-appears as a disgruntled electrician only to be transformed into a punctilious secretary.  Justine C. Turner who many of us recently saw as super-earnest straight characters in “Spill”, is a lampooned larger-than-life Hollywood Celebrity columnist one moment, doting mother of the would-be starlet the next, donning men’s clothes then women’s and doing and getting her kicks too in the ensemble’s musical scene transitions, each of which make this performance worth the price of admission alone.  

 

(L to R) Sarah Goeden, Justine C Turner, Nicole Bloomsmith

 

And what’s a good spoof without some class A drag, which Anderson Lawfer gives us as a big-bosomed baritone with speech impediment silent film actress, before he too switches into what seems like dozens of small parts.   You will likely never forget Nicole Bloomsmith as Miss Leighton, hopefully remembering her performance as the secretary gatekeeper when you  are in real world combat with her type character and need to summon a smile.  And then there is Jamie Vann as the movie mogul they all try to please and get paid by, quickly switching into a good-natured railroad engineer, etc.

 

(L to R) Paul Fagen and Kat McDonnell

 

And even more fast-paced and fun character switches and ensemble work  (also with inspired performance by Kamille Dawkins, Brandon Saunders and Paul Fagen) that makes this performance just FLY!

 

(L to R) Paul Fagen, Nicole Bloomsmith, Brandon Saunders, Justine C. Turner, and Sarah Goeden

 

Special mention needs to be made of yet another superb Strawdog set, and especially the pink poodle evoking Hollywood mogul offices (Joe Schermoly Scenic Design) that creates a workaround of this theater company’s most inhospitable pillar-packed performance space.   Strawdog Theatre Company is about to move from its pillar-challenging home of 26 years on Broadway to next season’s temporary digs in Rogers Park near the Evanston-Chicago border.   This production reminds that their set design has consistently been so brilliant that one is tempted to steer them to similarly inhospitable spaces like the one in the Chopin Theater’s basement, just to see what miracles they can create there. 

 

For laughs and spirit-lifting fun, you can see Strawdog’s “Once in  a Lifetime” until June 4.  This writer hopes the run will be extended.  It’s just the kind of playful romp you might want to see twice.

 

For tickets or information call Ovation Tix at 866 811 4111 or visit the Strawdog Theatre website.

 

Photo Credit: Tom McGrath, tcmcgphotography.com  

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