Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

La Boheme

July 26, 2007

Yvette Tucker and David Engel
Photo: Lori Shepler/LAT 2007
Can-Can is one of those perennial “problem” works. Despite a wonderful score from Cole Porter with a number of classic songs including “I Love Paris” and “It’s All Right With Me," the show is hampered by a rather silly Boheme knock-off of a book by Abe Burrows. Director David Lee and his collaborator Joel Fields were well aware of this issue going into development of their new revival for Pasadena Playhouse now running through August 8. Thus, they (with the blessing of the various involved families and foundations) embarked upon a significant reworking of the book while keeping the original music intact. So did all the new narrative and dialog pay off? Well I guess that depends on how you look at it. The bad news is that Lee and Fields have managed to update 1950s corniness to 2000 corniness, which is still, well, corny. Still family friendly to a T, this Can-Can goes down easy and at times makes one wish for a little Tuberculosis or something to liven things up a bit.

But the good news is that no corners were cut in the singing, dancing, and music department. There are several stretches where it’s easy to forget all the overly eager audience-pleasing comedy shenanigans and simply enjoy the enthusiastic if not quite sexy choreography of Patti Colombo and the whole-hearted performances given by the entire cast. I should also mention the superior job that fight coordinator Tim Weske has done here especially with the climactic duel between Kevin Early (Aristide) and David Engel (Hilare) who pulled off the most athletic and believable stage altercation I've seen in awhile. No doubt this production makes no effort to hide its crowd-pleasing intents. But for the middle of July, that is not always such a bad thing.

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