Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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

Cause Célèbre

June 23, 2010


Given the amount of time I spend attending live classical music performances or theater here in Los Angeles, the number of times I actually come into contact with bona fide Hollywood celebrity types and/or the people who work directly with them in “the industry” seem relatively few. Not that it never happens, but I don’t often overhear phrases like “I loved your pilot” or “Let’s take a meeting” used in casual conversation. So it was very out of the ordinary on Monday to find myself in the presence of the aforementioned chatter and so much celebrity business, both on stage, on paper, and in the audience, at the Los Angeles return of Celebrity Autobiography at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. For the uninitiated, Celebrity Autobiography is a decade old recurring event that originated in Los Angeles under the guidance of Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel. The concept is simple and often hilarious like a clever party game. Celebrities, and in particular comics, get up in front of an audience and give dramatic readings of excerpts from the most poorly written books and autobiographies of other celebrities. The goal is humor and the strategy to achieve it often involves casting against type between author and reader.

Celebrity Autobiography has taken several forms over the years including a 2005 Bravo TV special and more recently a monthly residency at the Triad Theater in Manhattan which has led to a bit of a renaissance for the event which has, in part, brought its creators back to L.A. where it all began. The show is scheduled to make several monthly appearances on the Edye Second Space at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica into 2011. At the Broad Stage's invitation, I attended the second performance on Monday along with the likes of Lily Tomlin for what was a hysterical evening, if a bit long in the tooth. The cast rotates, and Monday’s group was superb, including Fred Willlard, Alan Zweibel, Brooke Shields, Laraine Newman, and Rita Wilson among others. Michael Urie read from Tommy Lee’s Tommyland as well as a tome by David Hasselhoff, which was superb. Florence Henderson meanwhile provided some critical reassessment of Madonna’s Sex from 1992. The other authors on the agenda included the likes of Mr. T, Suzanne Somers, Marilu Henner, and Tiger Woods. In perhaps some of the funniest routines of the evening, several readers came onstage together and reconstructed tabloid style events such as the breakup of Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson using dueling passages from their different tell-all accounts. I don’t want to say too much more about the actual readings, because the show is one of those things that is much funnier the less you know going in. If I do have any criticism of the program, it is that it can feel a little over rehearsed at times with some lack of spontaneity. Additionally some of the chosen book material is hardly hot of the presses from the world of celebrity publishing. The romance between Elizabeth Taylor and Eddie Fischer is certainly still a source for potential laughs, but it's hardly breaking news. There are two performances each scheduled for July 19th and September 26th in Santa Monica both of which will feature different readers and authors so check back at the Broad's site for more information.


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