Los Angeles Theater Preview: ONE TOUCH OF VENUS (Musical Theatre Guild)

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by Tony Frankel on January 28, 2011

in Theater-Los Angeles


The award-winning Musical Theatre Guild, a company of professional performers who present concert-staged readings of seldom seen musicals, will continue its 15th season with Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash’s rarely-produced classic One Touch of Venus (1943).

I have been attending MTG for years and their one-night stands are more professional and thrilling than most touring Broadway shows. It’s not so amazing that MTG can put together these splendid evenings in 25 hours when you take into account the company’s array of Equity actors who are at the top of their game. The production last year of Loesser’s The Most Happy Fella (1956) made the Broadway revival look like community theatre. This organization is also a must for Broadway Musical aficionados – those souls who have been listening to original cast albums and wondering if you would ever get a chance to see that show, such as the groundbreaking Lady in the Dark (1941) or the never-even-opened-on-Broadway The Baker’s Wife (1976), both previous MTG outings. Well, now you can. And a season subscription to five shows will cost you less than watching someone getting injured in Spider-Man on Broadway.

With a book by two of America’s most gifted humorists (wordsmith and poet Odgen Nash and Marx Brothers’ screenwriter S. J. Perleman), One Touch of Venus features a Kurt Weill score that is closer to Tin Pan Alley than to his expressionistic Three Penny Opera (1935), containing standards such as “Speak Low,” “That’s Him,” and “I’m a Stranger Here Myself.” Rarely produced despite its 567 performance Broadway run, the show tells of a Grecian statue coming to life and becoming involved with a modern day barber. It may be a good thing that original star Marlene Dietrich had an issue with Nash’s Porteresque lyrics (“it’s a minor peccadillo to patronize the wrong pillow”) – she called the show “too sexy and profane” and bolted for the exit before opening. Thus, five years after introducing “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” in Cole Porter’s Leave It To Me (1938) – and with two out-of-town flops to her credit – Mary Martin took over. Venus is the show that elevated her from mere celebrity status to bona fide Broadway star.

Venus will be directed by Richard Israel with musical direction by Dean Mora, choreography by Karen Nowicki.

MTG’s 2010-2011 season will conclude with the Neil Simon/Cy Coleman/Carolyn Leigh opus Little Me (1962) – which, although seen on Broadway three times, is still seldom seen – and, returning to the city of its roots, Bat Boy: The Musical (1997).

tonyfrankel @ stageandcinema.com

plays the Alex Theatre, Glendale and Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza
for tickets, visit  www.musicaltheatreguild.com

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