Los Angeles Theater Review: DORIS AND ME (El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood)

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by Roy Leake Jr on July 25, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


Boy, oh boy, oh boy, does Scott Dreier (the “Me” of Doris and Me) love Doris Day (the “Doris” of Doris and Me).  I mean, he loooooooooves her. The tag line of his show is: “One man’s obsession with music and movie icon, Doris Day, leads to this loving tribute to America’s Sweetheart.” You think you love Doris Day? Well, to quote one of her movie titles, Move Over, Darling.

The main course of the evening, clearly, is the songs. And what a glorious buffet of songs he has chosen: Yes, there’s “It’s Magic” (he opens with it); of course “Ev’rybody Loves a Lover” is in there; and if you think “Secret Love” will be kept a secret, think again (it’s at the end of the Calamity Jane medley). You want more?  Scott Dreier in DORIS AND ME, The Doris Day Songbook at the El Portal Theatre. Photo by Ed Krieger.How about “By the Light of the Silvery Moon” and “Love Me or Leave Me” (both from movies of the same name, as if you didn’t know), “On Moonlight Bay,” “This Can’t Be Love,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” and “Shakin’ the Blues Away.” How dare you even think he wouldn’t do “Sentimental Journey.” And everybody just settle down; not only does he sing “Que Sera, Sera,” we get to sing it along with him!

Before, between, and sometimes even during the entrée songs are side dishes of her history, her personal and professional lives, her philosophy, her world view, and of course, her amazing and selfless work to protect animals. All of it is garnished by Scott with anecdotes and testimonials from colleagues and friends. His knowledge of the lady and her music and her movies is nothing short of Wikipedic. He’s The Man Who Knew Too Much about Doris Day.

The kicker — the thing that keeps this from being just another Fan Boy show — is how deliciously talented, how wholesomely handsome, how disarmingly charming, how unmistakably sincere the man is.

Mr. Dreier’s voice is old-school crooner plus a dash of late-night jazz club, but with a decidedly modern sensibility. He caresses a melody like a hothouse orchid — lovingly and appreciatively yet carefully and respectfully. At the same time, he’s not afraid to grab hold of a particular line and riff on it, sensitively, to make it express precisely what he wants you to feel. And It’s a Great Feeling.

Scott Dreier in DORIS AND ME, The Doris Day Songbook at the El Portal Theatre. Photo by Ed Krieger.

Lyrically, his phrasing is very nearly impeccable; well, I couldn’t pec it, anyway. He serves the lyric as meticulously as he serves the melody. When he breathes it’s always for clarity, never for mere effect.

Mr. Dreier also has the rarified and uncanny ability to connect with every person in the audience. The intimacy of the horseshoe-style second space at the El Portal helps in this regard, but I doubt you could find a single audience member who didn’t feel the performer’s eyes locked with their own at least a few times during the evening.

Scott Dreier in DORIS AND ME, The Doris Day Songbook at the El Portal Theatre. Photo by Ed Krieger.I’m not sure I’ll be able to explain this part very well (which is a hell of a thing for a writer to say; feel free to skip this paragraph in protest), but there’s a similarity to the way Dreier approaches… no, inhabits a song, and the way Doris did. It’s not at all an imitation or impersonation; the phrasing is different, the intonation is different, the dynamics are different. But the spirit they each bring to a song is somehow, down deep, identical. It has to do with the aforementioned sincerity and the unabashed, embracing belief they both have in what the song is saying. Some people dismiss Doris Day’s work as some sort of goody-two-shoes treacle. Man! Those people are not paying attention. I doubt anyone would likewise accuse him of any saccharine-coated, feigned innocence, but if anyone suggests such a thing to you, trust me, they have missed Scott Dreier’s boat completely.

Producers Ronald Kurtz and Gary Grantham have impressively assembled The Winning Team for Doris and Me, starting with one of the best directors currently working in L.A. theatre, Richard Israel, who gives the show a comfortable, relaxed feel. You hardly even notice the celebrated laser-like focus and attention to detail he has brought to this party. Like all truly great directors, his work never draws attention to itself.

To call Music Director Bob Remstein (who somehow carries an orchestra in his fingers) and bass player Paul Morin “the band” is to diminish the connection they have with Scott and the contribution they make to the entire evening. Scott calls Remstein his “partner in crime,” which just about nails it.

Zac Codner’s colorful lighting design and Grantham’s sound design artfully and admirably guides our eyes to where we need to look and our ears to what we need to hear. As with Israel, Remstein, and Morin, they support, they enhance. They never dominate.

While you will no doubt have a wonderful time at this thoroughly entertaining evening, it is not, however, a completely satisfying one because it lacks in the dramaturgy department.

At the beginning, Scott tells us that the evening is about trying to figure out why he has been so totally obsessed with Doris Day since early childhood. By looking at the high points and low points of both her life and his, he hopes to discover what and where the connections are that have always so strongly compelled him toward her.

He kinda-sorta does that, but in fairly safe, predictable ways. I felt as if I had been promised an honest-to-God, revelatory catharsis that I never really got. He shares several of Doris’s low points: The car crash that shattered her leg the night before her first dance audition; her four marriages; and learning — after the death of her third husband — that he had squandered virtually her entire fortune. Not only was she broke, but she had been committed to doing a television show AND several specials without her knowledge (Imagine!), but there’s not a word about losing her only son to melanoma in 2004. (P.S. After many years of lawsuits she got back her fortune of $23,000,000.)

Scott Dreier in DORIS AND ME, The Doris Day Songbook at the El Portal Theatre. Photo by Ed Krieger.Scott shares far less of his own life’s low points: He was raised in a strict religious home and wasn’t allowed to watch very much TV, his Grandma’s brother died, and then later his Grandma died. This leads him to sing “My Buddy,” a song his grandma could never listen to because it upset her too much.

He gets emotional (and I didn’t doubt for a moment that it was genuine) when he describes finally meeting Doris Day at her 90th birthday celebration this past April (this part even got me a bit teary, but then I always respond more emotionally to triumph than to tragedy). Yet moments before he had described meeting her several years prior at a film festival that he and his friend had driven 9 hours to get to, and very nearly missed meeting her. So he had already met her and spent forty-five minutes talking to her, but he neglected to tell her what he’d driven 9 hours to tell her: that she always made him happy. And he realized that was the reason for his obsession. (Damn, I’ve gone and given away the ending.)

Now I don’t mean to sound like the jaded old piece that I am, and in no way do I intend to diminish his experiences or emotions, but isn’t it just possible that an obsession may be caused by something a bit deeper than the loss of a grandparent — which almost everybody experiences? And anyway, hadn’t the obsession begun to show itself before grandma passed? I mean, I lost both my grandmothers, but I didn’t go out stalking Reta Shaw. It just strikes me that someone is, maybe, afraid to get too “real.” The show is, after all, called Doris and Me. It needs more him.

Maybe losing his grandmother is the most devastating thing in Scott’s life, and it was my expectation of a soul-baring realization that got in the way. But it did make me walk out feeling a tiny bit cheated.

photos by Ed Krieger

Doris and Me
El Portal Theatre
5269 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood
Thurs and Fri at 8; Sat at 3 & 8; Sun at 3 & 7
ends on August 3, 2014
for tickets, call 818.508.4200 or visit El Portal

plays the Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third Street in Burbank, August 9-12, 2018
for tickets, call 866.811.4111 or visit Colony

for more info, visit Scott Dreier

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