Tuesday, October 18, 2011

DON'T HUG ME, I'M PREGNANT and Baby's On the Way

Patrick Foley, Rebekah Dunn and Bert Emmett
Photo Credit: Doug Engalla

Don’t Hug Me, I’m Pregnant, now playing at the Secret Rose in North Hollywood, is the fourth musical in the Don’t Hug Me franchise written by brothers Phil and Paul Olson and directed by Doug Engalla. It doesn’t claim to be Sondheim or Webber & Rice, or even Rodgers & Hammerstein (and you’ll be sorely disappointed if you go hoping to find anything close to them), but if your taste runs more along the lines of Da Yoopers, you’re in the right place.

The characters are familiar. Gunner (Patrick Foley), Clara (Rebekah Dunn), Bernice (Natalie Lander), Kanute (Bert Emmett) and Aarvid (Gregory D. Barnett) have all been here before and the plot – slim as it is – finds Gunner’s wife Clara 8½ months pregnant when a snowstorm hits and the baby is born in the bar.

The writing is mostly a series of jokes, one-liners and puns that wear thin by the second act, though each of the actors has his or her laugh-out-loud moments. Dunn’s hormonal mood swings never fail, especially when directed at her hubby (Foley makes a great straight man for her barbs), and Lander lands a few well-timed zingers at Barnett’s expense. Even Barnett is so stupid at times that he’s actually funny, though there’s only so much you can take before it becomes tiresome.

You can hear a song cue coming a mile away but it works for the presentational style of the music. Stan Mazin choreographs the numbers with a showman’s vaudevillian flair that is one of the most delightful elements of the show. There’s even a slow-motion scene that involves the men trying to get Gunner in the kitchen when the baby is delivered that is hilarious. By the time we get to Gunner’s final song “Words Can’t Express,” Engalla wisely drops the schtick and lets us have a much-needed moment of sweetness.

Chris Winfield has done a bang-up job on the set. With 99+ bottles of beer on the wall, and lake trout and small mouth bass mounted next to Leinenkugel beer signs, it looks exactly like all the bars I remember from summer vacations fishing at the lake.

Don’t Hug Me, I’m Pregnant runs through November 20 at the Secret Rose Theatre in North Hollywood. Click Here for tickets and more information.

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Comedy Faceposted by Ellen Dostal, MusicalsInLA @
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