Monday, June 24, 2013

Hollywood Fringe Review: The Real Housekeepers of Studio City

Ryan O'Connor (Scot), Lani Shipman (Ashley), Leigh Ann Smith (Olivia) &
Daniel Switzer (Ethan). Photos by Roger Fojas.

If you grew up in the last half of the twentieth century you’ve seen your fair share of television sitcoms. You welcomed the Bradys, the Cosbys, the Cunninghams, the Munsters, the Bunkers, the Partridges, and even the Ricardos into your living room once a week, and you loved every minute of it. You watched them live during their regularly scheduled time periods, and more than once, fantasized about being part of their families. And the reason you never missed an episode is because they could always make you laugh.

The Real Housekeepers of Studio City, a new musical at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, is banking on the fact that everything old is new again by playing to that audience; the one who views the world through a less cynical lens and remembers a time when you didn’t get up to leave the room when the commercials came on because you loved them just as much. “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing,” “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz,” and “You Deserve a Break Today”; those mini-anthems of the early television era live on in our minds along with our favorite characters. So a 60-minute musical sitcom spoof that brings together some of TVs most famous housekeepers to interview for their next modern day gig is a sure bet to draw a crowd.

Wholesome Studio City housewife Ashley (Lani Shipman) has a deadbeat ex-husband and needs to get a job. Luckily she lives in the television capital of the world and has just scored an audition for a new reality show called “The Real Housekeepers of Studio City.” Problem is, she doesn’t have a housekeeper. With the help of her teenage son (Daniel Switzer), her daughter (Leigh Ann Smith), and her gay best friend Scot (Ryan O’Connor), she turns to Craigslist to find her gal Friday and suddenly a revolving door of television’s most recognizable candidates arrive to apply for the job. 

The bulk of the show consists of these revue style interviews and specialty numbers that reveal each housekeeper’s philosophy about the job and their secret methods for dealing with challenging domestic situations.

Favorites of mine included the Jeffersons’ smart-mouthed housekeeper Florence (Lorie Moore) who spends more time saying what she won’t do than what she will, Gina Torrecilla’s spot-on impersonation of Alice from “The Brady Bunch” and her funny and poignant song, “The Syndication of Your Mind,” and Gabby Sanalitro in two scene-stealing performances as “Family Guy’s” Consuela the maid and Rosey, the Jetsons’ robot. She’s a walking sight gag both times and so funny she doesn’t need to say a word, but when she does, it is with such perfect timing that you will not be able to stop laughing. I couldn’t. Lurch (Matt Musgrove with a great deadpan delivery) accompanies Rosey because the Addams Family’s butler and she are a team, as the blue lyrics to their lusty duet reveals.

Lani Shipman, Joe Greene as Mrs. Garrett, and Ryan O'Connor

Joe Greene in drag makes a very funny appearance as Mrs. Garrett from “The Facts of Life,” and I’ve got to say, I was rooting for her to get the job because I just knew she’d be able to handle those teenagers, though you’ll have to see the show to find out if she ends up getting hired. Greene also wrote the music, realized here via pre-recorded tracks, though a live combo would solve some small syncing issues with the cast. 

Shipman and O’Connor make a lovely pair – she, a likeable single mom with a self-deprecating confidence problem, and he, her fabulous gay best friend who always knows when to come to the rescue (and a great wing man he makes).

Heidi Powers and Tom Moore’s book & lyrics capture the pure fun of all of their housekeepers personalities, reminding us what made each one so memorable in his or her original series. Still, there’s little in the way of real conflict since we know that at the end of the hour someone will be chosen as the new domesticate help. If anything, that might be something to explore as they continue to develop the show. As it stands, The Real Housekeepers of Studio City is a real crowd-pleaser. I had so much fun I’d definitely see it again. If not this around, then definitely during reruns.

Through June 28, 2013
Theater Asylum
6320 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90038

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