A review by Bill Garry
(L-R) Amy Procacci (Mrs. Moleson) and Drew Droege (Mellie Moleson). Photo by Dan Whitlock
There's a boisterous party going on in a Silver Lake basement and, if you're lucky enough to score tickets and get past Mr. Dan, the hilariously snarky maitre d', you're going to wear yourself out laughing, clapping and tapping your toes.
PRAIRIE-OKE! is a musical parody of Little House on the Prairie, now playing at the Cavern Club Theater, located downstairs at the Casita Del Campo Mexican restaurant. The music is provided by classic pop hits of the LHOP era. The parody is provided by a cast of TV look-alikes who send up the lives and mores of the residents of Walnut Grove, the small Minnesota town of the series.
Or I should say "Almond Grove," as part of the fun is how the show's creators use subversive verbal gymnastics to avoid infringing the TV copyright -- Laura Ingalls becomes Lauren Pringells, Nellie Oleson is Mellie Moleson, etc.
The fast-paced show, conceived, written and directed by Dan Whitlock with assist from choreographer Joseph Corella, is filled with sight gags, disco classics, and tons of inside jokes for fans of the "mild frontier."
I attended a performance with a friend who is a LHOP fangirl. Since I never watched the show, I needed her to explain why some cast members (a blind girl, a deaf girl, a closeted gay man, a man with an out-of-control manly wig) caused fits of laughter just by appearing. Looking around, I saw a few other stone-faced audience members who also didn't get it. My advice: if you are not a LHOP groupie, if you never suspected that Mr. Oleson had a man-crush on Pa Ingells, if you didn't know Pa's nickname for Laura, or if you didn't know that Nellie Oleson really was a devil-possessed Amazon, watch a few episodes first.
Speaking of devil-possessed Amazon, Drew Droege steals the show as the perfectly cast, perfectly evil Mellie Moleson. He is a high camp Harvey Girl (look it up, possums) with buttercup curls and a lascivious lollipop in his mouth. Mellie and her mother (played by an equally perfect Amy Procacci) make a perfect team of dysfunctional prairie princesses.
The rest of the cast fills the tiny stage with high energy and dance power. The only weakspot was the singing. The cast members are good actors, but only two of the men -- Kevin Berntson as Pa and Ben Palazios as Alonzo -- had great singing voices. When Pa sings "Sweet Caroline," the audience goes wild. If all the cast members (except Drew/Mellie, who should continue as odd man/girl out) were belters, the show could move from basement bash to the big room.
(Right) Libby Baker (Lauren Pringells). Photo by Dan Whitlock
Fri.-Sat. @ 9 p.m.; Sun. @ 7 p.m.;
ends Nov. 22.
Tickets available at: http://prairie-okethemusical.brownpapertickets.com/
Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo
1920 Hyperion Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 969-2530 Theater Phone
(L-R) Sydney Blair (Kerry Pringells), Libby Baker (Lauren Pringells), Rae Dawn Hadinger (Merry Pringells), Photo by Dane Whitlock