Hooray for Hollywood

HoorayBy Philip Pearce

HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD at Pacific Rep’s Golden Bough Theatre offers a tuneful survey of movie musicals from The Jazz Singer to La La Land. Director Maryann Schaupp Rousseau and four gifted singer/actors create a fast-paced couple of hours’ worth of tuneful nostalgia peppered with the kind of corny and comfortable comedy that marked Hollywood’s golden age. Patrons are drawn into the title number by a brief funny take-off on the cell phoning, candy chomping habits of the movie going public.

Singing brunettes Malinda DeRouen and Lydia Lyons then pair up with familiar locals D. Scott McQuiston and John Newkirk. Singly and together they segue from sentimental standards like “Over the Rainbow” and “As Time Goes By” to raise-the-roof oldies like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” with an undaunted McQuiston joining the girls as a third Andrews Sister. It’s all ably accompanied by Desma Johnson, whose piano builds a pattern of melody behind the all singin’, all dancin’ activity of the vocal foursome working the stage and, at times, invading the audience.

I fit neatly into a majority of Sunday’s matinee patrons that leaned heavily on the geriatric compared to a smaller but welcome sprinkling of millennials. This meant that, for me, everything up to The Jungle Book in Act 1 was heart-warming familiar territory. Act 2, apart from “Moon River” and “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” was more of an introduction to nice but unfamiliar material like Saturday Night Fever’s “Staying Alive” and the wonderful “Out Here On My Own” from Fame.

And my happiest moments were when we grizzled oldies were invited to take the spotlight with Bing Crosby while the bemused millennials politely stepped aside to hear us in a sing-along version of “Swinging on a Star.”

The show deserves praise for sticking to the limits set by its title. Apart from the closing “That’s Entertainment” every number is from a musical written specifically for the movies, not from earnest recreations of stage productions like My Fair Lady, or misguided film “improvements” like On the Town or Guys and Dolls.

Hooray for Hollywood also avoids becoming just a nice succession of unrelated bits by offering several clusters of numbers that are associated with a particular star or director. This gives credit where it’s due to notable personalities, but results in some glaring absentees. Judy Garland is justly featured in three consecutive songs, one from her pre-teen years, one from her superstar days and one from her declining career. But I missed Doris Day and Frank Sinatra. I’m aware of how much Pac Rep owes to Uncle Walt, but a whopping six Disney numbers out of a first act total of 23—without so much as a grace note from Astaire and Rogers?

But I am falling into the stage reviewers’ trap of blaming a show for what it doesn’t do instead of assessing what it does. This one sings, dances and entertains happily in the Golden Bough till September 3rd.