By Scott MacClelland
ON SUNDAY at the Cherry Center in Carmel, Layne Littlepage drew an audience ready to be entertained. They certainly were. Littlepage and her longtime piano colleague Barney Hulse created a very clever and funny show called Everybody Says Don’t. The songs were all selected to violate conventional rules; the first one broken was the title Sondheim song. (You’re supposed to bury the title song deep in the program.) Next, avoid obscure songs, hence Henry Hall’s Broken Record, which stutters with repeating patter like a needle skipping back over some debris in the groove. Right away laughter filled the intimate theater.
Though Littlepage desired and trained for a career in opera, in New York, it wasn’t to be. But the love of it remains as she dipped into ‘Mi chiamano Mimi’ from La bohème. Today, the voice is more mezzo than high soprano, which actually makes it better suited to the American songbook. With her narrative she pointed out how each song breaks one or another ‘rule.’ But she didn’t take her premise so seriously as to not occasionally break her own scheme. For example, she set up a My Fair Lady Menage: Rex Harrison’s Why can’t a woman be more like a man? as a kind of rondo broken up by bits from Julie Andrews’ famous numbers. Again, very funny.
Some Gershwin ensued, followed by a parody of a two-woman TV show that starred, or rather ill-starred, Julie Andrews and Ethel Merman, in songs cast against type. Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics with music by Mary Rodgers (daughter of Richard) in “The Boy from Tacarembo la Tumbe del Fuego Santa Malipas Zacatecas la Junta del Sol y Cruz,” a parody of “The Girl from Ipanema,” gave the afternoon its pinnacle of unpronounceable hilarity. (Littlepage pronounced it just fine.)
Now on board with the chanteuse and her keyboard—and sometimes vocal—partner was actor Cliff Berry, out to break another rule: don’t invite audience participation. They sang the first parts of four songs up to but not including the refrain and expected the audience to identify them. We got three out of four. Next, and armed with a water pistol, Littlepage sang Styne, Comden and Green’s vengeful If You Hadn’t But You Did, and made the now prone Berry plenty wet.
Cole Porter’s delightful I Wrote a Play opened the program’s second half, where the hapless playwright entices some bigwig producers to read and accept it, each then choosing to have it rewritten and retitled. Several songs by Dietz and Schwartz rounded out the afternoon, including the tender, moving Chanson from The Baker’s Wife. That’s the team that also cooked up That’s Entertainment, the rousing finale to a fun-filled concert.
Everybody Says Don’t plays weekends through July 26.