One of my fondest memories of my college days was an event the UCLA Computer Club organized (I have no idea how) when we brought Bill Scott and June Foray in to speak about Bullwinkle. So almost a year ago, when we saw that the La Mirada Performing Arts Center (FB) was bringing in Animaniacs Live, we were sold (and a good thing, because the show did sell out). Last night was the show, and we had a blast.
For those unfamiliar with the series, Animaniacs was part of the resurgence of Warner Brothers animation on TV in the early 1990s, much of it the brainchild of Tom Ruegger (FB). This resurgence started with Tiny Toon Adventures, and continued with the spinoff Pinky and the Brain (a personal favorite) and Freakazoid!.
The new stage show, Animaniacs Live, consists primarily of Randy Rogel (FB) and Rob Paulson (FB) telling stories about the making of the show, and singing songs from the show, backed by a large orchestra (in the show we saw, the La Mirada Symphony Orchestra (FB)). Rogel was one of the main composers (music, lyrics) of songs on the show; Paulson voice Yakko, Dr. ScratchandSniff, and numerous other characters. Depending on availability, they bring in other principals and voice talent from the show. In the La Mirada shows, this included Jess Harnell (FB) who voiced Wakko, and Tress MacNeille who voiced Dot¹. Also featured were Steve Bernstein (FB) and Julie Bernstein, who were involved in the original scoring of the show and some of the music numbers (Steve conducted the orchestra for a few songs, and Julie provided some background vocals), as well as someone whose name I don’t remember in the orchestra. Additionally, it turned out the both creator Tom Ruegger (FB) and director Andrea Romano were in the audience for our performance.
[¹: When Rogel introduced MacNeille, he said she was the most prolific female voice actor and was behind the most characters. I do beg to differ on that one: I think June Foray was, but I’ll give MacNeille second 🙂 ]
The show consisted of two acts, followed by a question and answer session. During the two acts, Rogel and Paulson sang songs from the show (occasionally along to animated clips), with Harnell and MacNeille occasionally joining them. These four exhibited very different personalities. Rogel and Paulson were as reasonable and normal as anyone associated with animation would be 🙂 — in other words, normal suits, normal personalities, great stories, wonderful rapport with both the audience and each other. This likely befits their nature as actors first. Harnell had an outsized adult personality like a rock musican, coming out in a different glitter suit each time. MacNeille seemed a lot more shy on stage — seeming to prefer her characters more than letting the real Tress out.
I did not keep a full set list, but here’s what I recall. This is certainly not in order:
- Yakko’s World
- Yakko’s Universe
- Wakko’s America
- I’m Mad
- The Planets
- I’m Cute
- La Dot
- L.A. Dot
- History of War
- A Quake! A Quake!
- There’s Only One Of You
- Hello Nurse!
- Variety Speak
- Pepper in the Pot (History of the Spice Trade)
- All the Plays of Shakespeare
One last thing that cracked me up: During the Q&A, Paulson was asked about his favorite thing from the show, and he related Pinky’s non-sequitur reponses. He then asked the questioner to ask him what his was pondering. His response: “If Susan B. Anthony and Ann B. Davis, then who Bea Arthur?”
Still cracks me up.
All in all, a wonderful show. If you get a chance to catch it in your city, do so.
🎩 🎩 🎩
Ob. Disclaimer: I am not a trained theatre (or music) critic; I am, however, a regular theatre and music audience member. I’ve been attending live theatre and concerts in Los Angeles since 1972; I’ve been writing up my thoughts on theatre (and the shows I see) since 2004. I do not have theatre training (I’m a computer security specialist), but have learned a lot about theatre over my many years of attending theatre and talking to talented professionals. I pay for all my tickets unless otherwise noted. I am not compensated by anyone for doing these writeups in any way, shape, or form. I currently subscribe at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB), the Hollywood Pantages (FB), Actors Co-op (FB), the Chromolume Theatre (FB) in the West Adams district, and a mini-subscription at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). Through my theatre attendance I have made friends with cast, crew, and producers, but I do strive to not let those relationships color my writing (with one exception: when writing up children’s production, I focus on the positive — one gains nothing except bad karma by raking a child over the coals). I believe in telling you about the shows I see to help you form your opinion; it is up to you to determine the weight you give my writeups.
Upcoming Shows: Next weekend brings Sister Act at Cabrillo Music Theatre (FB). The last weekend of April brings the Renaissance Pleasure Faire on Saturday, and the new musical The Theory of Relativity at Harter Hall/Charles Stuart Howard Playhouse (FB) on Sunday. Lastly, looking to May, the schedule shows that it starts with My Bodyguard at the Hollywood Pantages (FB) the first weekend. It continues with Martha Graham Dance and American Music at the Valley Performing Arts Center (VPAC) (FB). The third weekend brings the last show of the Actors Co-op (FB) season, Lucky Stiff, at Actors Co-op (FB). May concludes with Hello Again at the Chromolume Theatre (FB), and hopefully Five Guys Named Moe at Ebony Repertory Theatre (FB). As for June? Three words: Hollywood Fringe Festival (FB). That, barring something spectacular cropping up, should be the first half of 2017.
As always, I’m keeping my eyes open for interesting productions mentioned on sites such as Better-Lemons, Musicals in LA, @ This Stage, Footlights, as well as productions I see on Goldstar, LA Stage Tix, Plays411 or that are sent to me by publicists or the venues themselves. Note: Lastly, want to know how to attend lots of live stuff affordably? Take a look at my post on How to attend Live Theatre on a Budget.