By Lauren Korduner, Special to the Independent
With the house lights on in Legion Hall, home to No Square Theatre since 2009, the cast of “Lagunatics” chat in groups of two or three. Kristen Matson, a cast member for two years running, just returned from this past Tuesday’s City Council meeting. She recounts the surprising missive she delivered to council members at the public hearing. “Each and every one of you is going to be represented at our show—in drag.”
“I’m actually playing the infamous Kelly Boyd,” Matson says.
“We need to talk,” replies council member Boyd in response. Laughter erupts in the chambers.
Back at rehearsal, Matson mimics Boyd’s distinctive gruff voice, then disappears behind the seats of the black box theater. Glittery props and colorful costumes are scattered among the seats. Performers mill about, changing from street clothes to costumes, from socks and sneakers to jazz shoes and legwarmers.
Welcome to “organized chaos.”
That’s director and creator Bree Burgess Rosen’s term for rehearsals leading up to this weekend’s opening performance of “Lagunatics.”
“I had a pair of handcuffs in my hands. Does anyone know what I did with them?” Rosen asks.
A few minutes pass. Rosen receives no response as she continues to look about the seats.
“Aha! Here they are!”
She casually informs the cast that the “prop rack” will now be called the “prop table” and encourages everyone to return props there. A few, barely audible acknowledgements emerge from various parts of the theater.
“It’s hard to believe I’ve been up to this silliness for so long,” says Rosen.
Billed as “Lagunatics 25,” the musical parody celebrates a quarter-century in production. This year’s show opens with a meta-performance, a musical within a musical about a musical. The cast lampoons itself in a modified tune from “A Chorus Line.” Lyrics poke fun of everyone involved in musical theater production, from actors and dancers to writers and directors. For the first time in several years, “Lagunatics” will not feature a narrator. Instead, cast members set up scenes ripped from local headlines, featuring tunes from several musicals, movies, television jingles, and classic pop songs from The Beatles, The Carpenters and The Pointer Sisters.
Perennial Laguna Beach issues of traffic, transit and parking get a 2017 send up with a number about the city’s Uber proposal, a yet-to-be-implemented solution for senior transit. The hilarious number features first-time cast member McKay Mangum. The UC Irvine undergraduate theater major says he landed his part in “Lagunatics 25” following his performance as Mary Sunshine in “Chicago” this summer. His success in that role led Rosen to offer him a part in “Lagunatics.” In addition to full-cast opening and closing numbers, Mangum appears in eight of the show’s 21 musical numbers, twice in drag. In Act II of “Lagunatics 25,” Mangum joins a handful of other cast members in a tap dance performance.
“He’s flat out fabulous in everything he does and he’s just a hoot to work with. Very much loving him added to the cast,” Rosen says about Mangum.
Six-year “Lagunatics” veteran Jay Rechter appears in the Uber bit as well as “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” parodying the city-wide smoking ban to the tune of The Platters’ original of the same name. For a moment, the modest and self-deprecating Rechter takes the limelight in the classic doo-wop send up. But he’d rather praise his fellow cast members.
“These guys are so talented. We just have a blast,” Rechter says.
In larger numbers, Rechter takes a more secondary role. He’s more comfortable there. “I take pride in being in the back line,” he says.
Mic check begins around 7:30 p.m. Sound engineer Danny Rios shouts out each cast member’s name, one by one. Singers belt out a few bars in response.
“Good!” Rios cuts them off and calls out the next name.
With mic check out of the way, Rosen asks the cast for places.
“Everyone make sure your props are preset,” she says.
House lights fade to black. Music begins. Lights from above illuminate the stage thrust. Suddenly, Rosen’s “organized chaos” is more organized than chaos.
“Lagunatics 25” opens this weekend and runs through Nov. 5. Tickets, available at nosquare.org, are $35 and $50 for Sunday performances, $45 and $60 for Fridays and Saturdays. The production closes with an Anniversary Gala on the final night. Gala tickets are $100 and $125.