"Layne Littlepage shines in one-woman show"

Reviewed by Gary Walker

One of the Joslyn Players’ big winners at the Desert Theatre League awards this year was Sammy Shore’s one-man show.

Now Artistic Director Ron Celona has another certain nominee with his new one-woman show, "An Evening with Beatrice Lillie," starring the multi-talented Layne Littlepage.

Lillie was such a big star that the young Noel Coward would sneak in to see her show, and Gertrude Lawrence was her understudy. Later, the three would form the inner circle of one of the greatest collections of unique talents, which included Cole Porter and Tallulah Bankhead.

Littlepage calls upon this coterie of wit and music to create the chronological thread that makes up her 90-minute show.

Born in Canada but raised in England, Lillie created a persona of a physical comedienne with a clipped Oxonian accent, able to move between full vocal effect to fey badinage, from the sweetness of Julie Andrews to the huskiness of Bankhead.

An excellent impressionist ("What a Swell Party It Is"), Littlepage belies her California upbringing, taking the audience to the ’30s and ’40s of London’s music halls and Mayfair denizens.

Alternating between "ballades," anecdotes and comic tunes (e.g., "The Yodeling Goldfish"), Littlepage manages to combine her obvious grace with the slapstick body language that made Lillie the toast of two continents.

Central to her success is Barney Hulse, her musical director, who also joins in several numbers. His wry demeanor and excellent musicianship are major assets to the show.

Whether she uses song, clever lyrics or props, Littlepage brings a very sophisticated show about a very unpretentious woman who charmed generations of people who appreciated the turn of a phrase or taking the mickey out of someone.

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