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‘Wolftales’ Raising Hoowls of Laughter

Don’t try to keep this wolf away from your door: “Wolftales,” the Pegasus Productions/Junior Programs touring musical that recently played La Mirada Civic Theatre, is a tickle-your-funnybone, snappy delight for children.

An innovative combination of “Little Red Riding Hood” and “The Three Little Pigs"--with a dash of “Alice in Wonderland"--the show, with book, lyrics and music by Adriane Coros and Raun Yankovich, puts the spotlight on the Big Bad Wolf of fairy-tale lore.

Yankovich also directs and his touch is sure. Flaws are minor; this is about as close to a big quality stage show as home-grown children’s theater gets in the Southland. It delivers--from the engaging, woodsy set (credited to eight designers), to Gary Christensen’s superb Wolf makeup and Michele Spadaro’s clever puppetry.

Above all, it delivers with Johnny O’Cullen’s heavy artillery performance as the Wolf. O’Cullen jumps, struts, dances and sings with ferocious energy and comic finesse, taking center stage most of the time. Well-suited to the role’s physical demands, the indefatigable O’Cullen makes the sparks fly.

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The Three Little Pigs are pretty nimble, too: Magnolia Pig (Bonnie Kovar) and Li’l John (Jeffrey Drew) flip and cartwheel from one side of the stage to the other.

On the down side, the piggy dialogue wasn’t so lively at the opening performance. Timing lagged when Darin Reich, as slow and deliberate piggy Brick, paused a hair too long before each line.

Kate Pulley’s Little Red Riding Hood has a problem with razor-sharp high notes, but during the classic “Why, Granny, what big eyes you have” routine--a musical giggle here--she gave comically as good as she got.

The Wolf’s appealing, nice guy son, Irving (Stephen Wolf), is at his best in a top-hatted, high-stepping moment of musical triumph.

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One of the show’s warmest touches is having June Buford as narrator. From a rocking chair at the far side of the stage, Buford is Little Red Riding Hood as a grandmother, telling the tale of her encounter with the Wolf.

Adriane Coros has a lovely brief turn as Little Red’s mother, singing cautionary advice.

The lighting is uncredited, but contributes to the splendid special effects for the Wolf’s cleverly achieved huffing and puffing scenes.

Plays at the Fontana Performing Arts Center, Saturday, 1 p.m., (714) 350-7719; Citrus College, Oct. 15, 2 p.m., (714) 593-5964; UCLA’s Wadsworth Theatre, Oct. 16, 1:30 and 3:30 p.m., (213) 271-6402; Robert Frost Auditorium, Culver City, Oct. 23, 2 p.m., (213) 837-4813; Lincoln Jr. High School, Santa Monica, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. (213) 828-3673; Lakewood High School, Long Beach, Nov. 20, 2:30 p.m., (213) 431-6805. Ticket prices vary.


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