STAGE REVIEW : Parodies Pick Easy Victims


If satire is the parent of good comedy, then parody is surely its uncertain stepchild. Two current acts at the Cafe Largo--"The Fabulous Bud E. Luv" and "The Les Stevens Cocktail Show"--suggest that the lineage can produce an eccentric array of offspring.

Like many of the newly emerging young cabaret artists, Luv and Stevens have chosen easy victims as the targets of their comedic scattershots. In Luv's case, it is via an impersonation of a big, larger-than-life blowhard of a Las Vegas lounge singer--one who resonates with references to performers like Wayne Newton, Paul Anka and Tony Orlando.

Luv's conceit is that he is the original, that his songs, his style and his manner have all been stolen from him by bigger-name singers. No problem, he still loves them all, still casually drops the names of bosom buddies like Frank, Sammy and Rickles.

The problem is that the act is a one-note parody. Once the Luv persona is established, once he has persuaded the audience that his sleaze is the real stuff, the program has nowhere to go. Luv fills the gaps with fairly effective impersonations of some of his targets, most notably Tom Jones.

But the real irony of Luv's presentation is the fact that his greatest impact comes when he captures his listeners with the very songs he intended to parody. One suspects that Bud E. Luv might find his most welcome venue in the very Las Vegas lounges that are the objects of his humor.

"The Les Stevens Cocktail Show" is considerably more impressive, in part because its perspective is so much broader.

Imaginatively placed in a fantasized Twilight Room Lounge of the Starburst Motel, the act is a mini-visualization of 1970s, small-time show biz.

Stevens (Craig Seeley) emcees with glittering, plastic bravado and sings just badly enough to make his comedic point. Teddy Towne (Ted Hardwick), the motel's owner, contributes a hilarious jazz trumpet send-up of "Days of Wine and Roses," and songstress Sheila Sands (April Winchell) does a version of "Fever" that may send Peggy Lee back to her attorneys.

The evening is almost stolen, however, by the Dazzling Chi Chi (Alice Vaughn), who assists the Amazing Chazinski (Tom Coffey) with his magic show. Vaughn sounds like a fractured variation on Judy Holliday's "Born Yesterday," and manages to demonstrate unshakeable, deadpan disinterest, even during a fake levitation. Her deceptively simple presentation is the most convincing parody in a company of performers who, more often than not, hit their targets dead center.

* "The Fabulous Bud E. Luv," and "The Les Stevens Cocktail Show," Cafe Largo, 432 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles. "Luv": Wednesday only, 8:30 p.m. Running time: 55 minutes. "Stevens": Thursdays, 8:30 p.m., through June 6. Running time: 1 hour. $6. (213) 852-1073.

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