THEATER REVIEW 'THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN' : Awash in Music : A Camarillo troupe offers the 1960 blend of popular styles from parlor songs to barbershop harmonies to march tempos.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The lusty musical comedy "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," set in developing America, is something of a cross between "The Music Man," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," "Annie Get Your Gun" and "My Fair Lady."

A company of local actors are kicking up their heels in a Camarillo Community Theatre production of the 1960 show, directed by Michael Voll, who helmed the company's excellent "Pirates of Penzance" earlier this year. "Molly" concludes Oct. 13.

Richard Morris' script is problematical: While it contains more than a few good lines and memorable situations, certain transitions and the ending are rather abrupt.

Meredith Willson, who wrote the words and music for "Molly," did the same for "The Music Man," of course. Here, in an attempt to emulate his earlier success, he supplied a similar blend of turn-of-the-century popular styles from parlor songs to barbershop harmonies to march tempos. Perhaps so the duplication wouldn't seem quite so apparent, in "Molly" the female lead gets to talk her songs, with the leading man required to have a stronger singing voice.

But just because the show is named after Molly Brown, who's on stage most of the time, don't think that she's the lead. Tammy Grimes, who created the role, won the show's only Tony Award in a supporting category.

Kelly Krabel Johnston plays Molly in the Camarillo production; she also choreographed the show, as she has several of the group's past musicals. Johnston easily handles the transition from a convincing rural tomboy to aspiring socialite. While she's not a strong singer, she's full of character and energy.

Michael Sollazzo takes the role of Leadville Johnny Brown, Molly's romantic interest. He is a singer: a strong, virile type in the tradition of Howard Keel, and he projects a pleasing personality.

The remainder of the cast consists of character roles, with the Colorado miners and their neighbors perhaps a little more convincing than the European society.

Some of the dancing is quite lively (be careful not to stretch your legs into the aisle!), and many of the costumes, credited to coordinator Karen Moffat, show great resourcefulness on what must be a minimal budget.

The music is canned and, on opening night, was overpowering.

If only because it was launched in such a powerful season, "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" has become something of a footnote in Broadway history. Taken out of context and thirty years after the fact, it's a good deal of innocent fun, and probably worth a look-see.

* WHERE AND WHEN

"The Unsinkable Molly Brown" plays Friday through Sunday nights through Oct. 13 at the Camarillo Airport Theater, 330 Skyway Drive on the Camarillo Airport grounds. Shows are 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, and tickets are $10 for adults; $8 for seniors, students, children, and military with I.D. For reservations, directions to the theater or further information, call (805) 388-5716.

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