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‘Denton the Dragon’ Takes Imaginative, Uneven Flight

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A dragon travels through the “land of children’s dreams” to visit reality in “The Adventures of Denton the Dragon,” a lively, uneven production at the Celebrity Centre Theater in Hollywood.

Written by Raven Kane and Cynthia Rosen, the musical offers gentle, positive messages of friendship and self-discovery as Denton (Kelly Hedden) is joined in a magical air balloon journey by Leon the Gnome (Will Long), Compass the Robot (Shelby Lindley) and a little boy named Mark (Teddy Dale), while a jester-garbed Narrator (Alyssa Weller Campbell) fills in the blanks.

As the balloon journey progresses from outer space to the ocean floor, a few educational tidbits are added to the mix.

It’s an imaginative tale, and Kane and Rosen’s songs are tuneful, but the show, directed by Kane, begs a larger, more assured production. The green satin “balloon"--on loan from the King (Ray Korns)--and Bonita Bradley’s costumes add color, but the stage is bare and Pat Frey’s choreography is at a cramped disadvantage in the tiny, box-like space.

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The principal cast members--Long and Korns are the only adults--weren’t always comfortable with the material at Saturday’s opening performance, and pauses for musical cues were obvious. But Hedden had some graceful solo moments and Lindley’s adorable robot role was a scene-stealer.

What the production could be, however, is most apparent in the show’s highlight, “Creatures of the Deep,” an ensemble number cleverly staged by Frey and performed with comic dash by five young people, led by standout Shannon Roberts, playing a school of highbrow fish dressed in satins, jewels and hats.

* “The Adventures of Denton the Dragon,” Celebrity Centre Theater, 5930 Franklin Ave. (Church of Scientology Celebrity Centre International), Sundays, 2:30 p.m. through Jan. 26. $5-$8; (818) 702-7655. Running time: 1 hour.

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Music and More Music: The Jazz Bakery is expanding its offerings for children with two weekend concert series featuring professional adult performers.

Beginning this week, a new series, with the Watts Prophets--Amde Hamilton, Richard De Deaux and Otis O’Solomon--award-winning participants in PBS’ “Reading Rainbow,” will run each Saturday through February at 12:30 p.m. The trio will serve up an afternoon of poetry, “positive rap,” music and audience participation for all ages.

Meanwhile, “New Directions in Improvisation,” featuring world music percussionist Adam Rudolph and a changing bill of other notable professional instrumentalists, artists and dancers, continues each Sunday. Children can move to the music, read their own poetry accompanied by the musicians or draw, with art supplies provided for music-inspired creativity.

* Jazz Bakery, 3233 Helms Ave., Culver City. Information for both series: (310) 271-9039. Admission is $10 for each event; children under age 12 are free.

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