The Prolific Patriot
“Happy Birthday, America” is the third revue mounted by Charles Davis Productions at the Du-Par’s Restaurant banquet room in Thousand Oaks, but it’s the first to play longer than one weekend. It’s a generally entertaining tune-filled biography of Irving Berlin, whom some consider America’s greatest songwriter. With a 1,500-song oeuvre ranging from “Easter Parade” to “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and the score for “Annie, Get Your Gun,” Berlin--who lived to celebrate his 100th birthday--was certainly prolific.
The title is appropriate. Not only did Berlin write shows specially as fund-raisers for war efforts, but he’s also the composer of our country’s virtual second national anthem, “God Bless America.”
It sometimes seems as though writer-director-narrator Davis (who also portrays Berlin in his later years) has tried to pack all 1,500 songs into the 150-minute show, the first couple dozen into a medley at the beginning. As the evening continues, several of the numbers are given a more complete treatment.
The cast numbers some 40 people--about half of them, it appears, under 12 years old--with performances ranging from pretty darned good to ghastly, sometimes in the same scene. Especially effective are the actors who play Berlin as a young man (Rob Goldman); song publisher Ted Snyder (Bill Bauwens; and Berlin’s friend Danny (Richard Johnson). Pianist Zach Spencer leads the three-piece band.
* “Happy Birthday, America” concludes this weekend at Du-Par’s Restaurant banquet room, 75 W. Thousand Oaks Boulevard in Thousand Oaks. Saturday and Sunday nights only. Doors open at 6 p.m.; dinner is served at 7, and performances begin at 8. $30, which includes the dinner, show, tax and gratuity; a full cash bar is available. Reservations are required. (805) 373-5125.
FORMER SOVIET SPY PROTOTYPE STARS IN ALL-AMERICAN PLAY: Local theater fans have had the opportunity to see Dorothy “Dot” Scott perform in many local productions--including George Bernard Shaw’s “Major Barbara” and Kaufman and Hart’s “You Can’t Take It with You"--since she moved to the area 10 years ago. She co-stars in “On Golden Pond,” which opens tomorrow at the Santa Paula Theater Center. But people around the world know her--without realizing it--as the physical model for Natasha Fatale, the sultry, comic Soviet spy in the much-revered “Rocky and His Friends” animated TV series.
Yes, it’s true, dollink, as Natasha might say. Dorothy’s husband was Bill Scott, co-creator with Jay Ward of the “Rocky” characters. “Bill would draw as he wrote (the scripts), much as you would a comic strip,” Scott revealed in a recent conversation. “I don’t know who Boris [Badenov, Fatale’s diminutive partner] was modeled after, but Natasha was me--in my younger years, of course, when I had long black hair.”
Scott met her husband nearly 50 years ago, when the two appeared in a children’s show in Denver. The couple moved to Los Angeles, where Bill Scott worked in the animation departments of several major studios, before being recruited by producer Ward. In addition to writing scripts, Bill Scott provided the voices for characters including Bullwinkle, the moose; Dudley Do-Rite of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and Super Chicken. Although most of the female characters (including Natasha) were voiced by June Foray, Dot Scott occasionally contributed her own vocal talents. “It was probably the happiest group of people working together I’d ever known,” Scott says. “They all said they’d have done it for nothing.”
Bill Scott died in 1985; three years later, Dot moved to Santa Paula at the urging of Santa Paula Theater Center co-founder Bill Lucking. Her first play with the group was “Major Barbara,” opposite veteran actor “Doc” Reynolds. They’re working together again, in “On Golden Pond.” “You can appreciate the problem with our names being ‘Dot’ and ‘Doc,’ ” Scott jokes. “So when we’re rehearsing, everybody speaks to us using our characters’ names, so we’ll know who’s being spoken to.”
* “On Golden Pond” opens tomorrow and continues through Aug. 30 at the Santa Paula Theater Center, 125 S. 7th St. in Santa Paula. Shows are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with Sunday matinees at 2:30. Tickets are $12.20; $10 for seniors (55 and older) and students; and $6 for children (12 and under). (805) 525-4645.