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What’s new, Scooby- Doo? Almost zilch

Times Staff Writer

Nevermind that it’s full of ear-splitting shrieks and screams. Or that it celebrates a prime example of flat, uninspired 1960s and ‘70s TV animation.

Several hundred attendees at the opening night of “Scooby-Doo in Stagefright -- Live on Stage,” Wednesday at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, testified to the cross-generational, iconographic appeal of Hanna-Barbera’s cornball, mystery-solving Great Dane and his human companions, Shaggy, Velma, Fred and Daphne.

The show, directed and written by Jim Millan, founder of Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre and director of the anarchic “Kids in the Hall” touring show (Mark McKinney, a “Kids in the Hall” regular, was script consultant), also is a testament to just how closely a live performance can be made to resemble a cartoon.

That doesn’t make for compelling theater, despite the pros who’ve put it together. But it’s a festive, tongue-in-cheek event that clearly pleases fans, for whom everything -- from the sets and costumes (by designers Rob Bissinger and Gregg Barnes, respectively) to the catch phrases, music and the actors’ broadly overdone, synchronized reactions -- is familiar.

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The athletic actors are rarely still: They nearly do backbends to express surprise and fright. Daphne (Rachel Kimsey) moves in a series of deliberately cutesy poses -- finger to cheek, hand on hip. Scooby-Doo and Shaggy (Bjorn Thorstad), the two innocents united in gluttony, cowardice and a knack for stumbling into seemingly supernatural predicaments, throw themselves bodily at each other. Scooby, voiced by John Nagle, David Droxler and Pierre-Marc Diennet, is alternately played by Droxler and Diennet, whose padded, skin-tight costume, designed by Yvette Helin, makes for one big, buff doggy with rather distracting super-hero thighs.

As the plot unfolded -- Scooby-Doo and the gang visit an apparently haunted studio during the filming of a horror movie -- Wednesday’s audience of nostalgic adults, ‘tweens and preschoolers took an active, in-the-know part. They laughed at signature lines, hollered out Scooby’s name (it’s fun to say, which may be a significant factor in the show’s appeal), echoed dialogue on cue, and, children shouted warnings when the cast didn’t seem to see a certain ghostly specter.

There are a few “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” touches for adults, most notably a sly reference to a popular rumor about nerdy Velma (Randi Rosenholtz), who swoons over Daphne’s glam appearance in a movie-star gown, plus mildly suggestive lines involving ladies’ man Fred (Jerry Richardson). Goofy escapism has its place. Wednesday’s show was introduced by a pair of Marines who, to loud cheers and applause, acknowledged servicemen and their families in the audience with a welcome and appreciation from the show’s production company, Warner Bros. Family Entertainment.

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‘Scooby Doo in Stagefright -- Live on Stage!’

Where: Kodak Theatre, 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood.

When: Friday, 7 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Ends: Sunday.

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Price: $19-$40.

Contact: (213) 365-3500.

Running time: 90 minutes.


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