Tony-winning ventriloquist to perform in Laguna

Coastline Pilot

The Laguna Playhouse, which has become accustomed to one-man shows this season thanks to the musical and dramatic artistry of Hershey Felder, will continue the pattern next weekend — even though the show is titled "The Two and Only."

Actually, the complete title is "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only," and Johnson is a ventriloquist. A Tony award-winning ventriloquist with Broadway credits, that is.

In town for eight performances, June 11 to 20, Johnson will bring plenty of characters with him, and, the playhouse promises he "will take audiences on a surprising and emotionally touching journey."

The featured player in his trunk is Darwin, a smart-mouthed monkey that Johnson calls a direct reflection of his own wild side.

"That's really the inner part of my core, the unbridled soul that is primitive," the ventriloquist stated. "He can do anything because it's primitive. You don't get upset when a monkey goes crazy, because it's a monkey."

For Johnson, the road to the Laguna Playhouse began at age 11 when he realized that his ability to make his cousin's doll "talk" was a gift.

He launched his career at a high school benefit concert where he crossed paths with buddies Paul Kreppel and Murphy Cross — now co-conceivers and directors of "The Two and Only." Johnson wrote the script for his one-man show and performed it in a Sherman Oaks theater.

That outing lit the fuse for an off-Broadway run, followed by a stint at Broadway's Helen Hayes Theater in 2006, which won him the Tony Award for a special theatrical event. Since then, the playhouse says, Johnson has performed his show at theaters across the country, reaping critical acclaim and standing ovations.

If You Go What: "Jay Johnson: The Two and Only"When: 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from June 11 to 20Where: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon RoadCost: $35 to $65Call: (949) 497-2787, ext. 228

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