On Theater: Younger stars shine in '45 Minutes'

Summer is the time for younger performers — teenagers and pre-teens — to stretch their theatrical muscles. Two weeks ago, South Coast Repertory's Young Conservatory Players took an impressive trip "Into the Woods" and now the Newport Theater Arts Center is "45 Minutes from Broadway."

To say that Shubert Fendrich's little showbiz playlet, set to the music of George M. Cohan, is derivative would be overstating the obvious. The show contains elements of "42nd Street," "Dames at Sea" and "Some Like It Hot," all played out in the style of "Bugsy Malone."

Yes, it's kid stuff and, as the title implies, it's only 45 minutes long. But director Kyle Myers has infused his pint-sized cast with plenty of sass and sparkle, creating a lighthearted, and lightweight, exercise that'll have the parents beaming.

The story centers on a theater director — Rod Bagheri, who also doubles as musical director — with a show to put on and no money to mount it since his diva-licious star (Kimberly Lewis) has fled for greener pastures.

Enter the cute, shy ingenue (Allison Sheppard), whose character is the staple of old showbiz musicals from "42nd Street" on. She's ready for her "big break," but it may be put on hold if the diva reconsiders.

On top of that, there's a stranger (Parker Lewis) who's infiltrated the cast, on the run from mob enforcers (Nick Halphide and Avery Vonne Lahodny). These interesting characters could have been used more for additional humor.

A large cast of youthful chorus members offers solid backing under the choreographic skills of Cathy Petz. Particularly impressive in this bunch is 11-year-old Sarah Cocroft, miniature in size but overflowing with energy.

The young performers bring the audience into the spirit of the show with a short sing-along following the curtain call — and if you've forgotten the lyrics to "Give My Regards to Broadway," "You're a Grand Old Flag" or "Yankee Doodle Dandy," they're reprinted in the back of your program.

TOM TITUS reviews local theater for the Daily Pilot.

If You Go

What: "45 Minutes From Broadway"

Where: Newport Theater Arts Center, 2501 Cliff Drive, Newport Beach

When: Closing performances 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $12

Information: (949) 631-0288 or http://www.ntaconline.com

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