Lagunatics out of the black and back on track

There are plenty of words that rhyme with "mold." But when the creators of Lagunatics sought a parody song about the problem that held back their sketch comedy show for three months, they found inspiration in a color reference instead.

Shortly after the curtain rises on opening night Jan. 17, cast member Randy Hatfield will regale the audience with a takeoff on the Beatles' acoustic ballad "Blackbird." The opening line twists "Blackbird singing in the dead of night" to "Black mold growing in the dead of night" — a reference easier to laugh at now that the mold in the Forum Theatre in Laguna Beach has been removed.

"It's the elephant in the room, so we're going to sing about it right away," said the show's co-director, Bree Burgess Rosen, who noted that she's a sucker for a "really beautiful song with really ridiculous lyrics."

The addition of the mold song won't be the only change in "Gagtime," Lagunatics' 21st annual production, since the discovery of a strange smell in the Forum halted rehearsals last fall.

Two musical numbers that address bygone issues — the Village Entrance Project controversy and a sand artist brought in by the Laguna Art Museum — have had their lyrical tenses shifted. Two cast members have also replaced others because of scheduling.

Nevertheless, "Gagtime" is back in business. And even if some of the material feels more five-minutes-ago than usual, the anarchic spirit will hopefully shine through.

For that matter — no surprise — it will shine through in a renovated theater. In late September, as the Lagunatics team prepared for a dress rehearsal, some members noticed a strong odor in a wall of one of the offices under the theater. Crews tested the substance to determine if it was toxic, but the group ultimately decided to postpone the show because waiting for results would leave too little time for promotion.

Tests found the mold to be nontoxic, according to Festival of Arts spokeswoman Sharbie Higuchi. In the course of removing the substance, though, crews put in new carpeting, ceiling and walls and cleaned drapes and chairs. The Forum is now available for subleasing, and the city held its Friday Flicks film series in the venue Jan. 3.

"The whole theater got a face-lift," Rosen said.

So now, after a year without Lagunatics, Laguna Beach may enjoy two in relatively quick order. The poster for "Gagtime" features the last two letters of "2013" crudely crossed out in red with the digits "14" next to them. As for the official 2014 show, it's planned as usual for the fall.

Lagunatics, which features residents and even politicians in sketches and songs, addresses current issues in town and delves into everything from Mozart to rock to Broadway for musical themes. In addition to "Blackbird," the upcoming show features a take on the Chordettes' "Mr. Sandman," rewritten as an ode to the museum's sand-art project.

Pat Kollenda, the chair of the city's Art Commission and one of the regular faces in the cast, said she was relieved about the show's revival — but frustrated that she had to memorize her lines again after three months.

"It's hard because it was canceled just a week before it was to be open," she said. "Everything was done and memorized, and people were ready to go. And then the fabulous mold came."

If You Go

What: "Gagtime"

Where: Forum Theatre, Festival of Arts grounds, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach

When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 17 and 18; 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19; 7:30 p.m. Jan. 23 through 25; 5 p.m. (with gala) Jan. 26

Cost: $45 Friday and Saturday, $35 Thursday and Sunday, $100 for Jan. 26 gala

Information: (949) 715-0333 or http://www.nosquare.org

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