Our Laguna: Playhouse's 'Marvelous Wonderettes' full of pizazz on opening night

Rah! Rah! Rah! Sis Boom Bah!

The Laguna Playhouse is putting some pizazz into the opening nights, starting with the debut of "The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps & Gowns."

Playhouse staff dressed up the affair. Executive Director Karen Wood wore a black, embroidered tulle long gown. Development Director Elizabeth Pearson went retro in a black chiffon-over-lilac-silk dress from the 1950s — right in style for a musical trip down memory lane to the early days of rock 'n' roll.

The cast wore fluffy crinoline underskirts in the first act — as well-remembered by some in the audience as the songs sung in the show. Sh Boom Sh Boom.

That was a bit before sculptor Louis Longi's time.

"I must admit I wasn't looking forward to this, but I laughed my head off in the first act," said Longi, who escorted Stacy Blangrun to the opening night performance.

That act included the "girls plucking a man from the audience to join them onstage as 'Coach,'" on whom one of them had a crush.

Michael Barker wasn't expecting to be a part of the cast.

"I knew something was up when they put me in the seat in the front row, but I didn't know what," said Barker, theater general manager.

His wife, Heidi, thought it was a hoot.

Wood and Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham welcomed the audience, which included the newly elected Playhouse board President Joe Hanauer and his wife, Jane, owner of Laguna Books in the Old Pottery Place.

"The Playhouse's contributions have been enormous over the past 91 years and will grow even more in the years ahead," Hanauer said. "It is with great enthusiasm that I assume this role and work with a very committed board as the Playhouse expands its impact on the cultural and intellectual life of South Orange County."

A special welcome also was extended to Laguna Beach Mayor Jane Egly, Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kristine Thalman; Irvine Chamber of Commerce executive Kim Sherman, representatives of 2012-13 season sponsor Mercedes-Benz of Laguna Niguel and play underwriter U.S. Bank, Laguna Beach Alliance for the Arts President Wayne Baglin, Laguna Beach Unified school board member Betsy Jenkins, city Arts Commissioner Pat Kollenda, Playhouse board members Tim Carlyle and Heidi Miller, and "Wonderettes" creator Roger Bean.

The evening began with hors d'oeuvres on the patio, arranged and served by Monarch Bay National Charity League members, and ended with an array of desserts to complement the champagne toast to the cast, who shed their '50s personas to mingle with the post-performance crowd.

"These are the most marvelous women and we are so happy to be spending the summer with you," Wareham said while raising a flute in their honor.

Wareham was joined by the post-performance crowd who applauded wonder women Jenna Coker-Jones, Lowe Taylor, Misty Cotton, which she assured us is her real name and Bets Malone, a brunette who played the lovable, ditsy blond Suzy to perfection.

The crowd included "Andy" and City Clerk Martha Anderson, Festival of Arts Event Director Susan Davis, and Friends of the Library President Martha Lydick, her grandsons Vaughn (named for the store where his parents met) and Arden and her friend, Linda Enneman, former executive assistant to the late Judge Lawrence Lydick and now to Judge David O. Carter.

Also: Dr. Gary Jenkins, Faye Baglin, Lyn Carlyle, John Hoover, Ben Simon, Kristin and Planning Commissioner Bob Whalen and Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Judy Bijlani.

"Laguna Playhouse's new focus on attracting South County business executives and arts enthusiasts is working," Pearson said of the broad-based audience.

The Playhouse's mission is to "enrich lives through the magic of live theater, to provide educational opportunities for children and adults, and to create experiences that stimulate cultural and social interaction and inspire our community."

It is a nonprofit. Financial support is appreciated and tax deductible.

"The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps & Gowns" will run through Aug. 12. Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.lagunaplayhouse.com.


A farewell to Cindy

A celebration of the life of Cynthia Ellen Frazier will be held at 11 a.m. July 21 in Laguna Woods Village Clubhouse 3, Room 2, 23822 Avenida Sevilla, Laguna Woods.

Few co-workers are closer than an editor and a reporter. So first off, let me tell you that I only called Cindy "Cynthia" when I wanted to get her goat, which happened a lot when she first came to work at the Coastline Pilot.

We had some battles about how a story should be written.

She once snapped at me that she couldn't be the first editor who had ever changed my "deathless prose." "Not without consulting me," I snarled back.

As time went on my rants became less caustic and much less frequent as we learned to work together, sometimes collaborating on a story by phone.

I believe our disputes made me a better writer and Cindy a better editor, resulting in better stories in the Coastline.

We shared the firm belief that community reporting was vital to our readers, really the backbone of journalism, and that united us, although Cindy also wrote plays and fiction.

We also shared a love of cats. I have Wink and she had Wink's mother, Billie, and brother, Toby, all three adopted from Animal Crackers.

Cindy was a little brown wren of a woman, but in her soul she was a bird of colorful plumage. Her fight against cancer and its aftermath was nothing less than gallant. She shared that with our readers and they were touched by it.

We also rejoiced with her when she and Sharon were legally married, something Cindy said she never dreamed would happen.

Right up to the end, Cindy kept doing what she loved best: writing. She really wanted to finish her novel and friends were chipping in to buy her an iPad that she could use while in bed. I wish she could have reached her goal.

In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action group at http://www.pancan.org or by calling (877) 272- 6226.

OUR LAGUNA is a regular feature of the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. Contributions are welcomed. Call (714) 966-4618 or email coastlinepilot@latimes.com with Attn. Barbara Diamond in the subject line.

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