Theater Review: Bittersweet look at rise to fame

Glendale News Press

Burbank's Sidewalk Studio Theatre's current world premiere production of "Sugar Happens: A One Girl Show" packs a comic punch that may leave your ribs not just tickled but bruised with its irreverent and often bawdy brand of humor.

Divided into four subsections, Emmy Award-winning sitcom creator/writer Sherry Coben has capitalized grandly on both the truth and the dreams surrounding the life of Rachel Bailit, the actress who performs this solo piece.

The first half of the program details the actual record of Bailit's life.

Raised in Needham, Mass., she relays the specifics of growing up in a Jewish family whose expectations for her were, shall we say, conventional. Find a good Jewish boy, settle down and raise a family.

But it's clear from the beginning, with Bailit found reclining on a red satin-covered love seat wearing fishnet hose and a black bustier, that conventional is not a word best used to describe her personality.

Regaling the audience with hilarious stories of her childhood and career path, Bailit, under the direction of Phil Ramuno, masterfully works the audience.

Playwright Coben touchingly balances the outrageous details surrounding Bailit's parents' divorce with the struggles brought about by the childhood death of Bailit's older brother.

And along the way, Bailit provides an ongoing series of jaw-dropping references to her own physical attributes that clearly places this piece in the "adult only" category.

Putting it best, she references her own talent agent who once told her, "You have the body of Sharon Stone and the face of Carol Burnett."

But to her credit, there's a lot more to Rachel Bailit than just a drop-dead body and wacky sense of humor.

She forays into the world of broadcast journalism and national politics before making her way west to chase the golden ring of Hollywood success.

And this is where Coben and Bailit stand the traditional autobiographical one-person format on its head.

The remainder of the show offers various fictitious glimpses as to where the next 20 years may take our heroine.

We see her having given up the "biz" and reticently settling for the stifling confines of suburbia.

Then there's the whiskey-swilling, chain-smoking lounge singer whose raspy voice and tousled hair can be found occupying the stool at the far end of the bar.

Finally, she has it all: the Emmy, the Oscar, the jet-setting lifestyle, everything we think will make her happy.

But standing alone in her pink swathed boudoir beautifully lit by designer Maarten Cornelis, Bailit concludes this whirlwind tour of self-revelation wisely imparting that whatever the future may hold, she is looking forward to the ride.

It's an observation we might all do well to emulate.

Infobox What: "Sugar Happens: A One Girl Show" by Sherry CobenWhen: 8 p.m. Wednesdays and 7 p.m. Sundays through June 20Where: Sidewalk Studio Theatre, 4150 Riverside Drive, BurbankTickets: $20Contact: (800) 838-3006 or visit www.brownpaper

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