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Play it Cool
Written by Larry Dean Harris
Music by Phillip Swann
Lyrics by Mark Winkler
Additonal music by Jim Andron, David Benoit,
Michael Cruz, Marilyn Harris, Emilio Palane,
Joe Pasquale, Dan Siegel, and Larry Steelman
Directed by Sharon Rosen

June 9, 2006
Celebration Theatre, Hollywood, California

Review by Bill Kaiser
June 14, 2006

The long-anticipated, world premiere of this jazz musical was a triumphant finale to artistic director Michael Matthews’ first season. This production has it all: great story, songs, atmosphere, and acting.

Jessica Sheridan, Katie Campbell,
Steven Janji, Andrew Pandaleon, Michael Craig Shapiro
photo: Alan Weissman  

Set in a 1953 smoky, shadowy, gay Hollywood bar called Mary’s Hideaway, the play has an edgy, noir quality. The show has a strong book by Larry Dean Harris, inspired lyrics by Mark (Too Old for the Chorus, Naked Boys Singing) Winkler, and sensational music by Phillip Swann. Additional music was written by Jim Andron, David Benoit, Michael Cruz, Marilyn Harris, Emilio Palane, Joe Pasquale, Dan Siegel, and Larry Steelman.

Author Harris has shaped a cross-section of the 50s community, and director Sharon Rosen has turned them into three-dimensional characters that we care about. These characters are the parents and grandparents of our community. By being “different,” these lesbians and gay men risked exposure to societal hatred, harassment, beating, and arrest.

Steven Janji, Andrew Pandaleon,
Jessica Sheridan, Katie Campbell, Michael Craig Shapiro
photo: David Elzer  

The five cast members are top-notch with Jessica Sheridan as a standout as club owner Mary, who has a tender heart underneath her tough, butch exterior. Katie Campbell plays Lena, her blonde chanteuse lover. She has a wonderfully sultry singing style and is a knockout.

Steven Jangi is both sexy and sleazy as he glides around the stage not missing an opportunity for a pickup. Andrew Pandalion is the young naive newcomer who comes to Hollywood to make it as a singer, but, more importantly, to live a gay life. He admirably foreshadows the 60s liberationists.

Rounding out the cast is Henry played compassionately by Michael Craig Shapiro, who is sympathetic to all, but too closeted to come out anywhere but in the murky shadows of the bar.

This entertaining show has you snapping your fingers as it flows like the jazz music … both hot and cool. Don’t miss Play it Cool

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