Danny Kaye is alive and well and performing in North Hollywood!  Well, if not the 
genuine article, then at least an amazing facsimile. Giving one of the most 
memorable performances of this or any year, Brian Childers IS Danny Kaye in the 
just opened The Kid from Brooklyn, now wowing audiences at the El Portal Theatre.

Danny Kaye, for the uninitiated, was a top comedic movie star for 20 years, 
beginning with 1944’s Up in Arms.  He scored major hits with The Kid from Brooklyn 
and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (both opposite Virginia Mayo, his costar in 5 
films), as well as The Court Jester, The Five Pennies, and of course his most revived 
hit, the perennial White Christmas (opposite Bing Crosby). He had his own network 
variety show from 1963 to 1967 and later became ambassador-at-large for UNICEF.

The Kid from Brooklyn (The Musical) tells Kaye’s story (in biopic fashion) from 1938 to 
1968, beginning with Kaye’s discovery by Billy Rose, and continuing with his rise to 
Broadway stardom in Lady in the Dark, which led to Hollywood.  We see Kaye falling 
in love with future wife Sylvia Fine, who wrote many of the witty, tongue-twisting 
songs he became famous for, and his subsequent romance with his radio costar 
Eve Arden. The show also gives us a hint of his reported 10 year affair with 
Lawrence Olivier and, more significantly, a glimpse into Kaye’s complex and 
troubled personality.

However, it’s not the biographical aspect that makes The Kid from Brooklyn a must-
see, but rather the stellar performances and the array of musical numbers for 
which Danny Kaye became famous, and which the dazzling Childers performs with 
charm and uncanny accuracy.

The evening’s fun  begins even before the curtain rises as we hear (performed live 
by the actors backstage) Kaye’s famed comedy sequence from The Court Jester: 
“The pellet with the poison’s in the vessel with the pestle; the chalice from the 
palace has the brew that is true! Right?”  (This is just the first of many of the 
tongue-twisting songs and routines that became Kaye’s specialty and which 
Childers has great fun recreating.)

We see young Danny performing a crazy comedy sketch in the Catskills and later 
singing his very own Eastern European rendition of “Dinah,” retitled “Deenah” 
(with the rhymes changed appropriately). In the Straw Hat Review, Kaye performs 
opposite Imogene Coca and Alfred Drake singing the very funny a la Yiddish 
Mikado parody “Three Little Jews from Schul.”  There’s also the tongue-twisting 
“Anatole of Paris,” the show stopper that made Kaye a Broadway star, upstaging 
above-the-title Gertrude Lawrence. And then it’s off to Hollywood!

Childers so becomes Danny Kaye that it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role.  
In his (very realistic) curly red wig, he not only looks the part, he’s got Danny’s 
speaking voice, gestures, and mannerisms down pat. Childers is also a fine singer 
and dancer with a charismatic stage presence which makes it obvious from his first 
appearance why Kaye was destined for stardom.  In Act 2 sequences, a newly 
blond Childers shows us the doubts that tormented Kaye before his London 
Palladium concert, and later, in a sensitively performed dramatic monologue at 
Kaye’s psychiatrist’s office, reveals a man for whom nothing could equal the 
laughter of the crowds.

Karin Leone does excellent work as Sylvia Fine.  She’s got that special brand of New 
York chutzpah, but also shows Fine’s pain at the realization that Kaye’s heart was 
no longer in their marriage. Leone has a belt that recalls Merman’s but she can 
also go soft and sensitive, as she does in “It Never Entered My Mind,” in which we 
see Fine’s disillusionment at her soured marriage.

Childers and Leone have performed The Kid from Brooklyn to critical and popular 
acclaim in various cities across the country, but their costars, Joshua Finkel and 
Christina Purcell, who portray all the other roles, are new to the Los Angeles 
production and both are first-rate.

L.A. favorite Finkel becomes (among others) Kaye’s agent Eddie Dukoff, film mogul 
Sam Goldwyn, Broadway’s Billy Rose, the legendary Lawrence Olivier, and 
playwright Moss Hart, distinguishing each with his own voice and manner, even in 
the fast changes that are sometimes required.  Lovely Christina Purcell brings to life 
many characters including Eve Arden, Kitty Carlisle, Imogene Coca, Vivien Leigh, 
and Kaye’s daughter Dena.  In one of the evening’s highlights, Childers, Finkel (as 
Olivier), and Leone (as Leigh) perform a delightful rendition of “Triplets” (“We look 
alike, we dress alike, we walk alike, we talk alike. And what is more we hate each 
other very much.”)

The Kid from Brooklyn was written by Mark Childers (Brian’s brother) and Peter J. 
Loewy, and deftly directed by Loewy. Musical directors David Cohen and Charlie 
Harrison (on piano) lead a fine onstage 4-piece band, which features Michael 
Benedict on winds, Ernie Nuñez on bass, and Glenn Ochenkoski on drums. Shon 
LeBlanc’s costumes are especially effective at evoking the 30s, 40s, and 50s, 
complemented by the many excellent wigs designed by Howard Leonard and Rick 
Burns. Choreographer Susie Paplow does fine work at recreating the original Danny 
Kaye dance numbers.

With White Christmas DVDs being played in countless L.A. households this holiday 
season, this seems a particularly appropriate time for the Danny Kaye Story to 
arrive in our fair city, though with the rave reviews and enthusiastic word of mouth 
The Kid From Brooklyn is sure to generate, it’s likely that Angelenos will be able to 
enjoy this musical treat, and Childers’ inspired performance, well into the new year.

El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
December 20, 2007
Photos: Ed Krieger

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