Kids with same gender parents finally have a musical about their families–the absolutely delightful The Daddy Machine. Not that this hour-long musical comedy isn’t also great for kids growing up in so-called “traditional” families–or for adults of any age, gender, or sexual orientation. In fact, The Daddy Machine may just be the most entertaining family show around town these days.

Sue and Harry (Kelly Michelle Smith and D.J. Pierce) are brother and sister being raised by a loving pair of moms (“Mom” Susannah Laing and “Momma” Jenny Gattone) with a lovable rapscallion of a pet pointer named Stonewall (Joe Souza), named after “an important event in Dog History.” Sue is the math genius egghead of the family, while Harry is more interested in inventing things, like the mysterious six foot high cardboard compartment with arms and Christmas lights surrounding it over in the corner of their house.

Today is the first day of summer, and that means “special pancakes,” that is until Momma loses a filling and Mom has to take her to the dentist, which means postponing pancake breakfast till lunch time, and a pancake lunch is definitely NOT the way to start off summer. “It’s a tradition,” complains Harry, and then, because suddenly the grass of children with dads seems much greener to him, adds, “You two are the worst parents ever!” Sue maintains that “A dad is just a mom who’s a man,” but Harry will have nothing of that. He loves his moms but can’t help wishing he weren’t “the only one who has to lift the toilet seat.”

An unexpected short circuit (or bit of magic) suddenly starts the cardboard compartment “Daddy Machine” a-flashing, and before you can say “Dad Number One” who should pop out but a Bermuda shorts-clad man with a big stack of pancakes (Terry Ray) who, like Sue, is a whiz at math. Only seconds later, he’s joined by snappily-dressed Dad Number Two (Freddy Lara). “Cool! This one dances!” exclaims Harry as #2 shows off his Broadway hoofer pizzazz. “It’s a pancake miracle!” he adds excitedly.

The “Daddy Machine” has a mind of its own, and soon #1 (“Guy Dad”) and #2 (“Cool Dad”) have been joined by two more daddies, one looking a lot like a Hawaiian cowboy (Gattone) and another (Laing) with an Elvis pompadour.

How to conceal four dads from two moms is a problem, and Harry’s suggestion that they can hide them in the closet “like they did E.T.” seems not to be the best solution, and even less so when (thanks to the participation of kid and adult audience volunteers) a whole bunch more dads pop out. Mayhem soon reigns as Harry and Sue’s house is overtaken by out of control dads.

With Momma and Mom heading back from the dentist’s office, Harry and Sue have only a few minutes to figure out how to get rid of a grand total of 62 dads!

The Daddy Machine is the brainchild of book writer Patricia Loughrey and composer/lyricist Rayme Sciarone, based on the book by Jonny Valentine, and world premiered last January at San Diego’s Diversionary Theatre. Under the imaginative direction of Fracaswell Hyman, with music direction by the always terrific Gerald Sternbach and Ameenah Kaplan’s snappy choreography, The Daddy Machine is a winner all around.

Sciaroni’s songs combine catchy melodies and clever lyrics, and Loughrey’s book has just the right blend of kids’ humor and “only the grownups will get this” jokes, including one from Yentl and another from the Sears catalog.

Heading the cast as Stonewall is scene-stealing Joe Souza, whose work in the original cast of Bark makes this triple-threat talent the perfect choice to bring a canine companion to life. Ray and Lara are a modern day Paul Lynde and Gene Kelly as Dads One and Two, getting laughs galore while sharing great stage chemistry. Gattone and Laing make for a lovable pair of lesbian moms, the latter’s infectious Scottish brogue an added delight. The original San Diego production had age-appropriate child actors as Sue and Harry. The Celebration opts for 20somethings playing kids, cute and talented dancer-choreographer Pierce and spunky Smith with a Broadway-ready belt of a voice.

Alexandra Smith has designed a colorful storybook set which superimposes beautifully on the concurrently running A Christmas Carol’s, and Jade Winters’ costumes are multicolored treats each and every one, with special mention due Souza’s Stonewall garb. An added bonus at the performance I attended was Sciaroni at the piano.

With only two Saturdays remaining in its run, The Daddy Machine is must-see-soon theater. Kids of all ages (and that includes parents and grandparents alike) will eat this show up.

Celebration Theatre, 7051 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Through December 20. Saturdays at 10:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Reservations: 323 957-1884
–Steven Stanley
December 6, 2008
Photo: Efrain Schunior

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