How’s this for a clever idea?  Gather a bunch of famous performers and have each one read a passage from the autobiography of a famous person, for example Brooke Shields reading from Touch Me: The [Autobiographical] Poems Of Suzanne Somers, emoting poetic gems like “we were making wild and crazy love before the ice had settled in our drinks … though I can barely remember your name …”  And that’s only the start of ninety minutes of non-stop fun.

Celebrity Autobiography is the inspired brainchild of Emmy Award-nominated writer-performer Eugene Pack, and developed together with producer-performer Dayle Reyfel.  Following considerable New York success, including the 2009 Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience and the 2010 Bistro Award for Outstanding Comedy, this off-Broadway hit has now made its way to the Broad Stage’s Edye Second Space in appropriately Hollywood-adjacent Santa Monica.  With a pair of Celebrity Autobiography evenings already having delighted sold-out audiences, and another on the way on September 26, this East Coast smash is likely to take the West Coast by similar storm.

Performing last night in Celebrity Autobiography’s second Broad Stage incarnation were Scott Adsit, Tate Donovan, Will Forte, Laraine Newman, Pack, Reyfel, Shields, and Fred Willard.

Here are some highlight’s of the evening’s performance, offered as examples of what to expect from future Celebrity Autobiographies.

•Willard, reading from the autobiography of Mr. T: “I’m sure there will be other books written about me.” 

•Newman, reading from Good Morning I’m Joan Lunden:  “I need to be up four hours before 7:00 a.m.  4:00 a.m. to be precise.” 

•Donovan, reading from Kenny Loggins’ The Unimaginable Life, co-written with then-wife Julia: “I want to let your love open me like an envelope. I want to let the ‘us’ of ‘us’ in. I want to make love without birth control, scream when we come … and not get pregnant—at least once a day.”

•Forte, reading from The Dirt, by Mötley Crüe, in which Tommy Lee describes his “first date with someone more famous than me,” his soon-to-be bride Heather Locklear:  “We finally fucked … and it only lasted for a second. We did it again and again that night to be sure we were really in love.”

•Reyfel, reading from Secrets Of A Sparrow, by Diana Ross, who recalls her rained-out 1983 concert in Central Park: “I so desperately wanted to give something back to them and to this life. And then the darkness came!  From where had it come???”

•Adsit, reading from David Hasselhoff’s Don’t Hassel The Hoff, in a passage about Hasselhoff’s Broadway debut in Jekyll & Hyde The Musical:  “Why do you put yourself through this? It’s the hardest role on Broadway and you’ve only had five weeks of rehearsal!”

•Pack, reading from Laughter In The Rain: My Own Story, by Neil Sedaka:  “I do sit-ups every day.  I also jump rope. I have the same breakfast every day, one of two different lunches, and for dinner, always a variation of the same four or five items.”

Even more hilarious were ensemble performances, as when Donovan, Newman, Shields and Tate read from the dueling autobiographies of Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson, with Reynolds and Anderson offering very different memories of their first sex on New Year’s Eve, and Elaine Hall, Burt’s former producer, secretary and confidante, chiming in with her own tidbits. The five men next gathered to read from *Nsync: The Official Book, each one embodying a different *Nsync-er.  Finally, the entire cast assembled for the evening’s grand finale, the lives and loves of Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher, Elizabeth Taylor, Mike Todd, and Richard Burton, with Shield stealing the show as a statuesque (and dim-bulbed) Liz Taylor—and two very different versions of how Debbie learned the truth about Liz and Eddie.

Much of the fun of Celebrity Autobiography is hearing full-of-themselves autobiographies read by celebrities who may themselves one day write (or may in fact already have written) full-of-themselves autobiographies.  One thing is for sure.  The laughs will be coming fast and furious.

Celebrity Autobiography cast lists are, of course, “subject to change,” and Forte was in fact a last minute replacement for Leslie Ann Warren, to this reviewer’s disappointment (no offense to Forte), and Julie Chen was also a no-show. 

But no matter. The real stars of the evening are those whose words are being read, and they don’t come any bigger than Elizabeth Taylor or bigger in their own minds than Mr. T—and what they have written adds up to an hour and a half of laughter—and some celebrity gazing thrown in for good measure.

–Steven Stanley
July 19, 2010

The Broad Stage, Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, 1310 11th St., Santa Monica.


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