You’ve heard of The Real Housewives Of Orange County, The Real Housewives Of Atlanta, The Real Housewives Of New Jersey, The Real Housewives Of You Name It. Now meet The Real Housewives Of Toluca Lake in Molly Bell’s hilarious, tuneful, show-stoppingly performed musical spoof of the ten-year-old Bravo franchise, currently delighting audiences at The Falcon Theatre in where else but beautiful downtown Toluca Lake.
Like their real-life TV counterparts, The “Real” Housewives Of Toluca Lake are five gorgeous, wealthy, self-centered best frenemies whose glamorous lives revolve around fashion, fillers, and fund-raisers that allow them to show off their latest Gucci gowns and Harry Winston jewels.
Director Roger Bean (who’s got his own regional theater franchise with The Marvelous Wonderettes) discovered Bell’s musical comedy bonbon in the San Francisco Bay Area when it debuted two years ago as The Real Housewives Of Walnut Creek (with its creator doing sextuple-duty as book writer, composer, lyricist, choreographer, musical director, and star).
Newly retitled to suit its Falcon Theatre home, The Real Housewives Of Toluca rises a whole other level as performed by six of the most talented triple-threats on this or any coast.
Meredith Patterson stars as girl-next-door blonde beauty Joanne, the self-appointed “Head Housewife Of Toluca Lake” with a tiara to prove it. (Joanne’s ring tone is Bruno Mars serenading her with “You’re amazing … just the way you are,” because amazing is what she is, at least in her own mind.)
Adrienne Visnic is quintessential trophy wife Babette, the Housewives’ youngest member and Joanne’s best friend, though bubble-headed Babette is beginning to chafe at always having to be at her bff’s beck and call.
Then there’s Anita Barone as brunette stunner Lulu, who married and divorced a sultan, enjoys frequent botox and collagen injections, and sports a posh (though not quite authentic-sounding) British accent that suggests this Sultana might be from somewhere other than Toluca Lake.
Jenna Coker-Jones is Penny, a petite, red-headed ball of fire with a heart-on for Jesus and a husband who everyone but poor pitiful Penny can tell is gay as a goose.
Cynthia Ferrer completes the housewifely quintet as Beezus, the group’s senior member, though don’t even think of accusing her of being fifty, an age she insists she’s far from, albeit probably not on the side of fifty she’d like you to think.
And then there’s Marc Ginsburg as The Man, or rather The Men, since Ginsburg plays about a dozen-and-a-half of them, including the wives’ new-agey Azuzu Yoga guru, a flamboyant home shopping network host, the ladies’ hunky fitness instructor, a swishy Latino hair stylist, a Catholic priest, assorted husbands straight and gay, and many, many more.
Over the course of its two delicious hours, The Real Housewives Of Toluca Lake: The Musical follows Joanne, Babette, Lulu, Penny, and Beezus as they live their luxurious ladies-who-lunch lives, support charities such as Obese Babies and Dogs Who Are Deaf, and sell their signature wares on “QVC,” including a brand of baby food that doubles as a rapid-weight-loss diet, a cleanse, and a face cream to boot; Beezus’s Elegant Enemas (a history of colon cancer runs in her family); and a strap-on mask designed to electric shock your face into a new, more youthful look.
Bell’s book could hardly be more hilarious, sparked by double entendres galore (in addition to the aforementioned “Strap-On,” much is made of the gals’ fitness instructor’s balls as they bounce atop them), references to Toluca Lake landmarks including the Bob Hope estate, quips à la “Never take Riverside,” and an authentic horror of anything North Hollywood.
Bean directs with oodles of flair, Roger Castellano choreographs with abundant panache (the Bollywood birthday party sequence is a particular treat), and leading ladies Barone, Coker-Jones, Ferrer, Patterson, and Visnic could simply not be more fabulous. As for the cast’s male member, Ginsburg outdoes himself in one delectable cameo after another.
A top-drawer team of L.A.’s finest designers—scenic designer Stephen Gifford, lighting designer Jean-Yves Tessier, properties designer John McElveney, and above all costume designer David Kay Mickelsen—give The Real Housewives Of Toluca Lake: The Musical a look that equals Bell’s catchy tunes and clever lyrics, with music director Kyle de Tarnowsky and sound designer Robert A. Ramirez ensuring that Real Housewives sounds as good as it looks. (Vocals are performed to prerecorded tracks, with additional music, arrangements, and orchestrations by Dolores Duran-Cefalu.)
Casting is by Sandi Logan, CSA, including understudies Ali French, Melissa Jobe, Jeffrey Landman, and Anne Montavan. Dale Alan Cooke is stage manager and Danielle DeMasters is assistant stage manager. Mike Jespersen is technical director.
You don’t have to be a fan of The Real Housewives Of Fill-In-The-Blank to go gaga for The Real Housewives Of Toluca Lake: The Musical. I’ve never seen a single episode of the TV franchise, and I loved every second of their Burbank-adjacent sisters’ adventures in song, dance, and sin.
Falcon Theatre, 4252 Riverside Drive, Burbank.
April 1, 2106
Photos: Sasha A. Venola