Septuagenarian widow Virginia Carpolotti hums whenever she’s got reason to worry, and she’s got plenty of reason to whistle—and with Emmy-winner Penny Fuller playing her, audiences have plenty of reason to cheer—in the delightful, tuneful 13 Things About Ed Carpolotti, 70-minutes of one-woman musical theater showmanship at The Broad Stage.

Fuller first played Ginny twenty or so years ago in Three Viewings, Jeffrey Hatcher’s trio of monologs set in a Midwestern funeral parlor, before reprising the role to considerable acclaim in Barry Kleinbort’s 2012 musical adaptation, one which she and piano accompanist (and occasional costar) Paul Greenwood have now brought to the Broad Stage’s intimate Edye under Kleinbort’s assured direction.

Ginny’s hum-worthy-and-then-some worries stem from the dismaying discovery that her just-deceased hubby, big-shot contractor Ed, has left her over her head in debt, not just to the bank and assorted creditors but to the local mob as well, and things will only go from bad to worse if she can’t come up with a million dollars to keep a list of thirteen incriminating “things” about dear departed Ed from becoming public.

As Ginny faces not just possible bankruptcy but the loss of her and Ed’s family home (lovingly dubbed “Bray Barton” after Gone With The Wind convinced the Carpolottis that every house should have a name), Ed’s widow takes us on a musical journey down memory lane from courtship to marriage to family to widowhood, bringing to life a colorful cast of supporting characters along the way, among them family lawyer Bob O’Klock, mobster Dino DiSperbio, twice-married daughter Debbie, and gossip-loving best girlfriend Tootie down in Boca Raton,

Kleinbort’s songs are a hummable bunch, ranging from wistful (“The Holidays”) to ‘50s romantic (“You Are My Happiness”) to the the title song’s calypso beats,

Most memorably, “At The Liberty Theater” has Ginny/Fuller deliciously imitating Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Corinne Calvet, and Marie Wilson’s distinctive star turns in 1950’s My Friend Irma Goes West.

And speaking of star turns, Fuller’s 76 years deserve a 76-trombone salute, so incandescent is she as Ginny, drawing the audience in with irresistible charm and pipes that can sell a song as Eve Harrington did in Fuller’s Tony-nominated supporting turn opposite Lauren Bacall’s Margo Channing in 1970’s Applause.

Accompanist par excellence/musical director Greenwood is the tall, dark, and handsome younger man Ginny’s imagination has conjured up to keep her company at the keyboard, exchange an occasional quip with, and join her occasionally in song.

An uncredited scenic design transforms the Edye into Ginny’s elegant, lovingly lived-in living room, with audience members seated on three sides (avoid the unraked section if possible), Matt Berman’s vivid lighting design enhancing Ginny’s ever-changing moods and his sound design insuring that Greenwood’s accompaniment never overpowers Fuller’s vocals.

John W. Calder is stage manager. Giles Horne is production supervisor. Brian Letchworth is executive producer.

As a member of L.A.’s vibrant theater community, Fuller once made the Matrix, Antaeus, and the Taper her home. It’s a joy to welcome this Broadway Baby back to the Southland in this most special of one-woman shows.

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

–Steven Stanley
January 24, 2017
Photo: Meghan Moore

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