by Marc Wheeler
In the basement of Casita del Campo (a Mexican restaurant By the Shores of Silver Lake) lives the hole-in-the-wall Cavern Club Theater. Ceiling low and space intimate, this little gem’s the temporary home of Prairie-oke! That Totally Unauthorized Karaoke Parody Musical Formerly Known As Something Else now back for a limited engagement. If images of a wholesome TV show from the ‘70s about a pioneer family living in a little house on the prairie come to mind, good job, you’ve passed the first (and only) test.
Using the famous “Cinnamon Chicken” episode as a base and inserting pop hits of Miley Cyrus, Guns N’ Roses, Journey and more, Prairie-oke! is a campy homage to that beloved hit series that cannot (ahem) be legally named. Originally conceived, written and directed by Dane Whitlock, this “karaoke musical” lives up to its name. Performers can sing and dance… enough. But it’s their full-throttle commitment to the (slightly-altered) songs that make them irresistibly charming. A twerk-tastic “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” dance-off from the virtuous pioneers (courtesy of choreographer Joseph Corella) further exemplifies the absurdities of the evening.
By and large the cast does great work, with even small roles getting comedic moments to shine. The family’s blind daughter Merry (Rae Dawn Hadinger) comically feels her way around stage and… oops!.. into the audience. Muffle-mouthed toddler Kerry (Penny Wildman) garbles her lines with amusing effect. And “Disney prince” heartthrob Alonzo (Ben Palacios) gives our leading young lady Lauren (Libby Baker) a glimpse of his nips in a scene that would’ve had TV audiences clutching their pearls.
Kevin Berntson as the horny family patriarch is spit-taking as a man in constant search of moral solutions to everyday problems. Sporting a “Landon wig” atop a twinkly-eyed face, he delivers fatherly advice with the actor’s iconic clarity and calm.
The highlight of the evening belongs to Drew Droege as Mellie Moleson, the schoolyard villain everyone loves to hate. Storming across the Heartland with mischievous fury, Droege’s pigtailed prairie-bitch is perfection.
The set’s low-budget quaintness consists of a quilted home-on-the-range backdrop and low-hanging speakers under which a certain tall actor had to keep ducking to miss. It’s hilariously precious.
Prairie-oke!, produced by Matthew Herrmann and Vickie Mendoza, is sure to delight Little House fans and non-fans alike. Arrive early for a pre-show dinner or simply grab a few drinks for some raucous merriment that’s surely much Laura Ingalls Wilder than a pub crawl on the plains.
Playing through Nov. 22, 2015
Cavern Club Theater at Casita del Campo
1920 Hyperion Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90027
Friday and Saturday – 9 PM
Sunday – 7 PM