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BWW Reviews: INSIDE OUT Rocks the Grove Theater Center

Inside Out/book by Doug Haverty/music by Adryan Russ/lyrics by Haverty & Russ/directed by Bruce Kimmel/The Grove Theater Center, Burbank/through March 22

Celebrating its 20th anniversary the little musical Inside Out by Doug Haverty and Adryan Russ throws a boldly bright spotlight on the positive loving effects of group therapy. Based on the actual accounts of women who joined a group in the early 90s, Inside Out shares their stories...and the music is not only part of the plot, as pop singer Dena (Leslie Stevens) agonizes over the challenges of making a comeback, but more urgently becomes the almost guaranteed therapeutic force of nature for the entire piece. Six outstanding singers/actresses under the uber skilled direction of Bruce Kimmel dispense advice and sing and move with electrifying verve. Now onstage at the Grove Theater Center in Burbank, Inside Out may very well prove to be a better tonic than a gospel revival. It's assuredly the most effervescent all-girl group in town!

Storyteller/ book writer Doug Haverty delves into a variety of problems to which all may relate: physical attractiveness and its importance in a relationship (Molly, Dana Meller); whether one should put promotion in work ahead of marriage and family (Liz, Sandy Bainum); the emotional insecurity that results from falling in love with a married man (Sage, Adrienne Visnic)...and a less identifiable case, that of being a lesbian, trying to find the right mate and to simultaneously bring up a teenage son (Chlo, Stephanie Fredricks). Of course, there is initial antagonism between certain participants. Fiery beauty Liz cannot understand Chlo and her obsession with women... Dena, an artiste and recognizable star is not an easy fit with Liz either. Liz, the business organizer wants to take charge and manipulate everyone including Sage, who feels isolated and insignificant and Molly, whose problems with weight make her feel far less attractive. Group leader Grace (Cynthia Ferrer) is the mother figure. She spends sleepless nights not worrying about herself but about all of her charges. It's one big dysfunctional family, but when they're together, the women role-play and see each other from the inside out helping them better understand the issues, especially their own.

Adryan Russ has written some truly beautiful songs, to which she and Haverty have co-created some lovely, very vibrant lyrics that advance the story in a very human way. A fine example is "Behind Dena's Back", where the gals realize they must confront Dena in order to help create a positive change within her. Director Kimmel has fine-tuned the piece giving everyone their space so that individual moments shine, yet blend smoothly into the fabric, creating a caring, supportive community, one for all and all for one.

The six actresses are equally mesmerizing, triple threats. Of course, Stevens steals the spotlight as Dena "Reaching Up". Within the total framework each actress has a moment or two that dazzle: Ferrer in "Grace's Nightmare", Fredricks with "Never Enough", Meller with "Thin", Bainum in "Things Look Different", Visnic with "I Don't Say Anything". Scenic design by Rei Yamamoto is simple but functional, and costumes by Natalya Shahinyan serve the characters well. Brava to one and all!

Although therapy sessions may seem dated for some, there is plenty of original spunk and fire in these characterizations as well as a terribly engaging score. For those reasons, don't miss Inside Out during its all too brief engagement at the Grove Theater Center! The performances are beguiling and deliciously executed.

and to purchase the CD:

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