Review: YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU at Lonny Chapman Theatre

sold-out, smash hit run of classic comedy through July 7th

By: Jul. 08, 2024
Review: YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU at Lonny Chapman Theatre
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Review: YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU at Lonny Chapman Theatre
Brenda James and Koushik
star in You Can't Take It with You

You Can’t Take It with You is a sold-out, smash hit run of the beloved classic comedy by the award-winning Group Rep at the Lonny Chapman Theatre through July 7th.  This is a fun-loving, light-hearted classic Kauffman and Hart comedy from 1936.  You Can’t Take It with You won the Pulitzer Prize for drama and was a huge success on Broadway.  Two years later, it was an Academy Award winning film directed by Frank Capra and starring Jimmy Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, and Jean Arthur.  The brilliant 1930s writing still sparkles with wit, comedic mischief, and life-affirming joy.  I saw You Can’t Take It With You as a staged reading with William Shatner for a charity benefit, and even just as a reading, it was a sheer delight.  I could die happy right now if I could join in with the crazy shenanigans and artistic dillydallying of the fictional Vanderhof and Sycamore family.

The Group Rep's production of You Can’t Take It with You sparkles with gorgeous, intricate staging. There is richly detailed, immersive set design by Mareli Mitchel-Shields, with gorgeous deep jade walls and a cozy, cluttered family Victorian feel that made me want to move in.  Vibrant, nostalgic sound design by Michaela Padilla is captivating and mood-lifting, and I adored the eye-catching, delightful period costumes by Angela M. Eads.  Direction by Leota Rhodes is lively and enthusiastic. The animal actors are adorable, including a basket of tiny, wide-eyed, awwww-so-cute kittens and a live lizard who sticks his tongue out on cue.   This is a production that is impossible not to love, full of charm, laughter, and heart.  Audiences agree, and the packed, sold-out house on the night I attended could not get enough.

Review: YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU at Lonny Chapman Theatre
Suzan Solomon and Danny Salay

You Can’t Take It with You is a kind of reverse Cinderella story, about a loving, rambling household full of eccentric dropouts.  They dive into their artistic pursuits like playwriting, ballet, candy making, painting, and building fireworks in the basement.  But when the daughter of this bohemian family gets engaged to her boss’s son, high society, Wall Street royalty, two worlds messily collide.  It also turns out that grandpa has a bit of trouble with the IRS, which is not going away anytime soon.  The hilarious, screwball comedy antics are non stop.

Review: YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU at Lonny Chapman Theatre
Theresa Ford and Sammie Wayne

Cast standouts include Cassidy LeClair as an aspiring, klutzy ballerina Essie, with a hopeless enthusiasm for life.  LeClair’s physical comedy is brilliant, and her performance is fearless, lovable, and hilarious.  LeClair’s performance breathes so much energy and life into the production   Theresa Ford as housekeeper Rhea is an absolute treasure.  Her line delivery is so pitch perfect that even a single word or sentence can make the audience convulse into laughter.  Theresa Ford is a very gifted actress, and her groundedness and saucy, flavor-rich delivery are just what the show needs.  She makes an adorable, heartwarming couple with Sammie Wayne as her boyfriend Donald, who proves that even a small part can be terrific when in the hands of a great actor.   Sammie Wayne and Theresa Ford together steal the show.  Another scene-stealing star performance is Danny Salay as Essie’s dance teacher Kolenkhov.  Salay’s grim earnestness and robust, energetic physicality make his performance a total comedic gem.  

Review: YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU at Lonny Chapman Theatre
Linda Alznauer

Other delightful comedic turns from this high-spirited, excellent cast include a truly wonderful, hilarious Koushik as Mr. De Pinna, and a marvelous deadpan Linda Alznauer as Gay Wellington, a hopelessly drunk actress -- I adored Alznauer's straight to the audience speech.  Lareen Faye and Kevin Michael Moran are beautifully understated and delightful as the high society in-laws-to-be, with Kevin Michael Moran shining in his hilarious outrage and later in his touching change of heart.

I would change a few things here and there.  You Can’t Take It with You feels like it might have a bit of a slow start, and there are some moments of unevenness.  It is quite possible that Rebecca del Sesto is slightly miscast as Alice, coming across at times as a bit controlled and self-absorbed, not always capturing the radiant, likable, screwball charm of comedy heroine Alice, a sweet, quirky young girl hopelessly in love. 

Review: YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU at Lonny Chapman Theatre
Lareen Faye and Kevin Michael Moran

Occasionally the direction could use a little exertion, more tightening and finesse.   But with a high-spirited, delightful large ensemble, and how beautifully it all comes together as the play gathers momentum, it all feels a bit like quibbling.    

By the end, of the night, I was laughing, crying, and cheering for everyone on stage.  You Can’t Take It with You is a heart-warming, delightful gem, a sold-out smash hit for the Group Rep.

Last winter at Lonny Champman Theatre I saw 70, Girls, 70, a funny, bright-hearted, poignant, and magnetically uplifting production of a rare Kander & Ebb musical treasure.  I absolutely loved it, and half a year later, I am still humming all the songs.  It always feels like a delightful treat to see outstanding classic theatre by the award-winning Group Rep.

Note: this production features a rotating cast.

Photos by Doug Engalla 

You Can't Take It with You runs at the Lonny Chapman Theatre through July 7th.  The Lonny Chapman Theatre is located 10900 Burbank Blvd., NoHo 91601.  You can call 818-763-5990 to get tickets or click on the below:




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