Theatrical Review by: Ethlie Ann Vare
Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 2/13/23 – Two-time Emmy winner Diane Frolov is best known for her work on shows like The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and Bosch. Michael Pressman, also a two-time Emmy winner, comes out of the Law & Order TV universe. When the two of them mount a new play with Rogue Machine, the theater company known for premiering heavy hitters like One Night in Miami, you expect certain things. A sold-out opening night packed with top television producers and executives – check. A very high level of professionalism from the cast and crew – check. Sharp, clever writing and creative staging – check. A comic operetta about a suburban housewife abducted by aliens… wait, what?
Come Get Maggie, which debuted at the Matrix Theater on Saturday night and runs through late March, was not at all what I expected. Once I got into its groove, though, it turned out to be a delightful surprise. Just don’t go in expecting believable human motivations or anything; surrender yourself to its general silliness, underlying warmth. and sheer talent.
It’s the 1950s, and young math genius Maggie Wyberry can’t work in her field because she’s a she and it’s the 1950s. In her “I wish” opening number, “Star Light, Star Bright,” Maggie longs for aliens to come take her away to somewhere she can fit in. And then they do. But that makes the plot sound much simpler and more linear than it is. There’s also romance, and murder, and the H-bomb — plus a cop with a secret, a husband with a secret, an aunt with a secret, and the President of the United States.
It may sound complicated, but don’t worry about parsing any subtlety. There’s no nuance here: the good guys are good, the bad guys are bad, and the satirical targets are as broad as the side of a barn.
I should mention that all of these elements are conveyed almost without dialog. Pretty much the whole show is sung to Susan Justin’s melodies. Think Les Misèrables, except the songs are about particle physics and the tango. And funny. Les Mis is def not funny.
This is a big show, two hours long, with big voices and a big cast in a small room. (Math-geek Maggie would tell you there was 1 actor for every 9.9 audience members.) Each performer sings multiple roles. And dances. And does wardrobe changes. The degree of difficulty is enormous, and not a note or a line was out of place. The audience loved every minute.
“It’s just fun,” says Dennis Renard, who unleashes a killer falsetto as the alien Varex. “It’s nice to sit for two hours and just forget your troubles.”
Melanie Neilan, a former ballet dancer with a crystalline voice who looks like a young Winona Ryder, except tall, does the heaviest lifting as Maggie. Much is asked of her, going from math savant to compliant Stepford wife overnight (like I said, no nuance here), but she pulls it off. Still, it’s Philip Casnoff as the fedora-sporting Detective Ziskin and Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield as the insufferable Aunt Ruthie who pretty much steal the show. “She the opposite of who I am,” laughs Scholfield. “I love playing her!”
Turns out, Frolov and Justin are both sci-fi lovers from way back: Frolov co-wrote the TV mini-series V and got her first writer-producer gig on AlienNation. Justin composed film scores for Roger Corman. And Frolov did start working on Come Get Maggie back when she was in college, so a certain… let’s call it adolescent world view feels appropriate.
It’s a fun and frothy evening of musical theater and absolutely the last thing I would expect to be literally sponsored by Dick Wolf Productions. Apparently, someone wished upon a star.
COME GET MAGGIE
Written by Diane Frolov
Directed by Michael Pressman
Cast: Philip Casnoff, Beth Egan, Melissa Jobe, Nicole Ledoux, Melanie Neilan, Bruce Nozick, Chase Ramsey, Dennis Renard, Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield, Eddie Vona
Music by Susan Justin
Lyrics by Diane Frolov and Susan Justin
Produced John Perrin Flynn for Rogue Machine
7657 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046
Fridays – Mondays until March 26