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Leslie Caron in ‘Six Dance Lessons’ in Laguna, comedy pioneer Hal Roach recalled

Caron & Engel in Six Dance Lessons
Caron & Engel in Six Dance Lessons
Photo by Ed Krieger

With an actress of lesser stature in the lead, Richard Alfieri’s “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks” (at Laguna Playhouse through June 8) could easily fall on its face. It’s the perfect vehicle and perfect role for Leslie Caron, though—that of Lily, a lonely widow who hires a dance instructor—and few fans of the legendary MGM star are likely to be disappointed. The old gal's still got it; her acting chops are in fine fettle and she can still shake a leg when called upon, which happily she is in every scene.

David Engel (who excelled in 3D’s recent OC revival of “The Producers”) complements Caron nicely, as her instructor Michael. And while Alfieri’s two-character two-act confection may at first look like fluff, it’s got a few surprises and conflicts up its sleeve; however, a ringing telephone is overused as a dramatic device. Michael Arabian’s deft direction and Donna McKechnie’s smooth musical staging keep things humming, but the theatre’s acoustics could use some sprucing up. Call 949-497-ARTS or visit
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Craig Calman’s “100 Years of Brodies with Hal Roach” (now available in paperback from BearManor Media) is not intended as a definitive bio of the movie comedy pioneer, as he tells us at the outset. Richard W. Bann, Roach’s close friend and confidant, will hopefully bring us that book one day; in the meantime Calman has made a valiant effort to chronicle the life and career of the producer who brought us Laurel and Hardy, Harold Lloyd, Our Gang, Charley Chase, “Topper” and much more.

“Taking a Brodie,” Calman tells us, is slang for surviving a great stunt or surmounting a catastrophe—something Roach (1892-1992) did throughout his century on the planet. The author drew not only on quotes and information gleaned from his long friendship with Roach, but the collection of his papers at USC; much detail on movie and TV deals that came undone, loans, lawsuits and the like are covered. While virtually everything is sourced, the lack of an index is a major flaw; there’s also too much “Hal and I” reminiscence.

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