Little Me

Rated 3.0 The story behind the Fair Oaks Theatre Festival’s Little Me is every bit as interesting as the show itself. Little Me is an acidic satire of the tell-all celebrity biography, detailing the rise of busty Belle Poitrine from Midwestern poverty to wealth, notoriety and Hollywood—with several brief, opportune marriages along the way.The original production reached Broadway in November 1962 and seemed to have everything going for it: a script by Neil Simon, choreography by Bob Fosse, and seven comic characters (Belle’s lovers) made to order for star Sid Caesar. Several of the songs are quite good. The show netted multiple Tony nominations and ran for 267 performances. It was hardly a bomb.

But Little Me fell into eclipse following John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963—the show’s comic gunplay was out of sync with the nation’s post-assassination mood. Little Me also struggles to have things both ways: despite her many men, we’re asked to believe that Belle and her Bush-like boyfriend Noble Eggleston are truly in love—but the show severely satirizes both at the same time.

Little Me was revised for Broadway in the 1980s, deleting some cynical songs; it flopped. Locally, the Music Circus staged the play in 1991 but never brought it back. Little Me finally generated a Tony in 1999 (for Martin Short in the Caesar roles).

The Fair Oaks production features versatile Dan Slauson as Belle’s many men. Slauson is hugely energetic and frequently funny as he sails over the top again and again. Jen Belt does a fine job as the young Belle, innocently smiling as her loverboys drop dead from one cause or another. Deane Calvin is the portly, older Belle, reflecting on her life for the benefit of a ghostwriter. Director Bob Irvin puts the comedy foremost—much of it stemming from situations contrasting stingy wealth vs. want, but played for smiles rather than sneers. This is not your typical, feel-good musical, even though the distinction may be lost on many in the pleasure-oriented Fair Oaks audience.

Little Me plays at 8:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday as well as at Thursday shows on July 10, 17 and 24; $10-$12. Veterans Memorial Amphitheatre on California Avenue in Fair Oaks Village, (916) 966-3683. Through July 27.