Fans of the original “Saturday Night Live” will recognize Laraine Newman’s face (think valley girls and coneheads). The Westwood resident is now more frequently heard than seen as an in-demand animation voiceover actress. Now she’s showcasing both her vocal and improv talents live onstage as a repeat performer at the latest rendition of the hit show, “Celebrity Autobiography,” returning to the Grammy Museum on Aug. 15.
You need nothing more than celebrities’ own words to create the hilarious script for these immensely popular staged readings. Themed to its location, “The Music Edition, Vol. 3” skewers memoirs by Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears and Motley Crue, read by the likes of Newman, Lainie Kazan, Melissa Manchester, Fred Willard, Rita Wilson and more.
In “Celebrity Mash Up,” dueling memoirs are performed onstage by the entire cast (like the point-counterpoint of relationship memoirs by Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson). Playing to sell out audiences in New York since 2008 and now L.A., it’s also a hit show on Bravo TV network.
The producers of “Celebrity Autobiography” offered Newman a real challenge this time, she says. “I only know at this point that I’ll be reading from Cher’s book on diet and exercise. I really have to work hard on getting laughs with that one.”
Though she doesn’t fit the typical Coachella Music Festival age demographic, Newman’s a fan and a natural fit for this music edition: “My passion for Coachella is historic, starting with my searching out music when I was a teenager. I would go to the Ash Grove [now the Improv West Hollywood] to see people like Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Taj Mahal, Willie Dixon and the Chicago All Stars featuring T-Bone Walker … pretty much every act you saw in the movie ‘Cadillac Records.’ Now I’m a human oddity in the dub-step tents at Coachella.”
Rather than merely sneering at the stars whose memoirs she reads, Newman approaches them sympathetically: “As a writer of sorts myself I know I instantly regret what I’ve put down on paper. I never judge others who have the guts to do it no matter what kind of folly it turns out to be. When I ‘interpret’ I try to break it down into sections that really highlight what’s going on in the text. I think that exposes the humor best.”
These shows sell out, and it’s an intimate setting, so get seats fast. The fun begins at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 15 at the Grammy Museum, 800 W. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles. For tickets call (213) 765-6800 or visit www.grammymuseum.org/programs.
Air waves, beach waves
Once upon a time, radio stations were locked into land-based studios. Not so anymore, as classical KUSC-FM is proving.
Popular program host Rich Capparela will be broadcasting from a studio with a view of the waves riding into Santa Monica Bay — right in his own Santa Monica condo.
The antithesis to the stereotype of the stuffy classical DJ, Capparela’s thrilled to be doing “KUSC at the Beach.”
“This whole beach thing is crazy cool. Chalk it up to enlightened management,” Rich told me in an e-mail exchange between two old friends.
It’s about attitude and approach, Rich said. “‘KUSC at the Beach’ lets the public know that classical music doesn’t have to be presented as if it were a dusky museum exhibit. The idea is to let down my remaining hair a bit and let the view of the waves inform the delivery,” he joked.
“’KUSC at the Beach’ also reflects the westward shift of the arts in Southern California. In spite of the Civic Auditorium situation, things are actually looking up for the arts in Santa Monica. The Broad Stage is really taking off; we now have two symphony orchestras instead of one.
“I’m just riding that wave, dude.”
Hear KUSC at 91.5 FM and streaming online at www.kusc.org.
Beverly Hills International Music Festival
An under-the-radar, but much beloved music festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
The Beverly Hills International Music Festival aims to provide the Westside with affordable, high-quality concerts in which world-class musicians participate with local professionals and faculty to offer young musicians master classes, workshops, private instruction, group rehearsals and public performances.
Maestro Gregory Cherninsky, who founded and conducted the Odessa Chamber Orchestra, moved from his native Ukraine to the U.S. in 1988. In 2001 he took the helm of the David Nowakowsky Foundation, overseeing the noted synagogue music composer’s archives as well as directing and conducting his namesake music festival.
In 2003, Cherninsky set up his own nonprofit to celebrate his love of music and to create opportunities for young people to continue the classical and modern-classical music tradition.
Concerts include evenings of Jewish, Austrian and chamber music, a student concert and a Festival Orchestra closing concert.
Featured musicians include Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa, pianist Tatiana Tchekina, composer Assaf Rinde, mezzo-soprano Iris Malkin, Japanese violinist Dr. Sachika Mizuno and violist Kaoru Ono.
Faculty and guest artists come from as far away as Tokyo, Toronto, Belgrade, Moscow and Yerevan, and from music departments at USC, Cal State Fullerton, Chapman University, Willamette University and Pepperdine.
Seven concerts take place between Friday, Aug. 2 and Sunday, Aug. 11 at Temple Emanuel, 8844 Burton Way in Beverly Hills. Call (310) 779-7622 or visit www.bhmusicfestival.org.
Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.