Cleo King’s Open Mic
This Week In Theatre
Reviewed by Dan Berkowitz
I’m the new theatre reviewer for The Los Angeles Post. I was going to say I’m replacing Rose Desena as the Post’s reviewer, but ain’t no one ever gonna replace the inimitable Rose – have fun in New York!
Before long, you’ll see my name regularly in this column, reviewing some of the best – and probably a few of the worst – shows playing in the area.
But the first few weeks of a new year are always slow in the theatre. While we’re waiting for everyone to get over their hangovers and get back to work, I figured I’d start my tenure here by telling you about one of the best shows in town, which happens every week, is always new, costs hardly anything… and where you can have a glass of wine while you’re watching (always a good thing in my book!)
It’s called Cleo King’s Open Mic, and the curtain goes up every Thursday night at 8:00 at North Hollywood’s Two Roads Theatre. As the title indicates, the mic is open, and that means ya takes yer chances when it comes to the performers: every once in a while, you may find yourself staring at your shoes, hoping against hope that the floor will open and swallow that guy up there who’s making your life miserable. But since performers are strictly limited to 5 minutes apiece, hell (if it happens) is blessedly brief.
And fortunately, Cleo knows a lot of furiously talented people who love to show up and perform, and when the show hits – which is waaaay more often than not – you’ll find yourself exhilarated.
At the center is Cleo King herself. You’ll recognize her, maybe from her many film appearances, including in Transformers 4. Maybe because she’s in her fifth season as a regular on the TV hit Mike and Molly, in which she plays Grandma to an actor whose age is closer to her brother’s – ah, show biz! But she’s also a stage veteran with an infectious smile, a joyous warmth, and boundless good will – not to mention an amazing singing voice – and she knows how to keep an audience in the palm of her hand. Most weeks, she turns the emcee role over to one of a rotating group of guest hosts; when she herself takes the stage, the show becomes even more magical.
Performers show up early, write their names on slips of paper, and put them in a jar. When the emcee pulls a name out of the jar, you’re up. It’s wildly unscripted, and in any given night you may see veterans of decades in the biz alternating with newcomers to LA and occasionally someone who’s never set foot on a stage.
But the secret is there are also “regulars” who stop by more often than not, and some of them are dynamite. If you’re lucky, you’ll find yourself listening to singer/ guitarist Margaret Flynn, whose crystalline simplicity will take your breath away. Or Michael Colyar, whose seemingly offhand but exquisitely honed comedy riffs will have you clutching your aching cheeks in a vain attempt to stop laughing.
Perhaps it will be Prudence Richmond, who usually does stand-up comedy, but who will be trying out a fierce dramatic monologue. Or Tabitha Christopher, a mesmerizing performer, whose riveting, original, brilliantly told stories are nothing short of thrilling.
The audience is encouraged to cheer, but, as Ms King puts it with a raised eyebrow, “We only cheer here.” Negativity is verboten. The mantra of the evening – as conveyed at the start of the show in a hilarious song-and-dance routine by Broadway veteran Kevin Yee – is “We create [clap clap], and we support [I got yo’ back!]” Oldtimers are celebrated, newbies are encouraged, and everyone is exhorted to have an ebullient good time.
It’s enough to make even an old grouch like me smile. And the wine doesn’t hurt…
Cleo King’s Open Mic
8:00 PM, doors open 7:20 PM
Two Roads Theatre
4348 Tujunga Avenue
Studio City, CA
Snacks and beverages available
Performer signup starts at 7:20 PM, first-come first-serve.