About once every two years, Lakewood Theatre Company loses its collective mind. It has just happened again with their latest production, El Grande de Coca-Cola.
Written by Ron House, Diz White, Alan Shearman, and John Neville-Andrews, this musical tour-de-farce owes much to its origin story in a Barcelona bar in the 1960s where House met a one-eyed Norwegian named Knut who was producing a show called Parada de Estrellas up and down the Costa Brava. House signed on to be an advance man for the musical review, which featured, among other things, go-go dancers from the Dominican Republic and a master of ceremonies who like shooting guns as the show rolled into unsuspecting towns along the Costa Brava!
The tour was short-lived and nobody got paid. Knut was never seen again, and House returned to his native England penniless but inspired. There he founded a sketch comedy group called Low Moan Spectacular and channeled Parada de Estrellas into his own production, El Grande de Coca-Cola. More than 40 years later, this show is still bringing in the laughs, and deservedly so.
In this parody of a glitzy Latino night club, third-rate impresario Don Pepe Hernandez talks the local Coca-Cola bottling company into underwriting a show starring many well-known celebrities. On opening night, the featured performers are no-shows, but the show must go on, so Pepe Hernandez quickly drafts his relatives to take over their parts. The results are just about what one would expect–only funnier.
The review has everything–Hans Scheisshaus and the Germans, Italian gigolos, a magician, a séance, the Slap-Happies, Toulouse Lautrec, and some serious family rebellion. It draws heavily from vaudeville, mime, and the type of slapstick British humor that brought us Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, and Are You Being Served? There is not a reverent line in the show. It’s all in Spanish–except for the Germans–but rest assured, you will have no trouble following the action.
The talented cast includes Andrew Harris as Don Pepe Hernandez. The roles of his hapless relatives are taken by Eric Furuheim, Heather Ovalle, Franny Kromminga, and Sam Schultz. Directing the show is one of its original co-writers, Alan Shearman, a Los Angeles resident who over the past 20 years has directed 15 shows at Lakewood. Most recently, Shearman directed the world premiere of his comedy Bullshot Crummond: The Evil Eye of Jabar and the Invisible Bride of Death. That may have been the last time the Lakewood Theatre Company completely lost its mind!
El Grande de Coca-Cola runs through April 8 at Lakewood Center for the Arts in Lake Oswego.