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'Celebrity Autobiography' a long, sweaty experience

  • Article by: JESSICA BAKEMAN
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • July 19, 2011 - 12:35 PM

"Celebrity Autobiography" would have been better without the celebrities.

Of course, that's impossible, as the show itself, which made a one-night tour stop at the Loring Theater in Minneapolis on Friday, is about celebrities -- a nearly two-hour stand-up piece where C-list actors read ridiculous works written by such slightly bigger names as Suzanne Somers (erotic poetry), Tiger Woods (golf instructions chock full of innuendo) and Madonna (an account of her having sex with a high-school boy).

While the cast highlighted laughable writing by celebrities who have no business trying their hands at a book, the performers displayed an air of arrogance that manifested in both the late start time (the 7:30 p.m. and the 9:30 p.m. shows each began 20 to 30 minutes late in a theater with little or no air conditioning) and the crawling pace of the show. Self-loving actors Illeana Douglas and Eugene Pack, for example, waited between sentences and words when they felt the audience hadn't laughed enough for them to go on.

The lesser-known actors, like George Keller who has been seen locally at the Guthrie and Penumbra Theatre, or Courtney McClean, who hops between Fringe Festivals with one-woman shows, were less self-indulgent, more in character and overall more fun to watch. The show would have worked much better with actors who didn't show us their attitudes and focused on the smartly arranged material.

The best performances were by "Ugly Betty's" hilarious Michael Urie, who stole each of his scenes and began the show with his reading of "Don't Hassel the Hoff," by, well, David Hasselhoff. "Nobody knew that the sand was hotter than hell and the water was toxic," Hasselhoff writes of his time at "Baywatch."

While Urie's youthful energy was fun to watch in the bare-bones production, Tim Bagley, a Minneapolitan seen in "Will and Grace" and "Monk," is a seasoned presence who emphasized acting over getting laughs. As a result, he got more laughs -- especially as Burt Reynolds defended his side of the story (in "My Life") against ex-wife Lonnie Anderson's autobiography ("My Life in High Heels").

Though "Celebrity Autobiography's" concept is fun and well executed -- especially the "mash-ups" where several celebrities' accounts of the same event or similar topics were woven together, the professional amateurs reading the lines were simply not worth the wait.

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