The New York Times
October 4, 1992
Hollywood Is Spoofed In Musical
By Leah D. Frank
A few years ago, Hollywood Exposed! had it premiere at the small Second Stage Theater of Theater Three in Port Jefferson. Since then, its composer, lyricist and director, Michael Tester, has been writing and rewriting to hone the rough spots. The result is an utterly charming new version of Hollywood Exposed!.
The film industry has recently been exploring the effects of mingling cartoon characters with human characters to create an unusual blend of fiction and fantasy. In Hollywood Exposed! Mr. Tester is able to add more dimensions to those effects, because he is dealing with live actors.
There are actors who mingle with the audience, the theater usher who turns out to be a character in the play and film characters who are played by the cast. There is throughout Hollywood Exposed! a masterly mix of fiction, fantasy and reality.
The show opens, as most shows do, when the lights go down. Before that, however, the woman who turns out to be the star of Hollywood Exposed! banters with the audience in the theater lobby, gives general information like where the restrooms and exits are and is the chief usher.
She also leads an audience warm-up of questions and answers on movie trivia. It is not until the show begins, in fact, that the audience is aware that this warm, funny woman is not only a splendid usher, but that she is also Susan Jeffares, who plays Bijou Bette, the central character in Hollywood Exposed!
As Bijou Bette, with her red-sequined pillbox hat, her bright red jacket with gold braids and huge movie-memorabilia buttons, Ms. Jeffares is a quintessential fan. She is plain and dumpy with her frizzy red hair and her blue cotton housedress. But when she dons her sparkling hat and red jacket to lead people to their seats in the theater, which is decorated as a movie house, she becomes the someone special who is part of the glitter and glamour of Hollywood.
Here, she is a flashlight-twirling monarch, and her subjects had better think twice about talking during the film or, heaven forbid, smoking in the nonsmoking section.
Bijou Bette blusters, bullies and shouts, but it is obvious that her life' passion is the movies. Ms. Jeffares radiates pleasure from every sequin as she leads the audience and the talented energetic cast through a wacky memory lane of Mr. Tester's skewed film world.
The show is a series of small musical skits like Friday the 13th - the Ballet, in which an actor points a gun and says, "Go ahead, make my plié." This is also the number in which the enthusiastic cast gathers in excitement about the fact that slasher films are being made. "Come on, kids!" one shouts. "Let's put on a show. The machetes are in the barn!"
Then there is the Pocahontas Polka, in which Elmer Fudd dances with wolves in Singin' in the Wayne. Maria Von Trapp does a commercial for Valium, in which she holds up a pill bottle and trills, "These are a few of my favorite things."
Ms. Jefares, who steals the show with her commanding presence, delightful smile and enormous talent, is backed by five multitalented actors who take on a variety of roles.
Although Mr. Tester needs to do a small amount of additional work before he can call Hollywood Exposed! finished, this production is as good as can be imagined.
The set, designed by Len Borovay and Daniel R. Lowis, incorporates giant film reels, life-size photos of John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe and James Dean and a decoupage of film-magazine photographs, posters, popcorn boxes and shining stars made of foil. Mr. Tester's direction is smooth and effective, and the musicians are good enough to put on a show of their own.
Hollywood Exposed! is one of the first shows produced by the Victory Theater. What it lacks in money, it makes up for with imagination and theatrical daring. Starmites, a production early this year, indicated that the group was one to watch, and Hollywood Exposed! only adds to the initial favorable impression.
February 9, 1991
Satirical comedy exposes 'pun' with Hollywood
By Bill Von Maurer
There's a punny Valentine awaiting crisis-weary theatergoers at the Actors' Playhouse in Kendall.
Hollywood Exposed! has opened - no, that's not quite right - has burst forth at the movie house turned theater.
You have heard of theater of the absurd. Now enjoy theater of the outrageous. Hollywood Exposed! is surely that. It's loaded right up to the laugh line with puns, spoofs, satire, songs and takeoffs, with Hollywood movies as its target. Its cast is young, talented, rakish and self-parodying. It's simply great at a time when heavy, meaningful fare is all over the small theater menu in South Florida.
Hollywood Exposed! in its original version premiered in New York almost three years ago. Now it is here, freshened up by its creator Michael Tester and served up anew for the delectation of South Florida audiences.
Tester - author, composer and director - clearly has a genius for this kind of high-flying entertainment. His wit is mercurial and his rhymes mirthful.
The Actors' Playhouse staff makes a joyful noise unto hilarity. They are: Donna Kimball, Paul Louis, Laurie Miller, Ariane Nicole, Francisco Padura and Fermin Rojas. All of them are with-it performers, each one giving an outstanding segment sometime during the evening. It would be unfair to single any one of them out. This is ensemble comedy at its zaniest.
Tester has directed at top speed. The blackouts are so fast they have you blinking just to keep up.