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Celebrity Autobiography: The Next Chapter

Tony Danza, Rachel Dratch, Carol Kane, and Sherri Shepherd help to brilliantly bring the unintentionally hilarious words of the world's biggest stars and semi-stars to life.

Sherri Shepherd in
Celebrity Autobiography: The Next Chapter
(© Joan Marcus)
[Editor's note: Celebrity Autobiography: The Next Chapter uses a rotating cast of actors and material may change at certain performances. The following review reflects the Monday, October 10 performance.]

Throughout the 90 minutes of Celebrity Autobiography: The Next Chapter, the latest installment of the long-running and cleverly conceived entertainment by Eugene Pack and Dayle Reyfel at the Triad, audience members can usually be found doing one of two things -- sometimes simultaneously: laughing hysterically and letting their jaws drop to the floor as some of America's funniest stars read verbatim from the unintentionally hilarious autobiographies of some of the world's biggest stars (and semi-stars).

Most of these words are more-than-ripe for the picking: Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino (embodied by Alan Zweibel) describing, in rather florid language, his initiation into the mile-high club; Melissa Gilbert (deliciously read by Sherri Shepherd) recounting a rocky period in her relationship with Rob Lowe; David Hassellhoff (splendidly rendered by Tony Danza) recalling in ridiculous detail his experiences starring on Broadway in Jekyll & Hyde; and Ricky Martin (a properly self-important Pack) pretentiously explaining the difference between his public persona and his private one (which apparently goes by the nickname Kiki).

Other selections, equally ridiculous or not, benefit exponentially from the performers' superlative efforts. Carol Kane is simply side-splitting while imitating Carol Channing, as the Broadway legend recalls her nervousness at the 1964 Tony Awards (and adds in a few choice barbs at fellow nominee Barbra Streisand), while the brilliant Rachel Dratch uses her peerless deadpan to cheekily comment on the purportedly erotic musings of Madonna (from the briefly infamous tome Sex).

Kane, Dratch, and Shepherd also put their mimicry skills to excellent use in a series of mash-up readings. In the first, the three ladies alternate reading from the autobiographies of Tallulah Bankhead, Ethel Merman, and Kathleen Turner. As expected, it's simply divalicious.

In the second, Kane is deliriously delightful as Dolly Parton, Dratch is hysterical as Celine Dion, and Shepherd is blessedly over-the-top as Cher -- joined by Pack as Neil Sedaka and Danza as Barbra Streisand -- in a quintet of unsurpassed banality as these luminaries discuss their relationships with their favorite foods. You many never think about kale, M&Ms, or duck a l'orange in the same way again.

As in past outings, the evening ends with the greatest mash-up of all, as the love quadrangle of Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher, Richard Burton, and Elizabeth Taylor gets skewered beyond measure. (Shepherd's kittenish Taylor was the sequence's most pleasant surprise; Reyfel, as always, nails Reynolds' priceless naievete.)

Reading these books in the privacy of your home couldn't possibly be this much fun.


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