When three of New Orleans’ top comedic performers team up for a show, anything goes.
That’s what’s in store when Ricky Graham, Sean Patterson and Jeffery Roberson (aka Varla Jean Merman) combine their acting and singing skills with their flair for satire in the world premiere of “Ditzyland.”
Billed as “a very adult send-up of fairy tale madness,” the show will open at Café Istanbul today and run on weekends through Jan. 17.
In this good-natured skewering of familiar Disney animated features, the trio will lampoon such classics as “Cinderella,” “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Mary Poppins,” “Snow White,” “Peter Pan” and many others.
Jefferson Turner will accompany them on piano during their musical numbers which, for legal reasons, will feature new, humorous lyrics. Su Gonczy, former general manager of the recently shuttered Mid-City Theatre and who has worked with all three actors in past productions, will be overseeing the lighting and sound.
Graham, Patterson and Roberson will open the show posing as Mouseketeers. Then, throughout the action, the three of them will change into the costumes of the Disney characters they’re portraying.
Stage manager Brian Johnson will be responsible for getting the actors in and out of their costumes in time to perform their skits.
“We always wanted to do a show about Disney characters and, unlike the other things we’ve done, this is more of a revue,” said Graham, who is also directing the show.
“We’re having a lot of fun with this format. Each sequence will go maybe five to eight minutes and then we’ll move on to something new,” he said.
The show itself, Graham said, will run about an hour and twenty minutes with no intermission.
Graham likened the production’s creative process to the old “Dick Van Dyke Show” in which some of the main characters are members of a writing team for a comedy show. “We’re all in a room together with everyone pitching ideas and Sean is sitting there typing them all down. This is the way comic writers have been doing it since the early days of TV.”
However, even though “Ditzyland” will be scripted, Graham noted that the audience can expect a good deal of improvising.
Patterson described the show as “kind of a freewheeling take on the Disney shows that we all know and love. We check our pride at the door and just go with the most shameless, inappropriate, ridiculous things that we can do to make fun of this material.”
Among the characters Patterson will spoof are Timon, the meerkat from “The Lion King”; Tinkerbell from “Peter Pan”; Sebastian the crab from “The Little Mermaid”; one of the stepsisters from “Cinderella”; Michael Banks from “Mary Poppins; and Aladdin.
While not willing to term the show a “work in progress,” Patterson acknowledged that “It’s a living, breathing kind of show. All our stuff is like that. That’s the nature of doing original material. You’re always fine-tuning it and making it better, and you learn from the audience. You figure out what they like and what they think is funny and you go with it.”
Roberson will be handling most of the female roles through a famous alter ego, Varla Jean Merman. These include the title characters in “Peter Pan,” “Snow White,” “Cinderella,” Belle (from “Beauty and the Beast”), “The Little Mermaid” and Jasmine in “Alladin,” which will include some commentary on the current situation in the Middle East.
“That song (from ‘Alladin’), ‘A Whole New World,’ is very appropriate because it is a whole new world over there,” Roberson said. “We’re able to lampoon it without being too offensive, I hope.”
Roberson added: “Even though this is based on Disney characters, this isn’t something you would bring young children to. … It’s not dirty but we like to use a lot of innuendo. That’s the fun part about trying to make it a little more clever.”