When Hollywood star Steve Guttenberg served as honorary mayor of Pacific Palisades from 2002 to 2006, he formed a close friendship with Arnie Wishnick, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, whose job includes finding a “mayor” every two years.
Guttenberg and Wishnick have again teamed up, this time as executive producers of The Marvelous Wonderettes, a musical comedy opening Nov. 7 and running through Dec. 14 at Pierson Playhouse on Temescal Canyon Road.
This production, focused on four high school seniors preparing for their prom, initially premiered on off-Broadway at the West Side Theatre in September 2008. The New York Times praised the show, calling it “One irresistible musical! An utter charm bomb!”
Guttenberg and Wishnick were asked about their qualifications to steer a musical that stars four adorable, talented young women.
Although neither man has ever been an executive producer for a stage production, Wishnick was quick to point out he co-produced Damn Yankees at Theatre Palisades in 1999 and The Pajama Game in 2002. “I was associated with two hit musicals, but then it was time to take a rest,” Wishnick said. He might still be resting, but locals were beginning to wonder what happened to show-business Arnie, who used to write movie reviews for the Palisadian-Post—was he dead or alive?
“I knew I had to find a show in a hurry, and lay rumor to rest,” Wishnick said. “I had seen this show several times. The music is terrific, and once Guttenberg was on board, I knew I was back in show business.”
In his producing debut, Guttenberg is equally confident. “Arnie is my leader. I do what he wants. Plus the food is good.”
One of the most important duties of a Theatre Palisades producer is to make sure the cast is well-fed.
Guttenberg, who is bicoastal—including a home in the Highlands—is currently filming Lavalantula at locations in Arizona, Los Angeles and New York.
“I play Colton West, a washed-up action star who saves Los Angeles from giant lava-spewing spiders,” he said. The co-star of Police Academy, Three Men and a Baby, Diner and Cocoon recently finished an acclaimed run on Broadway in Woody Allen’s play, Honeymoon Hotel.
Guttenberg has also written a middle school book, Kids from D.I.S.C.O., which is available online and in bookstores.
In describing the difference between acting on stage and film, Guttenberg said: “Stage is a blast when you are sailing along. When it’s stuck [not working], it’s not so fulfilling.”
By contrast, “With film you only have to hit a home run once every set up.”
Wishnick and Guttenberg have attended several Wonderettes rehearsals, but wonder if producing is all it’s cracked up to be, as far as perks.
The actor, for example, is anxious about the opening night performance. “I’m waiting for my invitation,” he said last week. “I heard it was sold out, and as of today, I’m number eight on the waiting list.”
He was asked if his partner could help him out, but he said that Wishnick was number seven.
This high-power executive team may hear ‘50s and ‘60s songs featured in the musical, such as “Lollipop,” “Dream Lover,” “Lipstick on Your Collar” and “It’s My Party,” from the lobby.
Avoid their fate by booking your tickets early for The Marvelous Wonderettes, directed by Lewis Hauser and staring Lauren Gaw (Suzy), Kara Koinuma (B.J.), Michelle Zelina (Cindy Lou) and Amanda Leigh Kraft (Missy).
The show, written by Roger Bean, with musical arrangements by Brian William Baker, will play Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 and Sunday at 2 p.m. Adults are $25 and seniors/students are $20. Call (310) 454-1970 or visit theatrepalisades.com.