Children of the ’70s will almost certainly remember “Schoolhouse Rock,” the little animated educational segments set to catchy music that ran between Saturday morning cartoons. Nostalgia waits for no man, however, so the Greenway Arts Alliance is presenting the L.A. premiere professional production of “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” Fortunately, the quality of these songs holds up well, so both adults and kids will find something to appreciate here. Unfortunately, book authors Scott Ferguson, George Keating and Kyle Hall offer a stale connecting story and an earnest tone when the material cries out for snarky wit.
The story, such as it is, concerns new schoolteacher Tom (Eduardo Enrikez). The night before he teaches his first class, he’s nervous about speaking to his students. He’s a bit alarmed when five people emerge from his TV to help prepare him for his first day, but when he realizes that they’re just going to sing him songs about grammar and multiplication, he gratefully accepts his possible mental breakdown.
The six actors sing well in harmony, and each has at least one solo highlight. Enrikez is unable, understandably, to make the feeble connecting story about Tom interesting, but he demonstrates a likeable charisma in “Ready or Not, Here I Come.” Elaine Loh is blessed with a lovely and powerful voice, and she lights up the theater with her energetic perfs of “Sufferin’ Till Suffrage” and “Elbow Room.”
Susan Rudick uses her higher voice expertly in “Unpack Your Adjectives” and “Interplanet Janet,” and Chad Borden brings comedic skill to bear in the tongue-twisting “Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla.” Antoine Reynaldo Diel is quite amusing in “Just a Bill,” and Tameka Dawn uses her mellow singing voice to fine effect throughout.
Director Mark Savage has a few moments of genuine cleverness, such as having the singers for “Lolly, Lolly, Lolly” inhale helium or using a video camera perspective trick in “Great American Melting Pot,” but his staging and pacing overall seem a bit listless, and the show lacks the visual pizzazz one might expect with this material. Brian Paul Mendoza’s choreography brings much-needed vitality.