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The Days When Cocaine Was King

With the current proliferation of'60s and '70s rock bands that refuse to die, it is easy to accept the premise that a never-quite-made-it quartet of '70s rockers known as the Larrys would have the audacity to celebrate their less-than-stellar careers with a 25th anniversary bash.

With:
The Larrys - Ro Chambeaux, Sketch Noonan, Spank Dangler, Johnny Viagra Young Ro - Josh Thorpe Young Spank - Brandon Loeser Young Johnny - Eli Thomas Young Sketch - Robert Guthrie Carla - Rennie Salomon Juanita - Giselle Tongi Pablo - Robert Frannicola Older Pablo - Javier Guillen Dancers - Annie Rollins, Kaotor Dee, Adrienne Larsen, Laura Castle, Christy Barker

With the current proliferation of’60s and ’70s rock bands that refuse to die, it is easy to accept the premise that a never-quite-made-it quartet of ’70s rockers known as the Larrys would have the audacity to celebrate their less-than-stellar careers with a 25th anniversary bash. Scripted and helmed by John J. Fanelli, this rock tuner features a competent score and some impressive perfs, but is undermined by a throwaway plot and a constant infusion of lame dance routines.

The Larrys — Ro Chambeaux (vocals, rhythm guitar, bongos), Johnny Viagra (lead guitar), Spank Dangler (bass) and Sketch Noonan (electronics, samplers) — have been semi-regular fixtures on the local rock scene, proclaiming their “rocktronic funk” in such clubs as the Whisky, the House of Blues and the Key Club. Their quirky, Frank Zappa-esque repertoire, which includes such well-executed ditties as “I’m in Love (With a Bitch I Can’t Stand),” “Menage a Trois” and “Two Parts Angel (One Part Skank),” is constantly enlivened by Chambeaux’s zesty vocals and Viagra’s facile lead guitar riffs. Dangler is rock-solid on bass.

Here, however, the Larrys should have kept the music and thrown away the script.

To make the tunes work in a thematic context, Fanelli has concocted an obtuse storyline that plays out like a warped version of “Follies.” While the real Larrys observe from the bandstand, younger versions of them re-enact the lows and really lows of the band’s rise from non-entity to obscurity.

The central plot point is young Ro’s (Josh Thorpe) constant problems with the opposite sex, beginning with bitchy wife Carla (Rennie Salomon), who finally leaves him for another woman (Annie Rollins), played to the bouncy rhythms of “I’m a Lesbian.”

By the time Ro wins, loses and reconnects with the true love of his life, Juanita (Giselle Tongi), the storyline has disintegrated into an incoherent mishmash that ostensibly resolves itself when Ro decides to get a real job (“Rock ‘n’ Roll Insurance Salesman”).

The quartet of Thorpe, Brandon Loeser, Eli Thomas and Robert Guthrie exude the callow baseness of rocker wannabes who are more than willing to wallow in whatever excess is available, whether it be sex, drugs or rock ‘n’ roll.

Tongi radiates such a deep sensuality it is easy to believe her memory would haunt Ro’s psyche. Salomon is impressively comical as the less-than-satisfied Carla.

The quirky, mime-infused dance moves of Annie Rollins manage to occasionally distract from the woefully inadequate choreography of Tania L. Pearson.

The lights and costumes of Michael Panman and Jyothi Doughman, respectively, are spectacular. Too bad the production doesn’t live up to the glitz that surrounds it.

The Days When Cocaine Was King

American Renegade Theater, North Hollywood, 99 seats; $20 top

Production: Stage Music Prods. presents a musical play in two acts, with book by John J. Fanelli, music and lyrics by the Larrys. Directed by John J. Fanelli.

Crew: Musical direction, Ro Chambeaux; choreography, Tania L. Pearson. Lights, Michael Panman; costumes, Jyothi Doughman. Opened and reviewed April 23, 2004; runs through May 29. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: The Larrys - Ro Chambeaux, Sketch Noonan, Spank Dangler, Johnny Viagra Young Ro - Josh Thorpe Young Spank - Brandon Loeser Young Johnny - Eli Thomas Young Sketch - Robert Guthrie Carla - Rennie Salomon Juanita - Giselle Tongi Pablo - Robert Frannicola Older Pablo - Javier Guillen Dancers - Annie Rollins, Kaotor Dee, Adrienne Larsen, Laura Castle, Christy Barker

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