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No Way to Treat a Lady

Douglas J. Cohen's musical comedy-thriller "No Way to Treat a Lady" prefers jokes to jolts.

Morris Brummell - Kevin Symons Flora/Mrs. Sullivan/Alexandra/ Carmella/Sadie - Heather Lee Christopher "Kit" Gill - Jack Noseworthy Sarah Stone - Erica Piccininni

Eouglas J. Cohen’s musical comedy-thriller “No Way to Treat a Lady” (based on the novel by William Goldman) prefers jokes to jolts, but it’s amusing enough that this is a small complaint. The frequently witty lyrics largely make up for the unfortunately somewhat generic score. The entertaining new L.A. premiere production at the Colony Theater capitalizes on the tuner’s virtues with a strong cast and smart direction.

The life of New York City police detective Morris Brummell (Kevin Symons) is foundering. His career is stagnant and living with his demanding mother, Flora (Heather Lee), isn’t helping matters. Things change when failed actor Christopher “Kit” Gill (Jack Noseworthy) strangles a series of people and calls Morris to hopefully get the cop to publicize his crimes. In the midst of this case, Morris meets wealthy young socialite Sarah (Erica Piccininni) and falls for her. Through his case and his new relationship with Sarah, Morris sees a way to improve his life, but Kit is a clever opponent and has no intention of giving up the limelight.

Kevin Symons is fine as Morris, but he’s hampered by the blandness of the character, who essentially serves as straight man to all the others. Noseworthy brings a flamboyant joie de vivre with an undercurrent of neurotic unhappiness to his portrayal of Gill. His vocal turn on “Only a Heartbeat Away” is funny and macabre, and his performance of “Still” is affecting and ultimately chilling. Lee is terrific in multiple roles, from the domineering Flora to the down-at-heels Sadie, from her sly perf of “I Hear Humming” to her delightful duet with Sarah, “So Much in Common.” Finally, Piccininni is charming as Sarah, demonstrating a lovely voice in her duet with Morris, “So Far, So Good,” and impressing with her vocal range and talent in “One of the Beautiful People.”

West Hyler and Shelley Butler’s direction makes intelligent use of the space and lighting to create many different locations, and they’re equally comfortable staging high-energy comedic numbers such as “Front Page News” and eerily effective set-pieces such as “Still.” Sibyl Wickersheimer’s set is an efficient multitasker but seems a bit drab and undetailed. Paloma Young’s costumes are professional, and the reliable Jeremy Pivnick’s lighting ably supports the show. Dean Mora’s musical direction is capable, and Jane Lanier’s additional choreography adds visual flair, particular in numbers such as “Safer in My Arms.”

No Way to Treat a Lady

Colony Theater, Los Angeles; 276 seats; $42 top

Production: A Colony Theater Company presentation of a musical in two acts with book, music and lyrics by Douglas J. Cohen. Directed by West Hyler and Shelley Butler.

Crew: Sets, Sibyl Wickersheimer; costumes, Paloma Young; lighting, Jeremy Pivnick; sound, Drew Dalzell; additional choreography, Jane Lanier; musical direction, Dean Mora; production stage manager, Vernon Willet. Opened, reviewed April 18, 2009. Runs through May 17. Running time: 2 HOURS, 25 MIN.

Cast: Morris Brummell - Kevin Symons Flora/Mrs. Sullivan/Alexandra/ Carmella/Sadie - Heather Lee Christopher "Kit" Gill - Jack Noseworthy Sarah Stone - Erica Piccininni

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