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Volume 15, Issue 22  | March 17, 2023Subscribe

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Lagunatics celebrates “30 years of Yucks” with an anniversary show that’s hilarious, nostalgic and quintessentially Laguna


Photos by Jeff Rovner

This story is a part of our Arts section. Visit for more arts stories as well as our arts calendars.

If you can’t laugh at yourself, life is going to seem a whole lot longer than you’d like. –Natalie Portman

Few things take the sting out of nasty local politics, impossible parking, rude tourists and sewage spills like humor. Fortunately, we live in a town that loves to laugh – and never harder than when it’s laughing at itself. Lagunatics founder and director Bree Burgess Rosen has been on hand for 30 years to show us how. 

The annual parody show was the brainchild of Burgess Rosen in the early ‘90s. Since then, she and her team of creatives have sought out the town’s many Achilles heels and whacked away. They’ve remastered more than 400 songs with side-splitting lyrics over the course of those decades. “It’s comedy therapy,” Burgess Rosen said. “Not a cure for cancer, but pretty close.” 

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Lagunatics performing “All That Beach” (a take-off on “All That Jazz”) at the 30th anniversary show now on stage at the Forum Theatre through March 26

Winnowing those 400 songs down to 20 for their anniversary show was no easy feat. Highlights include our fire-prevention goats, the beloved City Hall peppertree, those overfed sea lions at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center (PMMC) and the revenue-rich Montage Resort, to name just a few. “I have great memories of doing all these songs the first time around,” Burgess Rosen said. “With friends that have moved on and some who have passed, it’s bittersweet. But [we’re making] new memories with this 30th anniversary. After all, I’m doing this crazy thing about my favorite town and with some of my favorite people on the planet. That’s pretty sweet.”

Like every good revival, Lagunatics called back old cast members of yore to perform the numbers they were once famous for back in the day. With a cast numbering nearly two dozen, wearing costumes as zany as the lyrics, they dance, prance and sashay across the stage, making their audiences remember why we all love living here, warts and all.

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Many former Lagunatics cast members returned for the anniversary show, dusting off their costumes and vocal chords to revive their greatest hits

“If you’re local, it’s a must see because we’re laughing at everything that makes Laguna Laguna,” said Lynn Epstein, who began with Lagunatics in 2004 and performed with them for nine years. “The comedy in the show is brilliant. Whether it’s delivered through cleverly written songs, funny dance steps or costumes, everyone is entertained.”

Taking comedic aim at its theatrical competition, the “celebrated cultural cash cow” known as the Pageant of the Masters, “In the Nude” “stripped away the Pageant’s veneer of respectability to uncover the naked truth behind its success.” A trio of marble statues (played by Bridget English, Susan Geiser and Yvonne Browning) hold binoculars to zoom in on the titillating scenes. “It’s so artistic and voyeuristic!”

Speaking of cash cows, Bobby Pickett’s “Monster Mash” is recast as “Montage Cash,” with witty (and accurate) lyrics like, “The City Council had come to this conclusion: our tax base was going to get a big infusion.” Wearing a rhinestone-embellished tuxedo and holding a martini glass, Steve McIntosh brought the perfect booming voice to his role. 

McIntosh first performed in the show in 2007 and remained in Lagunatics until 2014 (though he appeared on the No Square Theatre stage in other productions since). “It’s much like riding a bike,” he said. “When you get to the theater, it all comes back to you.” 

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Music Director Roxanna Ward brought down the house with her comedy routines and piano improvs. “I never thought I’d grow a hair…there,” she quipped before busting out “Are You Older Tonight?” (a spoof on Roy Turk’s and Lou Handman’s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”)

While the stage may feel the same, bodies change with time. “I can tell you, it’s a lot tougher both physically and mentally being well into one’s 60s than in the 40s,” McIntosh said. “The choreography is a tough one to figure out if you don’t do it often. Believe me, the aches have shown up and I’ve got a couple of braces that are now part of my costume underwear!”

Epstein may have felt the passage of time, as well. “I asked Bree, ‘Did you deliberately put me in every dance number that’s more than four minutes?’ My cardiovascular abilities have improved!”

“There are a lot of moving parts to a show like this,” McIntosh said. “Costume changes, set movements, props, curtains, entrances and exits. And did I mention [the] costume changes? There is nothing crazier than trying to make a two-minute costume change when you have a clothes rack with dozens of costumes on it in a small space with 20 other performers. It is basically controlled chaos. It’s part of the backstage ballet. Eventually you figure out everyone’s patterns of movement, so you know what lurks behind a corner when rushing to get in place for the next number. Nothing is more frightening than turning a corner backstage in the dark and coming face to face with a sea lion!” 

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Kristen Matson and Colin McDonald star as PMMC sealions in “As Long As He Feeds Me,” from Lionel Bart’s “As Long As He Needs Me”

Lagunatics began in the Forum Theatre in 1992. Burgess Rosen decided to return to its stage for the anniversary show. “I produced all our shows there for many years, so [the Forum] is certainly familiar,” she said. “C.W. Keller, the theater manager, is a great guy and I’ve known him for 30 years, so [I] love that. It’s got curtains I’m deeply jealous of and the stage is more than double the size of No Square, which allows me to include more goofballs in the cast. That’s my favorite thing.”

Still, Burgess Rosen said, there’s no place like home. “I miss being in our own place. It’s tiny, but it’s home, and any snags can be addressed quickly by running in the back and grabbing a solution – [a] new mic, costume addition, new prop, a fistful of rhinestones...” 

Not to mention, moving the entire sound system across town during parade traffic was no easy feat. Fortunately, their moving truck won the Grand Marshal’s trophy. “We needed to get across town and between No Square Theatre being on one side of the parade closers and the Forum on the other, I thought it would be a fun work around,” Burgess Rosen said. “It was!” 

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Lagunatics founder, co-director, writer, cast member, and applier of rhinestones and hand sanitizer, the legendary Bree Burgess Rosen

For all the fun and laughs, Lagunatics also provides an enduring sense of community for its members. No Square’s new Artistic Director Ella Wyatt lost her dad just as the show began rehearsals. “It was so wonderful to be with such a lovely group of people when it was so hard for me to do much else,” Wyatt said. “It’s been kind of therapeutic in a way.” 

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No Square Theatre’s new Artistic Director Ella Wyatt stars in “Rolling in T.P.,” a humorous take on Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”

The old cliché about laughter being the best medicine proved true this year. The anniversary provided the perfect time to reflect on the past three decades and all the crazy times our town and its residents have endured. Remember that the next time you’re searching for a parking space, cut off by a tourist, or trying to push a remodel through Design Review. Take a breath and laugh because life in Laguna is a collective and often an entertaining adventure.

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Backstage with the Lagunatics cast posing with Laguna local Moorea Howson (front row, second from right) for the Sunday, March 12 special performance of Theatre on the Spectrum

More information and ticketing options can be found on the No Square Theatre website by clicking here. Lagunatics plays weekends through March 26.

This story is a part of our Arts section. Visit for more arts stories as well as our arts calendars.

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