The Observer, North Providence North Star and The Johnston Sun Rise

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Mixed Nuts - A Pure Hoot

by: Dick Martin

Comic cabaret troupe
makes audience
involvement a must

What's funnier and more entertaining than a barrel of monkeys? How about a cabaret of Mixed Nuts?

Mixed Nuts, in fact, is the name of a group of entertainers whose name pretty much says it all.

Former members of the Ocean State Follies, the fivesome decided it was time to get away from politics and do something the state hasn't seen before.

We threw a bunch of stuff together and kind of let the show grow on its own, explains Kevin Sullivan, the leader of the group. "We do anything."

"Anything" includes pretty much everything. The group's parodies run the gamut from Julia Child to Survivor take-offs to a medley of songs, skits on the likes of Donald Trump, American Idol, Marge Simpson, and even Katherine Hepburn and Bob Dylan, to name a few.

Since starting three years ago at Luigi's Restaurant in Johnston, the group has performed at fundraisers, private parties, dinners and a variety of venues.

"We really didn't know what would happen, but we got such a great response, we just kept going," adds Mr. Sullivan.

That's not easy, considering they all have full-time jobs to report to five days a week, as well as family obligations to tend to. But, he adds, they themselves are all like family, and, besides, it isn't a second job the way they see it.

"We don't do it for free, but it isn't all about the money," adds Mr. Sullivan. "it is like an hour of goofing around. The best nights I've had out."

"You don't feel it," adds Kim Frenze' who makes the costumes for the various shows as well as performing in them. "After the show is over, I'm still up for an hour or two after that. It really doesn't feel like work at all."

Besides their own ideas which they bring to the show, they bounce off the audience as well in a kind of improvisational response. Different audiences, Mr. Sullivan explains, evoke different changes in the script, oftentimes leading to unpredictable and totally hilarious shows. Meeting people and getting involved with the audience each night is one of the attractions of doing shows like this, he adds.

Though the cast melds together when show time comes around, their backgrounds and jobs vary as much as, well, a can of mixed nuts.

Mark Colozzi is the head of music for the City of Cranston and the music director for Cranston East High School, as well as the Holy Apostle Church in Cranston, Nancy Hillner is a receptionist at the veterinarian's office. Brian Hopkins is director of coral music at West Warwick High School and music director for the Pawtuxet Valley Community Chorus. Kim Frenze is an administrative assistant at Johnson & Wales University and Mr. Sullivan is art director for Rhode Island Novelty.

"Really, it's kind of like a family affair," Mr. Sullivan adds. "I think we all do it because we are all creative people. It's great to be together creatively."

"It's the best of both words," adds Ms. Frenze, a Johnston resident. "I work at Johnson & Wales and I get to go and perform off the wall crazy and fun stuff. The show is my creative outlet. We have a good time on stage."

Their list of reviews from various members of the audience listed on their website range from "funny," "entertaining," "professional," and "class act" to "absolutely fantastic."

"They are a very talented group of kids," says Loreen Parente, Luigi's manager.

She adds that diners who have seen the performances come back with friends for more.

"It's just a very fun evening for everyone," she adds.

Even if you have seen the show before, says Mr. Sullivan, you'll enjoy seeing it again. They have just finished rewriting the entire script for their fist opening this August 19 at Luigi's in Johnston. The will also be appearing at Ralph's Bull and Claw in North Providence on August 28 and again on September 17, and again at Luigi's on September 30.

To contact Mixed Nuts, go to their website or call Kevin Sullivan at 401-944-9911.


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