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Allison Janney finds herself in Monkees heaven [poll]

Monkees-web Never let it be said that Hollywood isn't a place where dreams come true.

Sunday's kickoff party for the 2010 Festival of New American Musicals made a daydream believer out of Allison Janney. When she arrived at the Toluca Lake home of her industrial-strength vocal coach, Eric Vetro, Janney discovered that after a long career starring in "The West Wing" and various films, including "American Beauty," her prayers had finally been answered.

Monkees-wise, that is.

"I didn't know I was going to introduce this next performer until I got here, and I'm going to embarrass myself and probably him too," she told the casual crowd sitting on lawn chairs by Vetro's pool, listening as his star-studded roster of students sang snippets from musicals.

"When I was 10 years old," she continued, "I wrote a letter about why I wanted to spend the day with the Monkees. I wrote this long letter and I was too afraid to send it in because I was so competitive, I didn't want to have the possibility of losing. I still have the letter, and I'm excited to get to introduce Micky Dolenz today."

Dolenz came out in a beige suit and Panama hat and sang "Don't Be the Bunny," a dark, witty ditty from the musical "Urinetown."

Others taking the microphone included "Gray's Anatomy's" T.R. Knight; ...

... "La Bamba's" Lou Diamond Phillips, who was nominated for a Tony for "The King and I"; "Glee" pianist Brad Ellis, "Dancing With the Stars'," Marissa Janet Winokur, who won a Tony for "Hairspray"; Nolan Gerard Funk of the Nickelodeon musical "Spectacular" and Broadway's "Bye Bye Birdie"; "Desperate Housewives'" Andrea Bowen, who sang a fab jazzy tune she wrote; "The Partridge Family" veteran Shirley Jones; "CSI: NY" staple Melina Kanakaredes, who starred in "Cabaret" on Broadway; and "Back to the Future's" Lea Thompson, who did "Cabaret" too.

Also earning a standing ovation were three fifth-graders from Marquez Elementary School, who sang numbers from their history class' original musical about Thurgood Marshall and the civil-rights struggle. Dare we say that lends new meaning to that old standby, the pop quiz?

Then it was Janney's turn to come back to introduce someone else.

"She left?" Vetro said. "She actually left?"

Janney came dashing over.

"I was getting Micky Dolenz's phone number," she said. "I'm not even kidding. I'm so sorry.

"The reason I am qualified to be here is that I did do a musical. My first-ever musical was ‘9 to 5' on Broadway. Nominated for a Tony and a Grammy. I recommend for anyone who's never done a musical to really get your feet wet by stepping on Broadway. It's a very stress-free experience, and a really great way to see if you have it in you."

When we caught up with Dolenz, a.k.a. the Ministry's favorite Monkee, he said he has been doing a lot of musical theater, including "Aida" on Broadway and "Pippin" and "Hairspray" in London. And he has a new CD coming out soon of Carole King's music, titled "King for a Day."

Oh yes. And he still runs around the country singing Monkees songs with his own band. Really now?

"It's still fun," he said, "because I also do other things. Like Broadway. It is still fun because -- knock wood -- I haven't had to do it for years and years and years."

The festival runs through Aug. 21.

Who's your favorite Monkee? 

-- Irene Lacher

Photo: The Monkees are, from left, Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork. Credit: Henry Diltz / Rhino Records

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...and cue music...Another Pleasant Valley Sunday...


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