“In A Booth At Chasen’s” a musical masterpiece about Nancy & Ronald Reagan’s romance

 Review: “IN A BOOTH AT CHASEN’S” is an instant classic about a radiant romance–the courtship of Nancy and Ronald Reagan. The wonderful show is a new musical masterpiece, a theatrical work of art framed on stage by a well-crafted story, with brilliant songs that celebrate Hollywood’s great love story. It made its world premiere November 11, and runs through November 25 at the historic El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, California.

“Dutch” would be proud of the show. It is a feel-good musical that starts with the blind date set up for movie star and President of the Screen Actor’s Guild Ronald Reagan (“Dutch”) and 29-year-old actress Nancy Davis. Their dinner in a booth at Chasen’s was the beginning of a romance that changed history.

Ron & Nancy Reagan played by Brent Schindele & Kelley Dorney

“In A Booth At Chasen’s” offers a revealing story that humanizes the iconic Reagans, with book by Sam Bennett. Plus there are clever and beautiful songs, with music and lyrics by the award-winning team of Al Kasha and Phil Swann. Duets such as “Club of Two” “It’s Not Easy Being You,” and the jab at the tabloid press with “What a Way to Make a Living,” plus the ballad “She Makes Me Right” can take their place in the pantheon of great musical numbers that give depth to their stories.

Kelley Dorney is luminous as Nancy, showing the range of emotions every gal goes through when she goes after the guy she wants. She sings the sweetest songs (especially “Is It You, Is It Me, Is It We”) and the sassiest (the super hot tune “Red”). Brent Schindele nails the stability and strength (singing “Better Angels”), plus Reagan’s famous sense of humor with the quips and juvenile jokes flowing with ease.

Although it is just a two person show, both Dorney and Schindele have impressive skills that fill the stage, taking the audience on their journey with powerful singing and a little delightful dancing. Musical director Jonathan Tessero gives the numbers extra gusto, with orchestrations by Luke Hannington.

Skillfully directed by Kay Cole, this real-life history-making story unfolds in a caring yet dynamic way. It is enhanced by the artistry of the scenic design by Andy Walmsley and vintage scenes with projection design by Daniel Brodie. Giving the show a retro feel– costume design by Kate Bergh; lighting design, Jared A. Sayeg.

Produced by John C. Herklotz and American Happenings, in association with Ron Dante, and Ceil and Al Kasha, with supervising producer Conwell Worthington II, there is no doubt that “Dutch” would have loved it.

“In A Booth At Chasen’s” runs through November 25 at the El Portal Theatre, 5269 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. For information go to www.elportaltheatre.com or call 818-508-4200. For tickets (from $25 to $65) go to www.InABoothAtChasens.com.


Margie Barron has written for a wide variety of outlets including Gannett newspapers, Nickelodeon, Tiger Beat and 16 Magazine, Fresh!, Senior Life, Production Update, airline magazines, etc. Margie is also proud to have been half of the husband & wife writing team Frank & Margie Barron, who had written together for various entertainment and travel publications for more than 38 years.