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Raising Bucks With Bunnies

August 17, 2006 | 8:00 pm

It'd be safe to say that Playboy bunnies are of one world, while fundraising for the Jewish elderly is of quite another. But worlds will collide the night of Aug. 26, when the Guardians of the Jewish Home for the Aging host a benefit in the unlikeliest of venues: the Playboy Mansion.

Sure, the place is the ultimate bachelor pad of Hugh Heffner and his many bunnies. And sure, it's known for its midsummer night's dream parties of orgiastic excess. But by planning a much tamer Vegas-style night to raise funds for a different sort of home, the philanthropic organization hopes to catch people's interest and attention without crossing the line.

"We've talked to people that were concerned about it and explained that this isn't one of those raucous, hedonistic parties that you hear about in Playboy magazine," explained Sean Besser, vice chair of the Young Men's Division board. The board planned the original event last September to great response, according to Besser. Plans for this year's affair include Vegas-style gaming, a poker tournament, food catered by the mansion chef, open bar, raffle prizes, (clothed) Playmate-led tours and access to the mansion's extensive grounds. Besser said the interest has been just as good this year by both men and women of all ages.

"We've been shocked by the diversity of responses," he said. "There are octogenarians that are coming. One man told me, 'Its one place I want to go before I die.'"

Saturday, Aug. 26, 8 p.m. $250-$525. Advance reservations required. For information call (310) 479-2468 or visit www.laguardians.com.

-- Keren Engelberg, Contributing Writer

Whodunnit? Kander & Ebb

If musical theater were a person, Jerry Herman would be its smile, Oscar Hammerstein II its heart, Stephen Sondheim its wit and John Kander and Fred Ebb its sex appeal. The latter two, who've spent their career making titillating shows about seemingly unsexy things -- such as prison life in the '20s ("Chicago") and Berlin in the '30s ("Cabaret") -- have brought that talent to "Curtains," one of their final collaborations prior to Ebb's death in 2004. The show is having its premiere at the Ahmanson Theatre before heading to Broadway. The murder-mystery musical comedy (with additional lyrics by Rupert Holmes) uses the show-within-a-show device and revolves around a 1950s theater-loving detective, Lt. Frank Cioffi (David Hyde Pierce), who tries to figure out who killed the leading lady of "Robbin' Hood" during the opening night bows. Both detective and theater aficionado, Cioffi works on the crime, as well as problems plaguing some of the musical numbers in "Robbin'."

Keen-eyed audience members will note that "Curtains," which plays through Sept. 10, is very much a love letter to other musicals, with hat-tips to "Oklahoma," "Singin' in the Rain" and "Phantom of the Opera." The show is filled with some of the best-timed punchl ines ever to grace the L.A. stage. Most of those lines are delivered by the show's two scene stealers: Edward Hibbert as director Christopher Belling, and Debra Monk as producer Carmen Bernstein, who, when her daughter says, "The theater is a temple," responds: "What? So it should only be filled on Shabbos?" Keep an ear open during Carmen's number, "It's a Business," for one of the only mentions of Yom Kippur in musical theater history.

"Curtains" plays through Sept. 10 at the Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. $30-$95. For tickets and information on groups call (213) 628-2772 or visit www.centertheatregroup.org.

-- Shoshana Lewin, Contributing Writer

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