Seasoned actress Annie Abbott stages an ambitious one-woman show at Santa Monica Playhouse

By Michael Aushenker

Abbott in a scene from “Giving Up Is Hard to Do”

Abbott in a scene from “Giving Up Is Hard to Do”

When Annie Abbott was studying theater at Brooklyn College, she overheard a pair of fellow students mention that Anthony Newley’s 1960s Broadway show “Stop the World, I Want to Get Off” had just lost a chorus girl. In minutes Abbott was auditioning over the phone, singing into the receiver until she had convinced a reluctant casting director to hire her.

“He told me, ‘OK, the job is yours if you can get here in an hour,’” she recalled.

So Abbott ran home, packed, told her mother she was leaving and bounded for Broadway: “I hopped on a subway, went cross-town, got my equity card and caught a bus to Manhattan,” she said. “I learned the entire show on the bus. I danced in the aisles. People taught me the songs in the seats.’”

It’s anecdotes like these that inform “Giving Up Is Hard to Do,” a one-woman show that Abbott is staging at the Santa Monica Playhouse about a determined young lady’s quest to break into and survive in showbiz.

Abbott has played opposite actor David Duchovny in both “The X-Files” and “Californication,” and she’s also had roles in the 2004 live-action adaptation of “Fat Albert” and the 2009 movie “The Venice Beach Hostel.”  But she may be best remembered for her recurring role as Judge Janice Neiman in Steven Bochco’s long-running television series “L.A. Law.”

At 75 minutes, “Giving Up” is a demanding piece for an actress of any age, and Abbott also sings and dances during the show.

“There’s something thrilling about it,” she said.

Abbott, who also runs through her entire show before each performance, derives her stamina from her Russian immigrant grandmother, a role model who laughed and cried with gusto and “taught me that life always requires everything you have,” Abbott said.

Directing Abbott in “Giving Up” is Joel Zwick, who directed the 2002 comedy blockbuster “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” Abbott met Zwick years ago when he directed her in Broadway’s “Dance with Me,” which landed Zwick a Tony nomination.

Abbott credits Zwick — also behind “Jamaica, Farewell ,” Debra Ehrardt’s long-running solo show at Santa Monica Playhouse — with the following expert advice: “What a solo show has to do is find is its audience. Once they find you, they’ll pour in.”

Annie Abbott performs “Giving Up Is Hard to Do” at 5 p.m. Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday at Santa Monica Playhouse, 1211 4th St., Santa Monica. The play continues at 8 p.m. on Feb. 22 and March 1 (Saturdays), at 3 p.m. on Feb. 23 and at 6 p.m. on March 2. $35. Call (800) 838-3006 or visit santamonicaplayhouse.com.

michael(at)argonautnews.com

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