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Animaniacs In Concert in Malibu Opens the Door to Childhood Nostalgia and Love

The Joy Of The Animaniacs Voice Cast Live In Concert

At Smothers Theatre on the Pepperdine University campus, original voices from the classic animated show entertain a sold-out house with comedy, songs, and cherished memories.

By John Lavitt

Malibu, CA (The Hollywood Times) 04-23-2024

“If I can’t take over the world, I shall shine over it!”

  • The Brain in Animaniacs

As The Brain, a megalomaniacal mouse with world-conquering ambitions in Animaniacs, Maurice LaMarche was a forerunner of Stewie Griffin in Family Guy and Professor Chaos (Butters) in South Park. However, as Pinky, The Brain’s clueless sidekick voiced by Rob Paulsen, would recommend, “Maybe it’s time to let go of global domination and have some fun, Mr. Brain?” Indeed, in Malibu at the Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts, Maurice LaMarche, Rob Paulsen, Randy Rogel, and special guest star Nancy Cartwright shined like stars on an adoring audience that relished the opportunity to see them perform live.

As one of the resident songwriters for the show, Randy Rogel is a highly decorated creator. He has won three Emmy Awards, a Peabody Award, and the Ovation Award for his work. Playing the piano and orchestrating the musical number during Animaniacs In Concert,  Rogel is a bundle of positive energy. His partner on stage is the legendary Emmy winner Rob Paulsen, who has over two thousand half-hours of animation credits to his name. Singing and voicing Yakko and Pinky, Paulsen is the beloved heart and soul of the Animaniacs universe that Tom Ruegger and Stephen Spielberg created for Warner Brothers Animation.

Maurice LaMarche And Rob Paulsen As The Brain And Pinky (Photo By Ella Coates @picsby.efc)

If Paulsen is the heart and soul, then two-time Primetime Emmy-winning Maurice LaMarche is the conniving Brain behind a bevy of failed evil machinations. As The Brain, LaMarche spoke to the rascal in every kid’s heart, as later played out by Stewie and Butters. The Brain’s evil plans may be doomed to go awry, but there is an undeniable beauty in his plotting and scheming. As the beloved character, Maurice LaMarche fostered connections and devious loyalties that last until this very day at comic book conventions nationwide. However, nothing is like returning home to Southern California and performing for your people.

As Maurice LaMarche told The Hollywood Times after the show, “We love performing in front of our incredible fans nationwide, but it is such a gift to come home and perform in front of our friends, peers in the industry, and, especially, our families. In my case, I’ve gotten to do it twice: Three weeks ago, we were onstage with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and, being a Toronto native, there was no feeling like looking out over the audience, knowing I had so many close family members and lifelong connections in the crowd. Then, tonight, in my adoptive hometown of forty years, I was amazed at how many dear friends — who also happen to be creative powerhouses — came out to see us. Reconnecting with these people and knowing they appreciate what we do truly is meaningful. I am a huge fan of their work, and it is wonderful to see them enjoy Animaniacs In Concert.”

Maurice LaMarche, Randy Rogel, And Rob Paulsen At Pepperdine
(Photo By John Lavitt)

A highlight of the show is when Nancy Cartwright joined the other performers on stage. Internationally famous as the voice of Bart Simpson, she also voiced Mindy in Animaniacs. Since Cartwright lives in Los Angeles, she was able to take part in the live show. Adding Mindy’s ultra-innocent voice, she played so well off of Paulsen and LaMarche. Indeed, her presence was proof in the pudding that anything is possible in the city of angels.

As a final note, a young woman who sang every song with Rob Paulsen highlighted the audience of longtime fans. Although her accompaniment was unexpected, it was a transcendent and beautiful experience. After the show, the woman – call her Buffy after Buffy the Vampire Slayer — turned out to be profoundly developmentally challenged. On the autistic spectrum, Buffy has cerebral palsy and experiences the world in a high-intensity wheelchair. She has a challenging daily life beyond most people’s comprehension, including mine.

However, Buffy was in her element at the Animaniacs In Concert performance in Malibu. Experiencing joy and pure euphoria, her disabilities seemed a distant memory as she connected with the performers on stage. For a moment, she was one of them. Thus, she brought home the actual value of a show like Animaniacs In Concert. The performers create a rare moment of beaming redemption by connecting the audience to childhood love and sweet nostalgia. Once again, as Maurice LaMarche proclaims as The Brain, “If I can’t take over the world, I shall shine over it!”

Pictures by Ella Coates (@picsby.efc) and John Lavitt