note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Beverly Creasey
The Image Theater in Lowell is carving out a niche where off-the-wall musical comedy can find a welcoming home. In Image’s short life so far, they’ve presented the works of twenty two playwrights and four composers, the majority of which (work) has been hilarious… not to mention demented. And I mean that in the very best sense.
Founders Ann Garvin and Jerry Bisantz, it seems, love making mincemeat of sacred cows, institutions like “serious theater” or “historical accuracy”. The puns in these shows (many of which were written by Bisantz) are shameless, the liberties limitless, the songs scandalous and the fun outrageous. Their most recent festival featured three wacky mini-musicals whose backdrop was created before our very eyes by local artists (Matthew Descoteaux, Robert Bryan and Setheyny Pen at my performance). Garvin and Bisantz are game to try new approaches to finding new audiences and their ingenuity pays off.
“Hollywood Insider” serves up a child actor (Ryan Garvin) acting out, a libidinous stage mother (Heather Tobin) and a narrator (Phil Thompson) right out of Walter Winchell’s old beat. Steve Gilbane’s songs reach their deliciously horrifying zenith in a wonderfully tasteless little number called “Out Of Rehab”. Bob DeVivo brings down the house with his deadpan earnestness.
Max Bisantz lends perfect comic timing to all three musicals, with a bravura turn in “The Tragic Tale Of Tom Collins” as the devil, singing and strutting like Mick Jagger in Gilbane’s sensational “Find Me A Piano”. Thompson returns as an old salt this time, in a yellow slicker, oversized hat and an undersized parrot.
“The History Of Nails”, scored by Gilbane but written by Larry Coen, Don Schuerman, and Christine Cannavo closes the evening, offering a faux folkie anthem (“We All Can Hammer”) a la “Spinal Tap” or “A Mighty Wind”. The story of the advent of the nail travels in warp drive (and I do mean warped) from prehistoric time to the present, pausing for famous incidents from the Goths to Gologotha. Whatever you’re imagining, it’s worse (or better, depending on your glass being half full or half empty). A fine cast of strong singers brings the shenanigans to life. If there’s a pretentious television show or a politician who needs a comeuppance, you can bet the Image Theater will be presenting a musical drubbing soon. Don’t miss the next naughty offering these guys cook up.