A Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Tomfoolery"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Larry Stark


Music, Book & Lyrics by Tom Lehrer
Devised by Cameron Mackintosh
Stage Directed by Nancy Curran Willis
Musically Directed by David Rose
Choreography by Karen Fogerty, Jennifer Condon

Assistant Director David Fisher
Producer Kathy Campbell
Set Design by Tito Juarez
Costume Design by Gregg Thomas
Lighting Design by Kathy Campbell
Sound design by TJ Sound Machine
Wigs by Marc Capizzi
Stage Manager John Murtagh


Jennifer Condon
Kathleen Dalton
Scott Giagrande
Anthony Huntington
Jim Jordan
Kimberly McClure
Joanna Miller
Kevin Nessman

Tom Lehrer wrote, played and sang a whole lot of short, wry, iconoclastic songs light-heartedly eviscerating social and political sacred-cows shortly after the middle of the last century --- lyrics that still sting. The cult-following of his songs and his personally-produced lp-records have achieved a giggly immortality. And when a t-v comedy show called "Laugh-In" broke fresh ground stylistically and ratings-wise, a rival network countered with a political satire show ("That Was The Week That Was") and hired Lehrer to add songs to the mix. The Acme Theater out in Maynard has put Lehrer's "Tomfoolery" instead into a like-a-look "Laugh-In" setting --- and it works.

I have seen this show done badly by devotees who loved the material so much they thought anyone of any age would love Lehrer as much as they (and I) do --- neglecting the fact that so much of his traditions-shattering sensibility has Become our sensibility, but his targets quaint, because we've applied his outlook to much more current problems. But a solid cast who can do quick shtick with impeccabe timing, good voices, and conviction makes it all come alive again.

This show begins with a song in which "When they see us coming the birdies all try and hide," is rhymed with "But they'll all fall for peanuts we've coated with cyanide!" as a gleeful pair sing of "Poisoning Pigeons In The Park." He has a song that, through several verses there must be twenty-seven or so rhyming words all ending in "-ility". He sent-up nuclear proliferation and Assured Mass Destruction and musical sentimentality and the absurdity of Harvard's sports teams needing a Fight Song with equal hilarity, and under the firm control of Nancy Curran Willis and David Rose this cast has almost as much fun and the audience, if not more.

Lehrer's phrases have echoed through my life for the past fifty years. If he's new to you, get out to Maynard and see why.


"Tomfoolery" (11 February - 5 March)
61 Summer Street, MAYNARD MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide