Tomfoolery is a musical revue of Tom Lehrer’s music of the ’50s and ’60s. While some revues try to create a storyline around the included songs, this one is as close to a cabaret act as you can get — a simple streamlined tribute to the music and lyrics of Tom Lehrer.
HE SAID: Before this show, I knew only one Lehrer song, “I Hold Your Hand in Mine”, which is a very clever, catchy, and funny (in a dark sort of way). I have now learned those sentiments sum up Lehrer’s general style. I was really impressed with the quality of the lyrics, including some extraordinarily intelligent rhymes. In addition, there is also some real poignancy to some of the material if you really think about what is being said. Of course, you’ll also need to keep in mind the era in which the material was written to see the deeper meaning, or else most of the material will simply seem dated.
SHE SAID: I had also only heard a couple of Lehrer songs previously and really enjoyed his wry rhymes throughout. The one or two songs that didn’t really land on me weren’t a problem because in a matter of moments the cast was on to another song. The cast definitely seemed to enjoy themselves throughout the performance, and I thought that they did a great job spitting out all the words in time so that Lehrer’s comedy shone through. This is true especially of Paula Jayne Friedland, who was very clear throughout, and Henrik Boes, who made it through “The Elements Song” without getting tongue-tied, although his memory seemed to abandon him briefly during an otherwise funny character rendition of Verner Von Braun.
HE SAID: I actually found “The Elements Song” to be muddied at moments, but I still have to applaud Boes for memorizing all of the elements on the table. The highlight of the show for me was Clark Bomer Brittain. His comedic timing was constantly on point, and even though he was not the best singer in the room, his characters were so lively and funny that he was always a joy to behold.
SHE SAID: Brittain was certainly a comedic delight! Although all four cast members had bright moments, I found him one step above the others in terms of delivery. Because this revue had so little story associated with it, the design elements didn’t have any strong guiding principles, and so the set, costumes and choreography were only tasked with making the stage area pleasant to look at while the performers sang, which is the real focus of the production. The artistic staff largely achieved this goal, including a very special costume change for “The Vatican Rag.”
HE SAID: I kept wondering, “Why this show?” During intermission, I had the chance to ask the director, Wade P. Wood, what his reasoning was for choosing this particular piece. His response was understandable: he loves Lehrer and wanted to mount a light-hearted summer offering for people to simply come and enjoy, and that is exactly what I got. I didn’t spend the whole show exploring the meaning of the piece like I would at more serious shows. But I did walk out with a smile and some of the tunes in my head. And now I know who Tom Lehrer is and can honestly say I am a fan.
SHE SAID: Lehrer’s songs were once shocked people into realizing the world needed to change. Although the lyrics are considerably less shocking by today’s standards, they’re still clever and enjoyable. This revue isn’t a piece of inspiring politically charged theatre (anymore), but it doesn’t intend to be — it’s great for an evening of nostalgia (with a cynical edge). This production isn’t a deep theatrical masterpiece, but it is a fun concert that conveys the light-hearted darkness that is conveyed in Tom Lehrer’s songs.
THEY SAID: If you’re looking for a fun break on a summer evening or a cool way to spend a summer afternoon, consider stopping by this production of Tomfoolery. The entire audience was laughing along to this quick and quirky show, and we think you’ll leave with a smile on your face and tune in your head if you stop by. Just be sure you don’t start absent-mindedly singing that tune in public, though, people might find you odd.
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