Monday, January 9, 2012

Tomfoolery: No Fooling!

Trickery and foolery with words have long been the ideal folkloric mates of songs and nursery rhymes. Short and clever phrases have been used to discuss difficult topics in easy to hear/easy to listen to ways. Think of London Bridges Falling Down, for example. “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down” describes what happens to those who died from disease. Just that one line, set to a catchy, rhythmic melody, says so much! Its sing-song style remains a popular school yard song for jump rope and similar outdoor children’s games.

What happens when easy to listen to songwriter lyrics parody hot topics of the day, poking crazy fun at what some consider to be the darker threats of modern-day society?

You get Tomfoolery. This lively cabaret style musical revue pays tribute to the uncanny musical accomplishments of Tom Lehrer. Lehrer, known in the 1950’s and 60’s for witty and offbeat interpretations of social issues like religion, pollution, and threats of nuclear war wrote pieces that well-received the world over.

While brief, his musical career of 109 shows and 37 songs, developed a cult following both in the United States and abroad. And a fun show like this one could easily kindle the flames for new generations of cult followers because the themes he chose to create songs about are still very much alive.

Universal truths such as justice just don’t die and our human foibles like putting aside racial and religious prejudices for one Brotherhood week each year seem not to, either. But at least in this production we can laugh at ourselves and others; especially those we might not otherwise respect, appreciate or understand. After all, if Tom Lehrer is right in his song We Will All Go Together, in the end any country’s ability to blow the planet up puts us all in the same boat.

The Cinnabar Theater cast was outstanding. Actors Eric Morris, Krista Wigle, Elly Lichenstein and Michael Fontaine had an infectious enthusiasm that moved easily through the audience. Even my 17-year-old daughter Kiana who knew nothing about Tom Lehrer but agreed to “give him a try” was delighted with the show.

This performance, directed by Michael Fontaine (musical direction by Stuart Rabinowitsch) was very well done. The small, intimate café-like setting worked nicely and the band did a superb job of reminding the audience that Lehrer really knew how to write clever and catchy melodies and lyrics about topics that to this day continue to be rife with personal and universal tensions. And continue to help us laugh at how seriously we take ourselves!

The show runs through January 22.

TICKETS: $25 to $35
$35 General; $32 Seniors; $25 Age 22 and under.

LOCATION: Cinnabar Theater
3333 Petaluma, Blvd. North, Petaluma, CA 94952
PHONE: 707-763-8920

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