AN ENTERTAINING PRODUCTION OF TOM LEHRER’S “TOMFOOLERY”
“Tomfoolery – The Words and Music of Tom Lehrer” is rarely performed today but it was a pleasure to hear and see five capable performers carry out his clever anti-establishment words at the Eureka Theatre in Gateway Center of San Francisco. The current production is by a new company called Landmark Musical Theatre headed by Jon Rosen who also directed this little revue.
Tom Lehrer penned his brief parodies in the mid-‘50s and again in the early 60s. I remember seeing him after a concert in Hollywood where I had a chance to talk to him at length. I was a big Tom Lehrer fan and had collected a lot of his 78’s recordings. I thought at the time he was one of the cleverest man in the entertainment field. Yes his parodies are now silly and trifling but they are still entertaining to folks who remember this flippant artist.
Tom Lehrer who was a University of Santa Cruz professor who wrote such tunes as “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”, “The Masochism Tango” and “The Vatican Rag”. He excelled in satirical comic lyrics such as in “The Vatican Rag” “First you get down on your knees,/Fiddle with your rosaries,/Bow your head with great respect,/ And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!”
“Do whatever steps you want, if /You have cleared them with the pontiff./Everybody say his own/Kyrie eleison,/Doin’ the vatican rag.”
Here is another of his ingenious lyrics this one to the to “The Masochism Tango”. “I ache for the touch of your lips dear,/ But much more for the touch of your whips dear, /You can raise welts like nobody else/ As we dance to the Masochism Tango”
Jon Rosen’s little groups of singers/players sing a vigorous dose of 30 senseless songs. The shtick is thick but this charming revue works wonderfully. The five members complement one another well and you can see they are having a ball presenting this revue singing and dancing thanks to Kimberly Krol splendid choreography. There are even costume changes between each number.
Scott Alexander Ayres and Kimberly Krol start the revue with their hilarious rendition of “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” to a waltz melody. (“All the world seems in tune on a spring afternoon/When we’re poisoning pigeons in the park /Every Sunday you’ll see my sweetheart and me/As we poison the pigeons in the park) Peter Woolhouse shows off his splendid vocal cords to a Mr. Roger’s like “My Home Town” a ballad of neighborly deterioration and he does this in a deadpan delivery.
Scott Alexander Ayres performance in “The Irish Ballad” which is a long-drawn-out narrative relaying the deeds of a Gaelic Lizzie Borden is beautifully accomplished. David Cori and Kimberly Krol stops the show with “The Masochism Tango” complete with riding crop and profuse amount of self-flagellation. One of the highlights of this fast pace revue is the complete cast singing “Hanukkah in Santa Monica” which I remember singing in the 50’s.
There are terrific ensemble numbers like “In Old Mexico”, “Fight Fiercely, Harvard” or “Send the Marines” where the cast acts out the jokes in the lyrics. Samantha Cori and Peter Woolhouse rock in “The Elements” which is a song that lists all of the chemical elements and then each one does it faster and faster. At the end of the program the five dress in religious robes for “The Vatican Rag” where the word “genuflect” becomes key words.
All in all it’s a cute show and if you want to see what made people laugh and maybe shock them in the late 50’s or early 60’s go see “Tomfoolery” at the Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco running until August 2nd. For tickets call Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006