Do people still listen to records together? There was a time, back in the vinyl days, when you would put on a new record and everyone would sit on the couch or the floor and just listen. Together. And if it was a record by Tom Lehrer, everybody listening would also end up laughing their butts off.
Tomfoolery, the peppy new musical revue at Petaluma's Cinnabar Theater, is the theatrical equivalent of hanging out and taking in the hilarious songwriting brilliance of a Tom Lehrer box set. Directed by Michael Fontaine, who also performs in the show, and with crisp musical direction by Stuart Rabinowitsh, Tomfoolery is a plotless but cleverly written celebration of the man who gave us the scandalous "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park," "The Vatican Rag," "We Will All Go Together When We Go" and other subversive, twisted tunes. Early on, following a show-opening, four-person romp through the naughty Boy Scout anthem "Be Prepared," Fontaine sets the tone with a lithe performance of "The Elements," a clever recitation of the entire periodic table of the elements sung to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan's "Modern Major General."
Other highlights include Eric Morris' sweet crooning of the gory dismemberment-themed love song "I Hold Your Hand in Mine" and the equally whacked-out "My Home Town"; Krista Wigle's impressive belting of the politically incorrect "Wiener Schnitzel Waltz"; and Elly Lichenstein's side-splittingly straight-faced rendition of "The Irish Ballad," nailing the song's nonchalant sense of murderous glee:"About Sinéad I'll sing a song / Who didn't have her family long / Not only did she do them wrong / She did ev'ryone of them in."
The big crowd pleaser, not surprisingly, is the entire foursome's spirited song-and-dance performance of the aforementioned "Vatican Rag," performed, appropriately enough, in Catholic nun drag. The spoken song-linking material drops sly snippets of detail about Lehrer's life and career, with the occasional cynical quote from the man himself. Fontaine fills the stage (a nicely designed set by Sharlyn Klein, recalling Laugh-In) with visual flash and simple but entertaining choreography.
Though a few favorites are not included (what, no "Hunting Song"?), there is plenty to tickle the taste of longtime Lehrer fans. For those heretofore unexposed to Lehrer, the wickedly inappropriate charm of lyrics and the palpable joy of the bemused cast will undoubtedly make many converts.