The April Fools reviewed by Rob Stevens
Kritzerland tradition demands the April show (being so close to April Fool’s Day) be a mix of wacky tunes, Spring is sprung tunes and just general April foolishness. The 76th Kritzerland outing on April 2 at Sterling’s Upstairs at the Federal did the tradition proud. The show started off on a high level of insane wackiness with a brand new What If. Instead of the usual motif–what if this composer instead of writing this hit wrote this other show they were totally wrong for–like Rodgers & Hammerstein instead of writing Sound of Music wrote Passion. But composer Kimmel put an even wackier twist to this latest offering—what if the Stephen Sondheim circa 1962 instead of writing the comedy A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum wrote his tragic opera Sweeney Todd. In a blink of a piano chord, there was Robert Yacko, mercifully sans razor, channeling Sweeney’s version of “Comedy Tonight,” the dark and deliriously funny “Tragedy Tonight.” Sample lyrics: “Nothing that’s cute, Nothing that’s sweet, You’ll see it’s true, You are what you eat.” With Yacko’s maniacally perfect performance, I was surprised he wasn’t helped into a straight-jacket on his exit from the stage. Tiny Tot Hayley Shukiar had a recurring comedy bit where she would interrupt Kimmel and express a desire to sing a song she felt better suited her. Like “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” or “Rose’s Turn,” or “Buenos Aires.” She proved to possess fine comic timing as well as a big belt in a little body with those excerpts as well as her regularly scheduled number, “Tomorrow” from Annie. While still taking her bows, she was joined on stage by the very formidable and scary Guest Star Bruce Vilanch, spitting venom with every lyric from Miss Hannigan’s lament, “Little Girls.” How about an all-male or at least a gender reversed revival of that 40 year old musical?
Another April Kritzerland tradition is plenty of worthy or not so worthy songs from Broadway flops or musicals that were such big flops they never even made it to Broadway. Yacko teamed with Will Collyer as a pair of banditos singing the very unPC song “Silverware,” from the Pancho Villa musical We Take the Town. No, I did not make that up and neither did host Kimmel. These gems of arcane info he imparts are alone worth the price of admission. Yacko also did a lovely job with the beautiful “One More Walk Around the Garden” from Carmelina, a show I keep hoping to see on Musical Theatre Guild’s season. First time Kritzerlander Jennifer Foster sang another lovely ballad, “Growing Boy,” from Babe, the musical about Babe Ruth not the sheep herding Australian pig. Hadley Belle Miller did a passionate rendition of “I Want to be a Rockette” from the long gestating Alan Mencken musical Kicks while Kerry O’Malley did a fine job with “Home,” one of the softer, quieter, more fully dressed numbers from Minksy’s, the burlesque musical that played the Ahmanson Theatre in 2009. Collyer was back with the plaintive “Santa Fe” from the movie musical flop Newsies. The song and show got a new life when it made it to Broadway in 2012.
O’Malley also impressed with the melancholy “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” while Foster delivered the plaintive Bacharach/David film title song “The April Fools.” Also sprinkled among the madness was Tubbs wryly sentimental Frank Loesser tune, “The Delicatessen of My Dreams.” O’Malley and Collyer had both played leads in concert versions of the Bacharach/David musical Promises, Promises but never together until they joined their melodic voices for the bittersweet “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again.” Kimmel’s own two gal musical Pals has never seen a production but he has had female duos sing the title song at previous Kritzerland shows. Sunday he unveiled the Act One closer, “Life Goes On,” which was masterfully delivered by Jenna Lea Rosen. If this show ever gets a production, she better be one of the leads. The amazing John Boswell provided the amazing piano accompaniment throughout and he also produced one of his instant overtures from about eight song titles shouted out from the audience. Tubbs ended the show with the touching “One Song” by Marvin Hamlisch and the Bergmans, a hopeful, upbeat anthem for our polarizing times. Everyone was in fine voice and fun was had by all.