Friday, March 4, 2011

Further Afield Reviews: "Five Course Love"

Photo courtesy of the Denver Center for the Performing Arts

Even the snobbiest gourmand needs an occasional break from the fancier dishes. You can only take so much filet mignon and lobster bisque before you need relief in the form of a light salad or soup.
Gregg Coffin’s musical “Five Course Love” offers an ideal brand of light theatrical fare, an easily digestible collection of comedic vignettes that are never too cloying or heavy. In five separate stories revolving around themes of love and romance, the three-member cast offers a cartoonish brand of comedy and music that echoes the style of Vaudeville and old Warner Brothers toons.

Each tongue-in-cheek tale unrolls in a different restaurant. There’s the story of the unfortunate nerd who suffers heartbreak at the hands of a country western diva in a Texas BBQ joint; the two lovers whose illicit affair comes to a violent end in an Italian eatery; and the German dominatrix who juggles two lovers at a sausage house. Two Mexican senors vie for the attention of a senorita in a Mexican joint, and a pair of forlorn lovers who come together in a ‘50s diner.
The trio of Daniel Langhoff, Jordan Leigh and Sarah Rex play all of the myriad roles in the wide-ranging group of comedies, switching easily between a wealth of characters and musical styles. Rex is the true siren of the piece, seamless shifting between considerable vocal demands as a country superstar, a Mob wife and a nerdy waitress. Leigh and Langhoff also show an impressive range in their myriad roles, swapping styles and personalities with little pause.
The cast’s comedic back-and-forth is made up of the kind of rapid-fire, pun-heavy humor that marked the best Chuck Jones cartoons and the most memorable moments from comedians like Jack Benny and Steve Allen. Indeed, despite some of the more bawdy moments, the show plays like a tribute to the comedy of the ‘40s and the ‘50s, Vaudeville-informed follies that succeed on the sheer volume of jokes.
That being said, some of the gags seem to fall a little flat during the whirlwind tour of songs and styles. Rex’s asides during her stint as the German dominatrix don’t always draw laughs; Langhoff and Leigh sometimes come off as a bit too cartoonish during the five-course comedy. Still, there’s enough volume to make up for the occasional missteps; the show boasts plenty of genuinely funny moments.
Director and choreographer Ray Roderick brings Coffin’s ambitious comedic style to the relatively small confines of the Garner Galleria Theatre at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. With a three-piece band, musical director Troy Schuh offers an impressive range of sounds and genres, each performed with expertise. The themes in the Italian joint are informed by Puccini and Verdi; the melodies during the German vignette take cues straight from authentic oomp-pah and Polka.
The band members don different hats to represent each venue: sombreros for the Mexican joint, paper hats for the diner and fedoras for the Italian eatery.
It all makes for a fun, satisfying romp through different comedic styles and expressions. Even if the overall effect may seem a bit light, the comedy is still satisfying. There’s a place for lighter fare, and “Five Course Love” fills it well.

Three stars out of four

“Five Course Love”
Until June 19
Garner Galleria Theatre
1101 13th St., Denver
Tickets start at $25
For more information, call 303- 893-4100 or log on to

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