Eat, Drink and Be Merry
nytheatre.com review by Jason S. Grossman
August 20, 2009
Food is a present-day mega-superstar celebrity with its own network, countless cooking contests, reality shows, and the like. Is it any wonder that it now has its own musical? Eat, Drink and Be Merry is a full-length musical comedy, a cheerful offering at the FringeNYC this year.
The show, penned by Paul Schultz (book, music, lyrics), is essentially a musical revue about man's quest for food throughout the ages. The story takes us from the Garden of Eden through critical moments in history and settles in contemporary Queens.
The book engages themes concerning the scarcity or abundance of food. Schultz covers everything relating to the subject, poking fun at Adam and Eve, the Roman Empire, feudalism, the colonists, and fast-food chains (there's an especially satisfying stab at dieting). He even handles dark periods in history with cheeky humor with songs like "Plague Blues."
The musical styles of the numbers vary widely from rock to blues to gospel, and everything is confidently handled by the production's talented singers and musicians. The quality of the sketch comedy is inconsistent, however, and not all of the shtick hits the mark. Traces of melodrama seep through during the occasional ballad.
With perky set pieces and bright costumes, director Lisa Asher evokes the look and feel of the popular musical comedy variety shows of the '60s and '70s where low budget sets and impromptu ad-libs were the norm. The message is clear: this is all in fun. The able-voiced cast is completely in sync with that sentiment.
(Note: At the performance I attended, there were recurring problems with the lighting and an actor's entrance was delayed. This was handled with very good humor by cast members Bob Barth and Rob Morrison and, if anything, actually bolstered the jovial tone of the production.)
The versatile cast works overtime effortlessly, each participating in multiple musical numbers. They are all in excellent voice with Tricia Burns, Sean Jenness, and Bob Barth most consistently standing out. Rob Morrison is on triple duty as narrator, musician, and singer and does a terrific job.
Jen Littlefield provides some amusing choreography in a show that otherwise doesn't showcase a great deal of movement.