TOMFOOLERY; The Words and Music of Tom Lehrer – Music and Lyrics by Tom Lehrer; Adapted by Cameron MacIntosh and Robin Ray; Directed by Kenny Moten. Produced by the Aurora Fox (9900 East Colfax, Denver) through October 11. Tickets available at 303-739-1970 or aurorafox.org.
One year in the early 60’s, my brothers – who were very cool for their age – got me a Tom Lehrer record for my birthday. This simple fact made me a rock star when I went back to college that fall. I remember renting it out to frat and dorm parties for $10 a pop with my personal coolness factor greatly elevated. It must be so gratifying to Mr. Lehrer to see that his satirical songs from that era still resonate and make people laugh sixty years later. For someone who has rarely performed in public since 1972, who wrote only 37 songs in the twenty year span of his musical career, he still makes an impact on audiences who are able to find a production of TOMFOOLERY to re-visit his songs. As Lehrer himself said jokingly, “If, after hearing my songs, just one human being is inspired to say something nasty to a friend, or perhaps to strike a loved one, it will all have been worth the while.”
So the Fox has brought back the infamous “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park,” the irreverent “The Old Dope Peddler,” the shameful “Be Prepared (The Boy Scouts Marching Song),” the prophetic “Pollution,” and the creepy “I Hold Your Hand in Mine” for a modern audience. They have wrapped it in the guise of the activities of four people quarantined by Covid-19 and amusing themselves with the various activities described in the songs. The finale celebrates the unity of mass destruction – “We Will All Go Together When We Go!” The singers bring their own brand of deadpan seriousness to the ridiculous lyrics. Moses Brown, new to Denver from Kansas, makes an impressive debut by taking on the complicated song “The Elements” which sets the table of natural elements to the melody and rapid tempo of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “A Modern Major General.” Valerie Igoe, also making a Fox debut, leads on a song Lehrer wrote for the children’s TV show – The Electric Company. “The Silent E” explains how this one little silent letter can do so much – like change “can” to “cane” and “pan” into “pane.” Local favorite Tim Howard gets to sing “So Long, Mom” about an enthusiastic soldier off to World War III which will be available to watch on her TV – “So Long, Mom – I’m off to drop the bomb.” “I’ll look for you when the war is over – an hour and a half from now!” Corey Exline returns to the Fox after performing in last year’s MISS YOU LIKE HELL to sing Lehrer’s “Irish Ballad” which parodies folk songs in general, Irish folk songs in particular.
One morning in a fit of pique
She drowned her father in the creek
The water tasted bad for a week
And we had to make do with gin, with gin
A tiny taste of the irreverent humor and thoughtful political statements reflected in the music of Tom Lehrer brought to life by Musical Director Trent Hines, Director Kenny Moten, and this talented cast. The Aurora Fox has followed all the social requirements for a theatre this size, creating a safe environment for live theatre once again. Yes, Helen, you have indeed brought the lights up.
A WOW factor of 8!!