Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘The Bachelors’ continues to delight

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘The Bachelors’ continues to delight

A strong cast sparks the time-leaping show.

FISH CREEK, Wis. (WFRV) – “The Bachelors” doesn’t mess around with build-ups. The show starts – boom – singing starts. Two nattily dressed men sing of the glories of bachelorhood in their well-appointed Victorian England apartment. The performers leap into the personas of their characters of Stewart and Jonathan in look, manner and voice. Stewart is the son of a rich man who has no title; his father insists he marry the daughter of a man who has a title but no money. Jonathan is distressed; he loves the daughter, Katherine, and we find out that she loves him to the point that… To tell would be a spoiler.

***

Creative: Book and lyrics – Fred Alley; music – James Kaplan; story – Fred Alley and James Kaplan; director and choreographer – Jeffrey Herbst; music director/conductor/keyboard – Chuck Larkin; music supervisor – Colin Welford; stage manager – Neen Rock; scenic designer – James Maronek; lighting and sound designer – David Alley; costumes and props designer – Kathleen Rock.

Cast: Stew – Doug Mancheski; John – Chad Luberger; Kate – Corrie Beula Kovacs.

Songs

Act I

“Be a Bachelor” – Stew, John

“What Are Little Boys Made Of?” – Kate, Stew, John

“Bad Tuna Fish” – John

“Bachelor Heaven” – Stew, John

“Chopsticks” – John, Kate

“The Minute That I Met Her” – Stew

“Noodle Cookie” – Kate, John, Stew

Act II

“Three’s a Crowd” – Kate, John, Stew

“Ballad of a Sad Old Man” – Stew

“A Bad, Bad Boy” – Kate

“Dream Ballet” – Stew, John

“I’ve Been a Fool for Love” – Kate

“Noodle Cookie” (Reprise) – Kate, John

“Love Be Dumb” – Kate, John, Stew

***

What happens in the show is a giant leap of time and place – 1890s England to 2014 Madison, Wisconsin. The swell apartment becomes a dumpy bachelor pad with two dumpy guys in their 30s, Stew and John. Stew has ordered out for pizza, and along comes a delivery girl to spark instant love with John and to finish some business from 100-plus years ago.

Fanciful, funny and frolicking, “The Bachelors” is the fall presentation of American Folklore Theatre. Performances continue through Oct. 18 in Door Community Auditorium. Info: www.folkloretheatre.com.

The musical comedy is by Fred Alley and James Kaplan, who collaborated on eight shows for American Folklore Theatre. “The Bachelors” premiered in 2001.

This production stars Doug Mancheski (John in the original production, Stew in this one), Chad Luberger and Corrie Beula Kovacs. The three shine together. Doug Mancheski and Chad Luberger are quick and nimble of expression and character nuances, and Corrie Beula Kovacs notably adds some vroom-vroom-vroom heat. American Folklore Theatre shows usually include kid-appeal stuff; this production pretty much includes kiddie stuff out when it comes to matters of the heart and hormones. Kate’s song, “A Bad, Bad Boy,” isn’t about having to sit in the corner.

The direction by Jeffrey Herbst, the company artistic director, has the performers flowing in their characters. Jeffrey Herbst also is choreographer, and the piece moves in clever ways. The song “Chopsticks” plays with the age-old tune to the point that Kate and John break into a flamenco dance. “Three’s a Crowd” finds the characters undulating simultaneously, until Stew or Kate is ejected as the odd one out. “Dream Ballet” evolves from a slow-mo scene with John to a romantic ballet with Kate and John to a steamy French cabaret toss-around with Stew and Kate. These are not folksingers noodling on banjo and guitar while singing homey/veggie-loving songs with low-veneer+ voices. This is a show that belies the name American Folklore Theater.

Some of the cleverness in “The Bachelors” is from visual elements. In a matter of moments, the Victorian apartment folds out into a low-rent pad. In a matter of moments, as the three characters sing “What Are Little Boys Made Of?” the men take off their swell finery and get down to mismatched sox, T-shirts and boxer shorts (John, embarrassed, “dresses up” by donning Green Bay Packers sporty shorts).

Some of the cleverness is in a staging gimmick. Kate leaves from one side of the stage, and then next appears a few moments later on the other side of the stage, in different costume to set up the next bit of action with narrative/singing.

Much of the cleverness is in the Fred Alley-James Kaplan take on hidebound bachelorhood (with dangerous eating habits, like eating old tuna salad) and the arrival of cutesy-pooh love (especially in the tricky trio of “Noodle Cookie”). They’re also musically playful, with doo-wop and calypso part of the sounds in addition to the ones already mentioned.

The production has merry muscle to it – 5 stars out of 5, with Corrie Beula Kovacs a big plus factor.

+ Doug Mancheski and Chad Luberger have nice, flexible voices; Carrie Beula Kovacs has a really good voice – strong, practiced, ringing, bright and able to flip from cute to sexy.

It’s appropriate that the swan song of American Folklore Theatre as American Folklore Theatre is by the beloved, formidable and adventurous Fred Alley and James Kaplan. The two meant/mean a lot to the success of the company, which next season becomes Northern Sky Theater.

THE VENUE: The 725-seat Door Community Auditorium features wood elements (for acoustics) surrounding its focal 60 by 24-foot proscenium (straight-front) stage. The auditorium opened in 1991. It serves the Gibraltar School District and hosts professional performances such as the respected Peninsula Music Festival. In the auditorium design, the architects chose to emphasize open space, exposed steel beams and simplicity of shapes. For orchestra concerts, the stage is lined with wood; panels are squares within larger squares. The roof interior is exposed wood, an acoustical touch. Balcony and box-seat areas are faced with plaster surfaces of a red hue. The hall’s seats are padded with wood backs. The lobby features two murals that represent the spirit of the peninsula, “Door County/The Water” and “Door County/The Land.”

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air segments on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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