The set up: The talented Tamarie Cooper opens the latest in a series of musical extravaganzas - this one rife with patriotism - to enchant a horde of loyal followers and to introduce newcomers to a remarkable talent: a Renaissance woman who conceives, directs, choreographs and acts, and does all these well. She brings with her a cast of polished performers who bring her vision to exciting life. Hilarity unfolds in a variety of satirical musical numbers that poke fun at the foibles of the U.S., but with the observant eye of a doting parent.
The execution: The script covers so much ground that it is a virtual panoply of America over the centuries. Tamarie has the good luck to have a time machine that allows her to travel to any point in time (we see it at work in projected videos). She uses it to peel back, with the scalpel of humor, the illusion of the "good old days," which are good only if you enjoy hunting witches in Salem or fighting brother against brother in the Civil War. And, yes, the time machine moves forward as well, so we see three versions of the future, each of which makes one glad to be living in the present. One video projection in French with subtitles is priceless, as it explains that everything sounds better in French. The wit here is subtle and nuanced, an exception to Tamarie's usual take-no-prisoners approach.
The first act ends with a hilarious "Born Again Texan" revival meeting as unfortunates from Iowa and California find their inner Texans. Tamarie, a Chicagoan, has a hard time converting, but finally sees the light.
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As a writer, Tamarie is original and inventive. As a choreographer, she is indefatigable. And as a performer, she is an accomplished professional. She acts her part as mistress of ceremonies with an unflagging, engaging poise and depth.
The other 14 actors are not just back-up dancers, but are stars in their own right, and are given the opportunity to demonstrate it. The four-piece band is great, the lyrics and music by a variety of contributors are impressive and the book by Patrick Reynolds sweeps you along with its humor, scope and pace. Music and vocal direction by Miriam Daly contribute enormously to the entertainment.
The verdict: The joy shared by performers who love their craft and have the talent to prove it spreads to and engulfs the audience. The result is a riotous evening of fun and laughter, one likely to be savored and remembered. Don't miss it.
Through Aug. 20, Catastrophic Theatre at DiverseWorks, 1117 East Freeway, 713-522-2723.