The setup: A series of musical vignettes about relationships springs into comic life as polished material is mined for laughs by talented actors, who find the laughs and deliver them -- in spades.
The execution: There's little mystery to the success and broad appeal of this long-running, widely-produced musica. It chronicles the trials and tribulations of dating -- the angst of waiting by the phone, the concern about performance, the marriage jitters, the impact of children and all the far-too-familiar pitfalls and joys that go with the battle of the sexes. But it does so with such good humor and grace that we see ourselves up there onstage, as memories of just such experiences come flooding back. Originally done with four actors playing the myriad characters in its long off-Broadway run, here we have three men and four women winning our hearts and our laughter.
Gregory Magyar plays a dad when one is called for, and his dynamic energy, expressive face and body language enhance his lines and performance. Lisa Connolly plays the occasional Mother with relish and deft comic timing. Both are great in "Single Guy," one of my many favorites. Cory Kelley plays everything from a bridegroom to a widower cruising funerals for pick-ups, and does so with panache, even keeping the charm alive as a fumbling tennis player. Chris Mason plays the younger yearners-for-affection, and has great reactions and smooth deadpan glances. Brittney Thorne is a lovely bride, and is superb in nailing the role of a divorcee recording her first dating video, a piece of brilliant writing. Bethany Smith gives a stunning performance as the phone-waiter whose phone actually rings -- and she can sell a song. Lauren Bowler plays a bridesmaid (never a bride) and captures the complexity of the character -- and she turns a walk-on as a video operator into a scene-stealer. India Aquino provides the compelling music on a keyboard, and does it justice. Neophyte director Erin Eder marshals her troops with astonishingly professional flair, and the many scene changes were done adroitly with the help of rotating flats and, yes, a turntable. I felt a few of the props might be upgraded, and the theater itself has earmarks of a work in progress, and it needs more signage to help find it in a multi-use compound. Sharing the credit for the evening's success of course are writer Joe DiPietro for book and lyrics, and composer Jimmy Roberts, the duo whose seamless synergy created this comic masterpiece.
The verdict: A contemporary musical classic is brought to vibrant and exhilarating life by wonderful acting, singing and skilled direction, creating perfect entertainment for everyone from teenagers to those living on memories -- don't miss it.
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Through Oct. 2, Encore Players at Katy Visual and Performing Arts Center, 2501 S. Mason Rd, Katy, 281-829-2787.