If you believe that dieting means not eating the last two donuts in a box and that a perfect seven-course meal involves Subway and a six pack, Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre has the world premiere for you.
Real Men Sing Show Tunes…and play with puppets is theater for manly-men and the women who love (to laugh at) them.
The new musical’s book, music and lyrics, written by Miami Shores’ Paul Louis, creator of the syndicated children’s TV series, Jelly Bean Jungle, and puppeteer Nick Santa Maria, a former member of the Miami improv group Mental Floss, features the pair as Man #2 and Man #1, respectively. South Florida Carbonell-winning actor Stephen G. Anthony, who was in Actors’ Playhouse’s stunning August: Osage County last year, joins the duo as Man #3.
Think of the sketch-driven Real Men Sing Show Tunes as an episode of Saturday Night Live in which practically all the sketches work. If that sounds impossible — there’s such a thing as an SNL in which all the sketches work? — then you will begin to realize how sharp the writing is and how important the deft and daft stage work of director David Arisco is in making this production work as well as it does with its ingenious use of puppets, props and lighting.
The musical is basically a madcap romp through the stages of manhood: what it takes to be a man and how to juggle all the balls modern men must contend with such as fatherhood, dating, marriage, sexuality and the lack of it, and pending senior moments. Women have had the likes of Carrie Bradshaw, Blanche Devereaux and Sophia Petrillo to help guide them through the stages of life with humor and candor. Now, thanks to Louis, Santa Maria and Anthony, men have three, well, schlubs to point the way.
Drawing wisdom from The Book of More Men, Real Men offers rules for how men should govern themselves. We learn how to embrace our sensitive side, spend quality time and, gosh, darn it, how to go out and try to have some fun. If having this fun entails a night out at Hooters, where “it’s all about the wings,” the trio insists, so be it. Buy that and you probably believe men read Playboy for the monthly interviews, too.
An early belly laugh comes during the first act when the three dispense proper etiquette at the urinals. “Look straight ahead and never speak,” the three sing in rhythm while attending to their business.
Oh, yes, Real Men Sing Show Tunes can be crude. The tease, “Although puppetry is featured in this production, this risqué and witty musical is not suitable for children…only the childish and immature,” applies — except when it doesn’t. This canny trio slips in a poignant, thoughtful moment in the second act.
This man, for instance, busted a gut during A Woman With Kids when one of the bratty kids, in puppet form, grosses out a hapless stepdad by asking the question, “You know how when you burp sometimes a little comes up?” and then follows through with what she really did. Real Men Sing Show Tunes probably says more about its audience than it does about Men #1-3.
Yet men and, yes, women, at opening night Friday, responded with boisterous laughter and understanding at Louis’ dilemma in Married Man’s Lament. “I used to have a penis,” he sings with dead seriousness and just try to maintain composure when you find out why it went.
With this comedic production, Actors’ Playhouse closes its particularly strong 24th season and heads into its silver anniversary 2012-13 season on a creative roll.
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