BWW Review: FIVE COURSE LOVE serves it at Stages Repertory Theatre
5 COURSE LOVE is a 2005 musical comedy from Gregg Coffin with an emphasis on the laughs. It's a giggle-filled survey of five dates in as many restaurants, all with decidedly mixed results. 3 actors play 15 parts, and they have to sing and land jokes non-stop while making a dizzying amount of costume changes and character choices. Stages has assembled a "dream team" trio of comedians who can sing, and they make 5 COURSE love zip along with glee and pep. This is not a heavy night at the theatre, but a silly romp that should have audiences leaving with a big grin.
5 COURSE LOVE is literally simply 5 dates in 5 different settings with songs and jokes connecting all of them. There is a live band onstage in the kitchen dressed as chefs, and we spend an hour and twenty minutes with them as a cast of three create love in variation as seen from quick sketches that could end up on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE were there not so much music. There is a great cast here who manages to make it all work like a fried fun meal at your favorite diner.
Houston audiences already have a crush on Mark Ivy, so it makes sense to put him out on the stage front and center for this one. He's cute as a button and can sing. But his secret weapon is that Mark is just damn funny no matter what he does, and 5 COURSE LOVE lets him bring his comic chops to the table. Mark is Mark, but I never get tired of seeing him going from nerd to Jersey gangster to German kinkster to Zorro to greaser. He retains an essence of himself throughout, and sings the heck out of anything thrown his way.
Dylan Godwin takes the opposite approach and disappears into his five roles. He goes from cowboy to Italian chef to Emcee to put upon Mexican waiter to soda shop owner with a chameleon ability that convinced me he is part X-man. Dylan disappears into each incarnation convincingly, and his send-up of German singing host from CABARET is priceless! He morphs, he minces, and he sings the heck out of anything thrown his way.
Then there is Chelsea Ryan McCurdy who goes from redneck tramp to Snookie to dominatrix to Mexican damsel to nerdy 50s chick without a misfire or wardrobe malfunction. She probably has the most poignant moments of the show to carry, and plus she is caught between two hams for her costars. She holds her own, and manages to keep up with the whirling dervish pace. She brings heart to the whole thing, she looks great in any getup, and she sings the heck out of anything thrown her way.
Director and choreographer Mitchell Greco is the right guy to mount this production, he's a master of fast moving funny shows like XANADU and THE HONKY TONK ANGELS. This is something Stages does well - a cabaret musical that sells you on the intimate setting rather than pushing the razzamatazz of overly stuffed pageant musicals that you might see downtown. Kirk Domer's set is kinda cool with neon-looking hearts incorporated into the generic diner decked out in chrome and black. Kudos as well to lighting designer Christina R. Giannelli who adds much to the proceedings with her inventive work. And I have no idea how Macy Lyne designed the duds for all these quick changes to happen. Technically there is nothing to gripe about, and it makes it all zing the heck out anything thrown its way.
It's light, it's fun, and it features three kids from Sam Houston State University who started at Stages as interns. 5 COURSE LOVE isn't deep, it isn't serious, and it isn't anything more than an excuse to have a really good time at Stages for an hour and a half. I don't think anybody is going to complain that they didn't have a good time! I'm glad I came if only to see Mark Ivy in a leather harness with matching rubber shorts while Dylan Godwin sings in a German accent decked out in lederhosen to Chelsea Ryan McCurdy as she teeters on high heel thigh crushing boots. If that makes you giggle, make a reservation now.
FIVE COURSE LOVE plays at Stages through April 16th. Tickets can be purchased at the website at http://stagestheatre.com/ or by calling their box office at (713) 527-0123.