BWW Reviews: 'REAL MEN' Find Musical Masculinity at Actors' Playhouse
It has been proven that men and women differ on the subject of humor. Often times, women lack the gene that allows us to find the hilarity in vulgar "locker room" guy talk. However, Paul Louis and Nick Santa Maria, creators and writers of "Real Men Sing Show Tunes…And Play with Puppets," find a way to appeal to both sexes with clever rhymes, well-timed skits and the occasional shocking curveball.
Built as a standard musical theatre revue, the expected loose framework of a plot does what it needs to do and allows us to believably follow Stephen G. Anthony's character as he journeys through manhood. His smooth, tender voice and honesty make the crass moments even funnier as he sings through many manly missteps. His buddies, played by Louis and Santa Maria, are on hand to commiserate with him or mock him, and they glide effortlessly through song transitions. Just when it seems like the jokes are becoming predictable, an unexpected twist to a song knocks us sideways. Santa Maria delivers a hilariously shocking "That's My Boy" in the second act. Maybe even more surprising, though, are the few poignant ballads, most notably "A Real Man" led by a vulnerable Louis. When the three men sing together barbershop style, the harmonies are delicious.
To add to the written humor, the nonsensical world of puppetry brings a whole new level of ridiculousness to songs like "All About the Wings" in which, of course, we are introduced to various races of Hooters girls. Also, David Arisco's direction works well with Patrick Tennet's lighting design when puppets appear to be floating in the background. And, in pure over-the-top guy fashion, one giant "puppet" stands tall among the rest in one especially riotous coup.
The smaller and more intimate space upstairs at Actors' Playhouse lends itself well to the piece allowing for the spontaneous laughter to be contagious. Also, Manny Schvartzman's expert piano-playing fills the room well and the actors have the opportunity to address the audience (both men and women) directly. This fun, light-hearted night of musical bro humor shouldn't be missed and runs at Actors' Playhouse through August 12th.