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BWW Reviews: SHEAR MADNESS at the Moore Theatre

Take the broadest physical humor and bad puns you can find, mix together with a half baked murder mystery and throw in enough current (and not so current) pop culture and local city references to choke the Mariner Moose and what do you have?  You have "Shear Madness" currently playing at the Moore Theatre or as I call it one of the worst touring shows I've seen in the area since the 3 Redneck Tenors inflicted their 15 minutes of fame on Tacoma.

Adapted by Bruce Jordan and Marilyn Abrams from Paul Portner's murder mystery, "Scherenschnitt", "Shear Madness" follows the murder of a wealthy pianist in her apartment above the "Shear Madness" hair salon owned by Tony Whitcomb (Michael Kevin Baldwin).  After the murder he and fellow stylist Barbara DeMarco (Mary Ann Conk) along with customers Eddie Lawrence (Joe Ditmyer) and Mrs. Shubert (Lisa McMillan) are interrogated by undercover police officers Mikey Thomas and Nick O'Brien (Timothy C. Goodwin and Patrick Noonan).  But Nick and Mikey are not the only ones on the case.  The audience is also pulled in to fill in the gaps of what happened and question the suspects.  Yes, if you're one of those people that like to sit behind me in the theater and chat then this might be the show for you, as they really want your input in order to fill the time for their show lacking in substance.

Also on hand to fill in any kind of dialog is apparently the city of Seattle as viewed through the internet as you are bombarded with a constant barrage of local references, often times just a bit off (there is no Pine Avenue in Seattle) and whatever current events they can dig up.  Speaking of those current events, I must point out that making a joke about the recent murders we had is just beyond bad taste.  And I wasn't the only one who felt that way as the comment elicited groans and boos from the audience.  Do more research guys.  Seattle likes to think of itself as a place where grizzly homicides don't happen all that often so when they do, we take it hard.

But I digress.  Beyond the constant pandering with local and pop culture references, we are also subjected to some of the basest humor worthy of an 80's sitcom presented by a group of actors I can only feel sorry for.  They're giving it their all and trying to keep it fresh but a turd can only be polished so much.  I have to give it to them for trying especially Noonan who not only has to keep the story going but also has most of the interaction with the audience as he gets questions and comments and tries to keep the chaos that ensues in check.  Oh and I should also mention Baldwin who put on one of the most stereotypical and borderline offensive impersonations of a gay hair salon owner that I've seen in quite awhile.  But I guess that's how you make gay people funny and palatable to middle America … 30 or 40 years ago!

************** SPOILER ALERT **************

If you don't want the ending somewhat ruined for you, you may want to skip this part.  OK, you were warned. 

If all that weren't bad enough, the central conceit of the story is that the audience needs to pay attention in order to call out when the suspects are lying.  But at the end they have the audience vote on who the killer is so it can change every night.  But if we're voting on whom we think did it and there is no set ending, then what is the point of making us pay attention?  It doesn't matter what clues are presented or what happened as the majority of it are Red Herrings and we vote on the killer anyway.  An even greater waste of time.

************** SPOILER ALERT OVER **************

I should say that there were people in the audience that were enjoying the hell out of themselves.  They were right there with them on every pun and couldn't wait to help solve the murder.  If this sounds like a hoot of a time then this could very well be the show for you.  But as for me, I prefer a clever and engaging story without a bunch of hackneyed one-liners.  So the only thing they murdered for me was my evening.

"Shear Madness" performs at the Moore Theatre through June 24th.  For tickets or information visit Seattle Theater Group online at

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From This Author Jay Irwin