Regional Reviews: San Francisco
Whoop-Dee-Doo! is an Exuberant Delight
Whoop-Dee-Doo!, according to Webster's Dictionary, means "lively and noisy festivities merrymaking," and this inventive revue certainly fills that description. Howard Crabtree, like Mickey Rooney in those MGM films, tells the audience that they are going to put on show. He admits they have a tiny budget and this will be a spectacle on a shoestring. It will be a valentine to classic musical theatre as well as a showcase for his hilariously outlandish costumes. He also has the temperamental "diva" Trauma Flintstone to star in the extravaganza. Trauma appears, complaining about the lack of hot water in his dressing room, the theatre and that the show is not ready to be presented to the public. We soon find out why, as the revue progresses. Many things go wrong, but that is the fun of the campy musical.
Whoop-Dee-Doo! has wonderful and zany numbers with costumes that defy description. Dukeman's Carmen Miranda outfit has more fruit on it that an orchard in Napa Valley. Some of the songs are about screwball subjects; the number "Stuck on You," sung by Trauma with a trio of insects about their romantic affairs while attached to fly paper, is priceless. "Tough to Be a Fairy," sung by Patrick, Dann Howard and Tom Orr all in fairy costumes in a fairy bar, looks and sounds like Disney on drugs. Dann Howard is side-splitting in his paean to Elizabeth Taylor, now including a reference to the Michael Jackson trial.
Mark Waldrop has updated the show to include a satire of Laura Bush, which goes on too long and really does not work with the rest of the show. The ending of the first act is still campy with "A Soldier's Musical," a salute to the armed forces from the point of view of a fruit - a real fruit, Private Banana, played uproariously by Trauma. The rest of the characters are in great "fruit" costumes.
Whoop-Dee-Doo!'s second act is more compact and fast-paced, thanks to he work of director Ed Decker. It opens with the cast in lovely feather hats and beautiful Edwardian period dresses on an outing singing "A Perfect Way." It looks like a scene out of My Fair Lady and one wonders if this is the way Lillian Russell would have appeared in the 1903 production of Whoop-Dee-Doo!. Tom Orr offers a heartfelt scene at a class reunion remembering his days as the awkward boy in a gym taking physical education with the song "Last One Picked." Justin Weatherby and John Cavellini are delightful as a dancing nose and tissue paper in "As Plain as the Nose on Your Face." This reminds me of those dancing "Old Gold" cigarettes in the early days of television.
Trauma Flintstone brings down the house as Ethel Merman in "The Magic Is Me," while Patrick is dynamic as Carol Channing in the second act. There is an outlandish spandex creation with bulbs and wires all over it that one of the chorus boys, played by John Cavellini, tries on which almost electrocutes the poor boy. The grand finale called "Less is More" is brilliant since Howard has run out of money for the big number. He devises a sumptuously tacky finale that consists of old garbage bags, dirty laundry and newspapers. It is a great ending for a show full of high sprits and campy scenes. The New York Times coined it "Ziegfeld Follies on a dime."
Ed Decker helms a very fast paced and smooth production that makes gentle fun at the gay community, and this new version of the revue zooms along like greased lightning. Whoop-Dee-Doo! runs through July 10 at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, 25 Van Ness Ave near Market, San Francisco. Tickets are available through the NCTC Box Office at 415-861-8972 or online at www.nctcsf.org.
NCTC's next production is Patrick Wilde's coming of age play What's Wrong with Angry? opening on June 11 and running through July 10.