There's a new sound effect from the audience for this musical melodrama by Peter VanSlyke. In addition to booing for the villains, cheering for the hero and sighing for all that mushy stuff, there are audible groans for the really, really bad jokes and puns.
Come on, this ain't Noel Coward.The plot is fairly simple. A bunch of Mt. Harmony High School Science Club kids and their truly nutty professor are gearing up to take their science projects to the big "Century of Progress" Expo in Chicago. Except there are two sets of villains in their way - a pair of time-traveling aliens, masquerading as Nazi terrorists, and a high school big shot who resorts to cheating his way into an Ivy League university, abetted by his snobbish girl friend.
The eight-member cast (actually, eight and one-half) is mostly comprised of familiar Playhouse players, headed by R. Russell Durrant in the title role, Norman E. Plate as the villainous Baron VonMunchkinhausen, Layna Carter as the Baron's evil sidekick, Inge Grabenstetter, Kaycee Raquel as uppity Sylvia, Ginger Christensen as perky little Penny, and Paul Thomas Murphy as Preston, who'll do anything to get the coveted first prize for himself.
Christopher Joseph Rogers nearly steals the show as nerdish Bunky Baker (his "Mr. Molecule" routine is hilarious), with newcomer Glen A. Carpenter as Prof. Throckmorton. The professor may be teaching in Room 308, but his mind is somewhere in the Outer Limits.
Oh, then there's stage manager Jeffrey Taylor, who pops in at the very last scene as an Expo judge. (He's the "one-half" cast member, if you're counting.)
Durrant, one of the area's most talented comics, is the guy who really holds this show together.
Overall, the opening night performance had a handful of problems. The pacing was a little sluggish at times, but this should pick up as the actors settle into their roles.
Also, I thought this was set in the 1950s, but Durrant's haircut looked more like the '80s.
Seven Nielsen, John Cook and Ron Hansen's scenery gets a real workout this time. There are four scene changes during Act One and six during the second act. My favorite backdrop was the opening scene outside Mt. Harmony High - a mural-sized, blown-up photograph of Ogden High School.
For the post-show olios, the cast sang and danced their way through a "Tumbling Tumbleweeds"-themed revue. Songs included medleys of such tunes as "Deep in the Heart of Texas," "The Yellow Rose of Texas," "Hey, Good Lookin' " and, of course, DSP's signature "Happy Trails."
Ginger Christensen's fiddling on "Orange Blossom Special" and Norman Plate's hilarious "Rhinestone Cowboy" sendup were two highlights.
On the down side, there were some tacky "Hee-Haw" and "redneck" jokes.
David Len Allen's musical direction (with Anne Puzey pinch-hitting while he's on vacation), Kaycee Raquel's choreography, Ruth Todd's costumes and Jacob Bruner's lighting designs were all first-rate.