Metropolis Performing Arts Centre subscribers are certainly familiar with the relationship revue. In fact, these lighthearted romps -- which typically clock in at 90 minutes or less -- have become the bread and butter of the Arlington Heights theater's season.
Breezily upbeat, with pop-infused scores and Middle America humor, they have a built-in appeal, particularly for aging Baby Boomers, the target audience for such recent Metropolis productions as "Sex & The Second City: A Romantic Dot Comedy," "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change" and "Mid-Life: The Crisis Musical."
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"Five Course Love"★ ★
Location: Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St., Arlington Heights, (847) 577-2121 or metropolisarts.com
Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday; 7 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday through June 16. Also 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 29.
Running time: About 80 minutes, no intermission
Parking: Free adjacent garage and street parking
Rating: For adults; strong sexual content, mature language
The latest of these pleasantly innocuous confections is "Five Course Love," a lukewarm effort by composer/lyricist/book writer Gregg Coffin that unfolds as a series of vignettes chronicling romantic assignations taking place at several restaurants.
Set to a score that ranges from country twang to faux opera to early style rock 'n' roll, the show opens with singleton Matt (Greg Foster) en route to meet his online dating service match, a big-haired blonde bombshell named Barbie (Amanda Bloom), who's interested only in guys named Ken.
The scene shifts to an Italian restaurant for an amusing opera parody, where Bloom's mincing mob wife Sophia carries on with her lover Gino (a slicked up Foster) to the dismay of waitress Carlotta (Amy Malouf), who fears Sophia's jealous husband will make the restaurant staff pay for his wife's infidelity.
Secret affairs are revealed at a German restaurant, where Malouf's meek waiter Heimlich (as in the maneuver) learns his dominatrix girlfriend (Bloom) is having an affair with his former lover (Foster). At a Mexican cantina, a seņorita (Bloom) must choose between Foster's dashing bandito and Malouf's loyal pal. The show concludes at a diner where bookworm Kitty (Bloom) pines over town heartthrob Clutch (Foster) to a pleasantly bouncy 1950s beat.
The cast is the best thing about director Krista Hansen's production, which includes some puzzling staging that finds lovers professing their passion from opposite sides of the stage. Accompanied by music director and pianist Micky York (whose onstage prop and costume changes earn almost as many laughs as the scripted jokes), Bloom, Foster and Malouf are affable, versatile and game for anything. If Metropolis ever produces an original comedy revue a la Second City, this trio would be ideal.
The musical theater equivalent of fast food, "Five Course Love" isn't much of a feast. The show lacks clarity, cohesion and consistency.
Some kind of framing device might help ground the show, whose problems include a jumbled time frame that begins in the present day, shifts back to Weimar Era Germany and concludes in the 1950s.
Then there are the characters. Instead of people we care about, Coffin serves up borderline offensive stereotypes. The exception is hopeful romantic Matt, who would seem to be the perfect guide for this dinner dating odyssey. Yet, Matt disappears for much of the show. He reappears for the unsatisfying conclusion that reveals the contrived connection between the vignettes.
The cast generates some chuckles -- although it says something that the laughs their a cappella preshow announcements generate are about as hearty as those Coffin cooks up.
At the end of the day, "Five Course Love" isn't very satisfying, a clear sign the recipe needs revising.