Five course loveThrough Feb. 13 Winter Park Playhouse
711-C Orange Ave., Winter Park
Some adjectives that could easily describe Five Course Love, the new musical comedy now appearing at the Winter Park Playhouse, include: frivolous, inane and cartoonish. Here are some more: artful, hilarious, witty, tuneful and unexpectedly sweet.
Directed by Michael Edwards, this silly but very enjoyable theatrical confection (with book, music and lyrics by Gregg Coffin) is foremost a showcase for the talents of three very skilled singer-actors who together play 15 different roles with panache and free-wheeling gusto, displaying their solid professionalism and first-rate performing abilities.
The show’s plot is as rickety as a one-legged bar stool, with five differently themed restaurants providing the backdrop for Coffin’s story-songs about the search for true love. A Texas barbecue is the scene for a country-western hoedown number; an Italian bistro the stage for an adulterous operatic affair; a German beer garden hosts an impromptu ménage a drei; a Mexican cantina serves as the backdrop for a Spanish fandango; and the malt shop is the home of a rock & roll romance on the rocks.
While the songs may be forgettable in the long run, each scene and musical number has been expertly mined for its comedic, visual and acoustic possibilities by Edwards, musical director Chris Leavy, choreographer Roy Alan, and of course, the wonderful performers: Mark Baratelli, Michelle Knight and Christopher Alan Norton, all of whom are new to the Winter Park Playhouse performing family.
What makes Five Course Love work so well are the small moments – the knowing looks, the sly comic takes, the singular vocal inflections and the precise character tics that director Edwards and his cast have invented throughout the proceedings. Versatility is also a huge factor in the show’s success. Watching the protean Knight morph from lusty cowgirl, to mafia princess, to Aryan dominatrix, to sweet senorita, to innocent bobby soxer, makes it hard to believe she is the same actress in each scene. Ditto with Baratelli’s hilarious renditions of various ethnic waiters and Norton’s transitions from jealous mobster to swashbuckling hero to empty-headed 1950s greaser.
And what a joy to listen to trained singers who can deliver songs in several styles, stay on key and in pitch, harmonize effortlessly and have the chops to reach the back of house without microphones, all while maintaining their characters’ personalities and inner lives.
So if you’re looking for a meal of “silly” that is expertly cooked, tastefully presented and capably served, I recommend you journey to the Winter Park Playhouse for Five Course Love, a repast that will go down smoothly and leave your funny bone completely satisfied. You may not find true love, but you’re bound to gain a pound or two of “happy.”