Reviewed by Joan Tupponce
You don’t often link barbershop music to comedy, but you will once you see The Fabulous Lipitones, Virginia Rep’s current production at Hanover Tavern.
The show is the product of Emmy award-winning writer, television producer, and playwright John Markus, who is also directing the production, and award-winning playwright Mark St. Germain. Markus co-wrote sixty-seven episodes of The Cosby Show and St. Germain, who also wrote for The Cosby Show, is a seasoned playwright.
It’s their expertise in comedy that gives this show its professional edge when it comes to comic timing and flow. The show’s pace is brisk and the material is lighthearted.
A regional premiere, The Fabulous Lipitones tells the tale of a nerdy, less-than-hip middle-aged Ohio-based barbershop quartet (is there any other kind?) whose lead singer dies before the group makes it to the regional competition. In their hectic search for a new tenor, they serendipitously discover Bob who works at the local auto shop. The twist? They’ve never met Bob; they’ve just heard his voice. They soon discover Bob isn’t your typical mid-westerner. He’s Indian and that presents a cultural dilemma for the guys in the group that sets up some hilarious moments.
At first, there are in-your-face differences, but with a little time those differences begin to mesh together. And yes, there are social messages throughout the play, especially regarding racism, but they are delivered with a light touch and comic innuendos.
The show’s four actors shine as a group and as individuals. Stephen Boschen plays Howard, a man who spends most of his time catering to his wife, now back at home after running off with another man. Boschen has a genuine, comfortable air on stage that comes across in his performance.
Joe Pabst gives the snarky, bigoted Phil, a sarcastic edge that elicits laughter. He takes Phil on a journey that ultimately makes him a better man.
Ford Flannagan capitalizes on Wally’s innocence as well as his insecurities, especially with women. Flannagan ratchets up the comedy when Wally tries to make inroads with the ladies on a dating website.
Newcomer Levin Valayil brings a great voice and a fun, light presence to his role as Bob. He provides a sincere portrayal that has a humorous undertone.
The Fabulous Lipitones is entertaining and laugh-filled from beginning to end. The show runs at Hanover Tavern through October 25. Click here for tickets, showtimes, and details on discounts.