Our assignment editor must have realized how fit I am to review The Barnstormers original production of POUNDS OFF! (I’m a life member of Weight Watchers-three times over.) Fred Crumrine, writer of the book, music and lyrics, has used every fat joke I know and then invented a lot more-and the audience started laughing from the first song and never stopped.
The cast is a very talented group. Rebecca Gallatin as Marie Hershey (note the chocolate references), Sammy Hines as Julian Ghiradelli, and Nichole Jenkins as Alberta G. Odiva were outstanding. Ms. Gallatin has a pleasing voice and handles one of the many monologues that make up much of the script with real understanding of the humor. Mr. Hines is a master of the reaction. He is hilariously over the top as a gay man in search of Mr. Right. His duet “Not a Wedding Song” with Ryan Goulden as the softy gym instructor was a Gilbert & Sullivan style show stopper. Ms. Jenkins has the best lines in the show and gets the most out of all of them. She can sing up a storm.
They are ably assisted by Sarah Manna as Jeannie Cadbury- the mean skinny task master of the weight loss program, Charmaine Gates as Mrs. Cadbury, Jeannie’s over protective mother and Paul Himmelberg as Ben Lindt, the curmudgeon who hates the program but melts in the end. There is an effective cameo played by Marjorie Crumrine (the author’s mother) as Eunice Lindt, Ben’s wife. Added to this is an ensemble trio of Daniel Libby, Emilie Moyer and Dianne Lewis Tadlock who supplied harmony to the proceedings.
Fred Crumrine, in addition to writing the book, music and lyrics functioned as Music Director. He, at the piano, along with percussionist Pax Riddle and bass player Frank Formica, provided balanced support for the musical numbers. Mr. Crumrine turned what could have been a one joke show into a laugh riot based on the strong characters he wrote. I would have liked smoother transitions between the episodic scenes in the second act.
As director, Crumrine(a workaholic)kept the pace even and made the most of the abilities of his cast. The original music served the script well. He seems to hit his high marks in duets. I particularly liked “Chocolate Candy Blues” as well as the aforementioned “Not a Wedding Song”. Crumrine has mastered the art of interweaving several melodic lines into a single composition. He got super performances from Ms. Jenkin in “I Don’t Want to Fall for This Man” and Ms. Manna in “Teeny Weenie Meanie Jeannie”. “Fat Jesus” proved a great finale for both acts.
For those for whom the chocolate character names and plot did not suffice, the program also listed recipes for cup cakes and banana bread. The choreography, lights, set and costumes all were exactly in tune with the production. Producer R. Bruce Warren and the hardworking wearer of many hats, Fred Crumrine, did themselves proud. The Barnstormers, Pennsylvania’s oldest continuously operating community theater, is to be congratulated for giving new plays and musicals a place to be heard.
Book, Music & Lyrics by Fred Crumrine
Directed by Fred Crumrine
September 10 – 18, 2010
The Barnstormers Theater
Ward and Tome Streets
Ridley Park, PA