Scheduling conflicts meant that we didn’t catch enough of this show to give a full review. But the scenes we saw gave us a tantalizing glimpse of the Cupid Players’ musical mischief that made us want to come back for more.
The show opened with two male and two female performers dressed in black, each with individual quirks. Instead of telling us about their problems, they sang about them instead.
That’s the Players’ specialty — cracking their jokes in song, accompanied by a keyboardist, packing the pint-sized Theatre 99 stage with carefully choreographed dance numbers. Led by the rubber-limbed Tim Soszko, the first group each took turns to describe their neuroses: weight gain, parental pressure, OCD, and panophobia (“I’m afraid of everything”). Unlikely subjects for a song? Absolutely, and the scene became more absurd as five more singers stepped up behind the original quartet to symbolize their fears. With white shirts over their own black outfits, the newcomers were like white blood cells eager to wipe out the flawed foursome.
Ranjit Souri was funny as a put-upon son compelled by his parents to become a doctor. Coming from a long line of physicians, he made his character accessible with a handful of quick-paced lines.
From her very first note, Jill Valentine stood out as a zaftig gal obsessed with her body. As she complained about her boob sweat and sang, “My hungry butt ate my thong,” she instantly had the audience’s sympathy.
To solve the butt problem, Valentine visited a plastic surgeon for the second number, “Nip and Tuck.” This rock and roll-style song played like a small-scale Broadway musical set piece, complete with synchronized dance moves, a scrubbed-up chorus and over-the-top expressions and miming. Despite the obvious parody, the tone came across as heartfelt and affectionate. This is a group that knows it shows.
With its themes of societal coercion, adult responsibilities, and cosmetic surgery, it’s no wonder that the Cupid Players are a big hit in their home city of Chicago. It’s not hard to see why their present show has lasted six years. It’s lean and fast, relevant to its urban audiences, and, although it’s adults-only, there’s nothing mean-spirited or blatantly quirky. The recurring characters make it more than a random string of comedy sketches, and since this is a condensed version of the show (cut from 75 minutes to an hour for Piccolo), the group is obliged to cut straight to the singing as much as possible. The result is good old-fashioned musical hall fun dressed up in modern trimmings.