The Concord Journal
Theatregoesrs brave snow, cold for Lehrer
By Parkman Howe  

Neither rain, sleet, hail nor a foot of snow stopped the Concord Players last Friday night from giving Tom Lehrer a wry send-up at 51 Walden St.

Susan Minor led a very able orchestra with an energy and verve that never flagged. Kirsten Gould, in her debut as a director for the Players, kept the action light, quick and witty, a perfect complement to the music.

The five actor/dancer/ singers did it all with aplomb, enjoying the music, the lyrics, the staging and the chance to perform for an audience.

The show consists of 30 of Tom Lehrer's songs sandwiched together by short introductions or Lehrer's own musings on life.

The show lasts just two hours, a tribute to the energy of the cast and the pacing of Gould's direction. The five cast members sing solos or combine for ensemble numbers, changing costumes and attitudes to suit the direction of the music or lyrics.

The players were fortunate to find five actors who could do justice to both the music and mood of the show. Each had at least one virtuoso piece.

Pamela Schweppe remembered all 108 elements set to Gilber and Sullivan's "Modern Major General." Marilyn Zavidow got the wrong answers exactly right in "New Math." Cliff Bean shot up the hall with "Hunting Song" and Larry Peterson only gave his hand away at the very end of "I Hold Your Hand In Mine."

Peter Davis had the greatest range of songs, from the German "Werner von Braun" to the Russian "Lobachevsky," all of which he performed with an elegant accent. His "Masochism Tango" also cries out for special mention.

How could a young mathematics professor fooling around at the piano back in the late fifties and early sixties come up with songs we remember for decades? Lehrer is not a great tune writer, nor does he claim to be. He lifts melodies and falls back on musical cliches to fill in the spaces. Lyrics are his chief concern and his claim to fame. "Pollution," "The Old Dope Peddler," "Batican Rag," "National Brotherhood Week," and "Who's Next" are as true today as they were when Lehrer first wrote them.

On the other side of the score card, the "New Math" is no longer so new, and Lehrer's odes to "Dixie" and "Old Mexico" satirize customes and people that have moved beyond Lehrer's freeze-frames from the 50's.

Tomfoolery is relentlessly witty, like a domineering smart aleck holding forth at a party. Some of the spoken introductions to various songs were developed from Lehrer's own night club acts, and they seem intended for an audience listening with only one ear. A good portion of such patter could be eliminated without loss.

One also wonders where Lehrer's heart really lies. He points out our weaknesses, but he finally takes no stand that does not include a joke. The show has no ballads or love songs to soften and humanize Lehrer's satire.

Still, anyone who writes a duet about poisoning pigeons in the park can't be all bad. And any theatre that puts on a show with the style and panache of the Concord Players's Tomfoolery deserves full houses for every performance.