Those Guvmint Office Blues: FunHouse Theatre and Film’s “Mortgage”

left to right: Piper Cunningham, Joseph Nativi, Zoe Smithey, Chris Rodenbaugh, Marielle Wyatt, Doak Rapp, Tex Patrello, Karina Cunningham

left to right: Piper Cunningham, Joseph Nativi, Zoe Smithey, Chris Rodenbaugh, Marielle Wyatt, Doak Rapp, Tex Patrello, Karina Cunningham

Don’t let the grim title scare you away. Mortgage. The creative folks at Fun House Theatre and Film likes to come up with catchy one-word titles (like Stiff earlier this year) so they’re easy to remember. The titles don’t always have a lot to do with the shows, themselves. As in this one, running through October 12th on the Main Stage space of Plano Children’s Theatre. Not a real estate transaction in sight here, no dishwater-dull title companies, no felonious loan sharks bilking innocent householders, not even any big bank dragons for a pint-sized Elizabeth Warren clone to slay with a literate, acidic sword. Instead you’ll find an engaging collection of c. seventeen high energy song and dance numbers, strung rather loosely around the benumbing stasis of an anonymous government office where citizen transactions hardly ever take place due to gallons of malaise (and the pressing need for another rousing song and dance number). Mortgage: do not be afraid! It’s safe to wade far into the deep end….

Directed breezily by respected regional actor Andy Baldwin and choreographed by Megan Kelly Bates and Katelyn Harris, Mortgage offers such a smooth performance it’s hard to tell where one guide’s touch ends and the others’ begin. Fun House has perfected the “art” of the junior satirical review; it’s now up to the individual(s) directing to leave a personal imprint to make each show unique. In this case, the performers use more than one playing level effectively and play with full commitment as deep on the stage as they do wide. That’s a new level. As actor, Baldwin can change the tone and pace of a pivotal scene with how he presents his back to an audience, and he never needs to raise his voice to fill a large stage with his presence. I know the Fun House Ensemble well; there isn’t a slacker among them. In this production Baldwin has brought his ensemble to a new focused level of engagement, as characters, in quiet moments or explosive ones, as the ensemble in balancing and coordinating with each other in Bates’ and Harris’ complex, delightful, entertaining dance routines.

Brian Wright, center; left to right: Chris Rodenbaugh, Doak Rapp, Tex Patrello, Jeremy LeBlanc

Brian Wright, center; left to right: Chris Rodenbaugh, Doak Rapp, Tex Patrello, Jeremy LeBlanc

What musical numbers get incorporated and parodied? I’ll never tell and spoil the fun. But they’re recognizable Broadway show and pop tunes. The program pays “homage” to Stephen Schwartz, Billy Joel, The BeeGees and David Shire, Green Day/ Billy Joe Armstrong, Pete Townshend, Jonathan Larsen, Eric Carmen/ Dean Pitchford, Michael Gibson, Freddy Mercury and Galt MacDermot. Getting curious? Don’t miss all the fun.

Stand out performances: 1) Tex Patrello as a hopelessly lovesick Tony in a white polyester suit, jet black hair as puffed out and shellacked in place as Travolta’s was in 1977. What a lady-killer! 2) Chris Rodenbaugh resigned to Mister Mom Daddy-duty “stuck in the carpool lane” with a trio of obnoxious “Green Day” brats (Piper Cunningham, Zoe Smithey and Joseph Nativi). Forget he’s a kid, himself. 3) Marisa Mendoza as an overbearing Mom wearing a wig with a marauding mind of its own. Now THAT’S concentration! 4) 11 year old Alex Duva as the glad-handing, pompous office boss Mr. Reynolds. Purely cringe-spirational!

Chris Rodenbaugh- Johnny ( with the Green Day Kids, left to right, Piper Cunningham, Joseph Nativi, Zoe Smithey)

Chris Rodenbaugh- Johnny ( with the Green Day Kids, left to right, Piper Cunningham, Joseph Nativi, Zoe Smithey)

Twenty-seven young thespians create this show: dancing, singing and acting their junior patooties off. I’ll bet the farm you’ll love it.

Performances through 10/12: www.funhousetheatreandfilm.com 972-357-5092

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