In and around the lobby of the Tenth Street Theatre prior to the show, Chris and Jane Flieller appeared to have all the energy and positivity of a couple of honor roll students about to graduate from high school. It’s nice to see that kind of energy in the final ever regular season show of the theatre company they started back in 1998. Their final show at the Tenth Street Theatre: The Fabulous Lipitones. It’s a fun, little comedy with a little bit of drama thrown-in. The four-part buddy comedy might feel a bit schmaltzy in places, but the sentimentality fits perfectly in a dramatic comedy about a barbershop quartet. Director Jane Flieller is great with this type of material. A show like this would have been more than a little cloying in anyone else's hands. Flieller is a seasoned professional who knows exactly what she's doing here and what she's doing here will be sorely missed until the next Flieller and Flieller project makes its way to the stage at some point in the undetermined future.
As the play opens, three members of a barbershop quartet are mourning the loss of their fourth--a guy who had been with them forever. Without their very close fourth friend, the future is uncertain for The Fabulous Lipitones. They have mixed feelings about trying to compete again in a national competition against the barbershop juggernaut known as The Sons of Pitches. All seems lost until a chance meeting with a potential replacement keeps hope alive for the group. If they can overcome cultural differences and the challenges of advancing age, the newly re-formed quartet might just take home the national title.
Rick Pendzich plays to his strengths as the heart of the group...a man that hasn’t really managed to grow-up even though he’s got a very professional job as a pharmacist. Nathan Marinan is compassionately passive in the role of a nice guy who might want to see the group survive the death of a good friend. The entire play takes place in a whimsical basement that he and the other three use as a rehearsal space. Steve Koehler manages the challenge of making a conservative, xenophobic alpha-male seem likable. He’s playing the manager of a local gym who is about to make a rather big business deal and can’t afford to have the group getting in the way of that...particularly when the new guy turns out to be an immigrant. Ethan Brittingham quite nearly steals the show in the role of “Bob.” Bob’s a Sikh who is working for a local auto mechanic. Brittingham is deeply charming as a relatively young guy who loves song and the US even if US immigration policy doesn’t exactly love him.
A fair amount of the charm of Brittingham and the rest of the group comes in the form of overwhelmingly cute barbershop quartet choreography by Adam Estes. A comedy with music that isn’t exactly a musical comedy isn’t exactly the type of thing that quite exactly allows for very elaborate choreography, but Estes adds immeasurably to the heart of the show. Estes manages a rather deft fusion in moments which mix traditional barbershop dance with Sikh-inspired movement. The fusion of cultural elements in the show is present in the music direction of David Bonofiglio.
In Tandem Theatre’s final regular season show The Fabulous Lipitones runs through May 19th at the Tenth St. Theatre on 628 N. 10th St. For ticket reservations and more, visit In Tandem online.