“The Fabulous Lipitones” is such a lightweight affair that it threatens to evaporate under the heat of the stage lights.
Good thing, then, that the production of John Markus and Mark St. Germain’s comedy now playing at the New Theatre Restaurant features a cast of four actors who milk just about every possible laugh out of the material.
The Lipitones of the title are a barbershop quartet who, as the play begins, have been reduced to a trio. Their lead singer, Andy, blew out his heart attempting to hold a high note at the regional competition against their arch rivals, the Sons of Pitches.
Now the surviving members have gathered in the man-cave of Howard (George Wendt) to discuss their future.
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The belligerent Phil (James Wright), operator of a commercial gym, wants to shut down the Lipitones. Barbershop singing is passé, Phil argues. “Who here has ever gotten any action singing barbershop?” he asks.
Pharmacist Wally (Phil Fiorini) is a socially backward dweeb who still lives with his mother. Barbershop singing is about the only thing he has going for him.
Howard, who works in a dog food plant, wonders if he shouldn’t hang it up. More and more of his time is consumed with caring for his invalid wife (whom we never see).
Then the Lipitones get a new lease on life thanks to the arrival of a potential member.
Bob (Levin Valayil) is an auto mechanic who hails from India. He’s an eager-to-please sweetheart, but he’s also a Sikh whose ceremonial dagger and turban give his all-American colleagues pause.
Phil, in particular, shows a jingoistic streak, wondering aloud if Bob (real name: Baba Mati Singh) is some sort of terrorist plant.
But the newcomer can sing. In the end, that’s all that matters.
The script develops a crisis for each character — ranging from a death in the family to a sweep by immigration authorities — and then resolves everything with a big Bollywood-themed production number (that’s Bob’s influence) employing four bare-midriffed dancing girls.
Under Richard Carrothers’ direction, “Lipitones” moves so quickly that it’s over before it has really gone anywhere.
Wendt, famous as barfly Norm on TV’s “Cheers” (and a local guy), basically plays a straight guy to his more colorful colleagues.
As the suspicious and bombastic Phil, Wright provides most of the play’s conflict.
Top comedy honors go to Fiorini as the childlike Wally and Valayil as the enthusiastic Bob.
The barbershop singing — a half dozen numbers are performed — is spot on.
“The Fabulous Lipitones” continues at New Theatre Restaurant, 9229 Foster in Overland Park, through Feb. 12. See newtheatre.com or call 913-649-7469.