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By Bridgette M. Redman
Williamston Theater is currently serving five courses of love in a variety of spicy flavors.
In this three-person musical, “Five-Course Love,” directed by Tom Woldt, the audience is dished up a delectable fantasia of would-be lovers hoping that Cupid will smile upon them.
The appetizer course (served at Dean’s Old-Fashioned All-American Down-Home Bar-B-Que Texas Eats, where all the men are Butch and all the women Rosebud) was a bit on the heavy side for a starting course. Nonetheless, the flavors of a steamy serving between a very single guy and a Barbie-girl in her Barbie world kept the exchanges tasty and clued the diners in to what to expect for the rest of the tuneful meal.
Laura Croff, Matthew Gwynn and Aaron Moore twirl through a series of bigger-than-life characters who sing of love trysts both touching and absurd — mostly the latter. After the Texas appetizers, the courses are served progressive style with projections changing the restaurant sign and Moore (mostly) passing out new menus. Course 2 is Italian, followed by German, Mexican and ending at a 50s-style diner.
Croff makes the largest swings between characters, accompanied by a delightful array of wigs. She commits fully to each of the archetypes — the lustful, country-western Barbie blonde; the sophisticated, unfaithful Italian mob wife; the leather-bedecked, whip-wielding German sexpot; the sought-after horseback-riding, clean-faced ingenue; and the timid bookworm whose overtures of love are too subtle for the object of her affection.
She infuses each course with distinct flavor, proving herself a master chef in full command of accents, body language and characterization. Each new dish is a delight that tickles the senses.
Gregg Coffin, who wrote the book, music and lyrics, serves up more meat-and-potatoes roles for the two men, though the narrower range of types are no less filling for being less exotic. Gwynn is given all of the wandering romantic leads, while Moore stays firmly attached to each locale as owner, waiter, maitre’d and cook. Within those set roles, each of them equals Croff’s commitment and energy, creating a full menu of varied flavors that blend into a perfect palette-pleasing meal that sates its diners without overstuffing them.
Woldt makes the most of the tight Williamston space, with choreography that ranges from sultry to raucous, and even has Gwynn jumping the banisters in the aisle.
While it is the feast of acting and singing that most audiences will remember, the meal worked not just because of the zesty performers, but because of the fitting style of the place settings, decor and ambiance the technical and musical artists provide. Musical director Jeff English was a perfect partner on the keyboard, giving the performers perfectly timed musical cues and the running soundtrack that injected extra mood into each scene. Nor was his presence ignored by the other performers, with he and Moore frequently exchanging sly winks and mischievous moments.
The set was completely adaptable, able to move very quickly between scenes with only a few iconic pieces of set dressing to help change the locales. Costume designer Melanie Schuessler created strikingly different costumes that the actors were able to quickly don and shed as they moved between courses.
Williamston even gave its audience a pre-meal snack with a delightfully clever recorded curtain speech sung in the comedic style of the entire musical.
“Five-Course Love” is a tangy low-fat smorgasbord that parodies the romance genre with adult-rated, boisterous and rowdy panache.
Williamston Theatre, 122 S. Putnam Rd., Williamston. Thursday-Sunday through Aug. 15. $18-$24. 517-655-7469. http://www.williamstontheatre.org.