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The Arts
October 11-18, 2006

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Schooled for scandals: Lehrer's humor is still timely after all these years.

King Lehrer

Jon Rosen and company take quintessential satirist Tom Lehrer's 'Tomfoolery' over the hill

By Joyce D. Mann

To some people, tomfoolery conjures up visions of lighthearted frivolity; to others, it may even hint at craziness or buffoonery. However, to fans of Tom Lehrer it means only one thing--an evening of music, satire and energetic dance routines. Tomfoolery touches on the topics of pollution, love, religion, sex and intolerance, with no topics off-limits to the irreverent Lehrer. Telling titles like "The Vatican Rag" and "Send the Marines" may still touch a nerve after nearly 50 years.

Although Lehrer is an East Coaster, educated at Harvard, he found a spiritual home in Santa Cruz when he joined the faculty of UCSC in 1972. He is now considered a Santa Cruz icon. Lehrer had his heyday in the 1960s and '70s, yet his satire has not been tarnished by time. His songs deal with universal themes and are not tied to political events of the Vietnam era. He claims that he stopped writing satire when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973. He splits his time between Cambridge, Mass., and his beloved Santa Cruz.

Local director Jon Rosen has long had an obsession with the works of Lehrer, and in particular with the collection of songs known as Tomfoolery. He has produced the show in Santa Cruz and San Francisco and now his company, Stagelight Productions, is taking it to San Jose.

Barbara Rosen has the dual role of producer and costumer. Rosen has gathered a talented and ebullient cast. If you enjoyed Nathan Detroit and Adelaide in this summer's Cabrillo Stage production of Guys and Dolls, you'll be glad to know that David Curley and Hilary Little are together again in this production. Metro Santa Cruz talked to Curley recently. Amazingly, this talented equity actor is largely self-taught, and took to the stage less than five years ago. He describes himself as a shy person who comes into his own onstage. Fans of Curley's "Nathan Detroit" can attest to that.

In his numerous Santa Cruz productions, we're used to seeing the serious side of actor/director Brian Spencer. However, Spencer has now gone over to the "light" side, and is putting his comedic and vocal skills to work in numbers such as "I Hold Your Hand in Mine." Spencer is new to the San Jose theater scene, and wonders how audiences will compare with those in Santa Cruz.

Not many people know that Annette Bening's brother lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Brad Bening has strutted his stuff in stage roles such as Daddy Warbucks. His day job as a trial lawyer takes him into San Jose and all points within the rule of law. Bening promises to bring a Cheney-esque twist to his showcase piece, "The Hunting Song." Bening's daughter, Ashley, a recent graduate of UC-Irvine's Theater Arts program, ACT and the Stella Adler Acting School in New York, is a featured player.

Dan Galpin brings his operatic skills to the party, and the cast is rounded out by Rebecca Wallace. Music is provided by a five-piece combo--Jon Rosen, Franz Lanzinger, Andrew Brown, Ben Doitel and Randy Hood. Dudley Brooks is the choreographer.

Musical Director Kevin Cormier provides insights into Lehrer's skills as a lyricist and composer. Cormier sees the songs as message-driven, with the music tailored to the words. Ever the prankster, Lehrer plays with musical parodies, and plants inside musical jokes to challenge the listener.

Theatre on San Pedro Square is a cabaret-style theater in the heart of a quaint downtown San Jose area, surrounded by boutiques and restaurants. Getting the production together has called for energetic cooperation between a variety of individuals and groups. The San Jose Redevelopment Agency, in conjunction with Gary de Mattei (lessor of Theatre on San Pedro Square), came up with a plan that benefits the theater community, as well as local businesses. The Agency agreed to renovate the theater and de Mattei makes the theater available to nonprofit performing arts companies at no charge for six months each year. This sounds like a win-win situation. Rosen is working in conjunction with Cormier's nonprofit group, Studio Theatre of California, to mount the production of Tomfoolery in this very desirable location.

Tomfoolery opens on Saturday, Oct. 14, at Theatre on San Pedro Square, 29 N. San Pedro St., San Jose. The show runs until Oct. 29. For performance dates and times, and to order tickets, call 800.838.3006, or visit

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