It’s just like riding a bike — on stage.
About 40 or so intrepid souls turned out last week for opening night of “Tomfoolery — The Words and Music of Tom Lehrer” at the Aurora Fox Arts Center Theater. The post-pandemic, premier live audience were clad in masks, sitting far apart and joined in laughter.
It was the first live performance of a regional theater since the pandemic brought down the curtain on everything across the metro area this spring.
On Friday, the house lights went down, and for more than an hour, I and a few dozen others laughed at the world changed by the novel coronavirus, instead of struggling against it.
While scientists across the world ply experimental vaccines on volunteers, Executive Producer Helen R. Murray and Director Kenny Moten injected audience members and actors with a live performance that was the perfect antidote to the stress and doldrums the pandemic has inflicted on all of us.
The show comes after months of working with health and planning experts with the goal of offering an experience as safe as possible from coronavirus transmission and still a live performance.
Getting into the theater, finding a seat was less worrisome than a trip to the grocery store. If that makes you uncomfortable, this isn’t for you. But I was far more at ease in the orchestra, far from anyone, than I am having dinner inside a local restaurant. While the audience was sparse, there were just enough people to create a community that would laugh in unison, creating the essence of what sets theater apart from watching TV at home.
When the show starts, the pandemic crisis would have evaporated completely if it hadn’t been woven into the musical comedy vignettes.
Would I go again? Absolutely.
Pandemic or no, the one-hour-ish long show shines. It’s a review of some of the best songs of cult icon Tom Lehrer, woven into a series of skits. Lehrer was a real-live math genius whose love for penning darkly funny, satirical tunes made him a legend in the ‘50s and ‘60s and beyond.
The flawless cast whimsically strolls through a little pigeoncide, masochism, racism, and environmental annihilation, all of it sharply pointed and at the same time seriously funny.
Moten plucked some of the best of the best from Denver’s deep bench of local talent. Acotrs Mosés Brown, Corey Exline, Tim Howard, Valerie Igoe and music director Trent Hines all embraced the novelty of the show. Each delivered what as a perfect blend of vaudeville, reader’s theater, SNL and a heavy dose of Gilbert and Sullivan.
“Tomfoolery” is not only relevant and topical, the show resonates to every generation. If you think people have wildly changed over the decades, the group rendition of “The Old Dope Peddler” and “The Vatican Rag” will persuade you that only the names change amid human foible and controversy.
In about an hour, the cast and crew has you back outside and maskless, wishing for more.
“Tomfoolery — The Words and Music of Tom Lehrer”
4 of 5 stars
At the Aurora Fox Arts Center theater with enhanced pandemic safety measures
9900 E. Colfax Avenue
Four shows weekly, Sunday matinees, through Oct. 11
Tickets start at $15
Box office: 303-739-1970