In 1982—long before the emergence of proverbial “metrosexual”—author Bruce Feirstein informed the world, “Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche,” with a groundbreaking book that topped the best-seller lists for 55 weeks. Feirstein defined the dilettante, trend-chasing, sensitive man who eschewed traditional masculine virtues.
Now 30 years later, Paul Louis and Nick Santa Maria would have us believe that real men not only eat quiche, but sing show tunes…..and play with puppets, too. That’s the premise of the wacky musical revue the duo cooked up and premiered last weekend at Actors Playhouse in Coral Gables.
The testosterone courses through the Miracle Theatre as Louis, Santa Maria and fellow funnyman Stephen G. Anthony—accompanied by pianist and music director Manny Schvartzman—take the stage to enlighten the audience with a hilarious show about the joys of manhood, “Real Men Sing Show Tunes….and Play with Puppets.”
In a series of vignettes that trace the male lifespan (Really Single, Really Domesticated, Really Forty, Really a Parent and Really Relic), the trio cope with their manhood issues with the aid of a 12-step program and quotes from the “Book of More Men.” There are nods to some of Broadway’s biggest hits throughout, including naughty puppets a la Avenue Q and the sacrilegious Book of Mormon. There’s even a six-foot dancing dick.
The zany musical numbers are perfectly staged by Director David Arisco and complemented by bawdy puppets designed by Louis with help from costume designer Ellis Tillman.
Some of the standout numbers include “I’m Not (Gay)” and “Look Straight Ahead,” which lays down the rules of men’s room etiquette at a row of urinals. “All About the Wings” shares the straight man’s misguided notion that people eat at Hooters for the food (just like guys read “Playboy” for the articles), while “A Woman with Kids” questions a husband’s commitment to his bratty stepkids.
The puppets and clever staging and props prove to steal the show in “Prairie Men,” featuring cowboys who dance ballet; “That’s My Boy,” about a father who finds some shocking surprises while reminiscing in his son’s childhood bedroom; and “I Will Be There for You,” featuring fathers pledging their devotion to their newborn sons.
In between all the laughter, the audience was nearly brought to tears in “A Real Man,” a poignant salute to the fathers who served as our role models that closed with projections of the actors’ own dads.
“Real Men Sing Showtunes….” certainly has a commercial future, providing an alternative to all those “women’s” shows (“Motherhood the Musical,” “Maternity the Musical,” “Divorce Party the Musical”) that seem to be constantly playing across the country. It can be produced in a small theater relatively inexpensively with a small cast and a single piano player, although a splurge on more musicians would really enhance the musical numbers.
The show would also benefit from some editing. Despite a nice variety of musical genres (blues, jazz, vaudeville, boogie woogie), the 25-plus songs tend to run together over the two-hour show. The creators would also be wise to focus on one of the story-telling motifs (12-step program/Book of More Men readings/five stages of a man’s life) to move the show along more expeditiously.
“Real Men Sing Showtunes….and play with puppets”
Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m., Wednesday and Saturday, 2 p.m.
through Aug. 11
Actors Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre, 280 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables
Tickets $44 at ActorsPlayhouse.org