Stagelight Productions @ Kennedy Theatre, Progress Energy Center
Through Oct. 26
Before there was “Weird Al” Yankovic, there was Tom Lehrer. Though his reign of albums and touring only lasted for a short period, Lehrer’s satirical songs amassed a large following that has lasted over the years, cumulating in the 2000 box set The Remains of Tom Lehrer. Stagelight’s presentation of Tomfoolery showcases Lehrer’s best work, though the staging often doesn’t live up to the songs.
All the big ones are here, from “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park” to “The Masochism Tango” to “We’ll All Go Together When We Go.” The songs are acted out by an ensemble, but the results are mixed: The choreography is often lacking, and the staging sometimes obscures the lyrics. Music director Coty Cockrell, who also performs, fares best with elaborate dance moves and a manic persona. There’s some updated lyrics here and there, but the linking material makes the show feel more like a time capsule than a showcase for the relevance of Lehrer’s work.
Despite the problems with the staging, this is still great material—and songs like “The New Math,” “Send in the Marines” and “When You Are Old and Gray” still pack a satirical punch. It’s great to see these performed live—and if you’re not familiar with Lehrer’s songs, here’s a chance to experience his work live. —Zack Smith