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No one makes very great artistic demands of a Hasty Pudding Show. It doesn't have to be a great contribution to the literature of the musical theatre; it merely has to be an enjoyable evening's entertainment. For those who are terribly amused by the spectacle of hairy-chested young men impersonating heavy-chested young women, one Pudding show is no doubt as good as any other. Some ask a little more, and Pro and Con--the Pudding's current offering--gives them a good deal more.
Pro and Con has no story line worth the name, spotty lyrics (by Alan Lutkus) and book (by Peter Bluestone), and several indescribably dull moments. But it also has a good score (by Walter Moses), some remarkable choreography (by Bob Norris, who also directs admirably), and a number of very funny sight gags. This is sufficient to make Pro and Con what it is designed to be--a very pleasant evening in the theatre.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around a bunch of Chicago hoods, some imported Parisian prostitutes and a precinct's worth of incompetent cops. A love interest is thrown in between the head cop and the chief poule, but all this subplot produces are some melodic but agonizingly uninteresting love songs. Each of the three groups of characters has amusing ensemble bits: the prostitutes form an amazingly synchronized kickline, and the hoods have a funny song about the Apalachin Assassination Association.
But the individual stars are David Rawle as the beatnik son of the hoods' boss and Brian Doyle as a female soc rel researcher doing her master's on deviant behavior (trying to get the "scoop on the loop," as Rawle says). In the second act these two put on a marvelous song and dance called the "Planned Obsolescence Mambo." Rawle also has two excellent duets with John TenBrook, as Tuesday Kowalczyk (a muscular lady cop). Doyle has a way of exclaiming "That's fascinating!" that can bring almost any scene to a riotous close.
Nick Adams, as the police lieutenant, has a good voice, but he wages a hopeless battle with the love songs. Philip Lund, as the madam, and K. C. Sulkin, as the hoodlum boss, are competent, but Lund in particular suffers from too much dull straight material. Dick Tucker has an effective blues number in the beat coffeehouse scene that closes the first act.
But the dances and the short, very funny sight gags and musical parodies are the real highlights of the show. An unfortunate love duet between Adams and Lund is happily broken up by the entrance of John Valentine as an aerial Cupid. Later, Valentine and Pete White make something hilarious out of the hackeney comic concept of two drunken electrians fooling around with a ladder. Francis Mahard's sets are many and uniformly excellent, as are the costumes designed by Theoni Aldredge.
Pro and Con, when it is trying to be serious, is just dull, but enough of the music and humor hit the mark to make it an extremely entertaining production. And that is all that most people ask from a Pudding show.
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