"Morocco 'Round the Clock," a loose parody of "Casablanca," is the Hasty Pudding's 148th production. No one should pay money to see it--not even $8 on Senior Night. If you can't tell by now, I hated it.
Maybe it was because I came into the show with just a soupcon of animosity for all-white, all-male things. Maybe it was because I had far more laughs watching "Carrotblanca" at the Brattle Theater the night before. Or maybe it was because the show just plain stank.
The stage's curtain provided my first impression of the show: lavish, but schlocky. Here was a beautifully rendered map of East Africa, emblazoned with the show's title--and a bevy of advertisements. Not too attractive, and unfortunately I had to stare at it during the whole overture.
As the curtain rose, I saw the first of many surprisingly exquisite sets. These painted wonders were the lone source of continuous joy in the production. Unfortunately, this first set heralded the arrival of a long sequence of scenes introducing an unnecessarily large cast of outlandish characters. After the third such scene, there were many more than Pirandello's "Six," and they were searching for a plot, not an author.
The scenes that followed, still almost plotless, begged the question, "How far will men in drag go for a pun?" As the characters milked every scene for a line, and every line for five more lines, the show began--no, continued, to drag on dreadfully.
A rare bright spot came via the first scene featuring Danton Char (Ben Ibriated) and Jesse Hawkes (Dixie Ticonderoga) together. Their humorous blend of dance, slapstick and song put all but Andrew Burlinson's polished Marquesa to shame, even if it did stretch the bounds of Char's Bogart-infused voice.
I could only marvel at the irony of one musical number--a trio of 'female' characters singing a pseudofeminist song called "HIStory (History's His Story First)." I had the inescapable impression that the Pudding's male producers, male authors, male composer, male orchestrators and all-male cast were implicitly thumbing their collective nose at all women, even the few who toiled along in the pit orchestra.
Should the song have been remembered for its message, not its messengers? Perhaps, since the singing characters had already been portrayed as shallow bimbos. Before intermission came, the show also managed a salvo aimed at black urban culture. Stunned silence from some and guffaws from others greeted Nick Gordon's caricature of a performance as Sheik Ir-Bouti, recently returned from Long Island. In addition to the odious attributes of the show's writing, the majority of the actors suffered from overplaying that reached beyond the simply funny and into the realm of the suicide-inspiring.
By the time I was contemplating such preternatural acts, the show had found something of a plot, or rather several pieces of plot straining in different directions. What I'm getting at is, yes, the show still lacked contiguity. Rather than gradually weaving together several independently intriguing plot lines, the show could barely maintain my interest in any of its outrageous situations. As for a cliffhanger before intermission, consider that cliff as yet unclimbed.
After intermission, during which the slew of curtain-based advertisements again confronted the audience, the show's plot appeared ready for a quick finish. But the cloying musical numbers and strings of bad puns continued, this time made still more unbearable by the addition of tired jokes about Yale and Wellesley.
The pre-finale production number revealed more second-hand material. Significant plagiarism of Sam & Dave's "Hold On, I'm Coming" and Kool and the Gang's "Celebration" blemished the score, previously marked only by a humorous reference to Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto. The orchestra seemed weary as well, though its strong rhythm section pushed onwards.
The disco number's respectable singing and choreography could well have closed the show, except that the plot had failed to rumble to its so-close-you-could-taste-it end. Instead, the audience had to sit through an overblown monologue by a minor character and a boring ballet (featuring a busty, less-than-agile camel) that turned into the Pudding's usual Rockettish finale. Throughout this ordeal, all I could do was shake my head and ask, "Why?"
That question has a particular resonance for me. Traditionally, the outgoing Editorial Chair of The Crimson reviews the Pudding show. I assume this custom began as a special honor, in the days when the Pudding show was worth seeing. The Editorial Chair, as head of the Opinion and Arts pages, could grab one of Cambridge's hottest tickets as a final privilege.
But having been reduced to a form of glitzy torture, the show no longer merits such treatment. I base this conclusion on its infinite inferiority in entertainment value to Tweety Bird as Peter Lorre's Ugarte. I must recommend that my successors end the tradition which has, like the Pudding's brand of humor, run its course.