RPP’s Pandemonium is infectious laughter and fun

April 9, 2021
By BBadmin7502

BY ERICA RESS MARTIN
From the moment Margaret Bush says, “It’s 5 o’clock, so it’s time for the Stan Ikenberry Amateur Hour,” you know you’re in for a fun evening. As you know, RPP was forced to cancel the entire season, so a very bored Board member (Alice Court) came up with the idea of putting together cabaret entertainment the performers could rehearse individually. Tad Ingram signed on as the director and head writer along with Alice and Erica Ress Martin. Laura Brock, the Emmy-award winning set and production designer signed on, too, followed by Jason Tucker as the musical director. Soon, Priscilla Masselink and Bill Whitney joined Alice and Erica as co-producers. And before you could finish the script, actors, singers and dancers were volunteering to be part of Pandemonium – A COVID Cabaret.
Imagine an entire show designed like a 1950’s televised talent show. Think Ted Mack. There’s the ever-charming Host played delightfully by Stan Ikenberry, and yes, he is wearing the traditional bowtie seen on early TV. Bill Whitney plays his wisecracking Sidekick, as well as the percussionist in the world’s smallest studio band. The band leader and accompanist is Jason Tucker who performs as if he was in charge of an entire orchestra. Then there’s beautiful ‘Gal’ who acts in live commercials, keeps the audience applauding and smiles no matter what happens on stage. This pivotal role stars Margaret Bush who had to memorize more lines than anyone else in this show. (Memorizing is not easy when you have a year of not doing any live performances.) Together, this foursome makes American Idol feel overdone and stale.
And that’s just the beginning.
After a very funny plug for Geritol, the first talented contestants appear. Fred Allardyce, Ross Witschonke, Jeff Lehrian and Peter Powell are just a bunch of guys “Standin’ On The Corner,” raising their voices in harmony wishing some girls would come by. Oh well, it’s on to the next contestant.
Laurie Meeks Watkins pops on to perform an upbeat rendition of “Cockeyed Optimist,” from South Pacific. The Host and Sidekick love her performance and the applause grows as the audience is encouraged to applaud.
Next up are two contestants who plan to get married on stage – or at least that’s the act they are performing. Erica Ress Martin, Peter Powell and Kimberly Whipple recreate the hysterical song “Getting Married Today,” from Sondheim’s show, “Company.” After the glorious sound of the church soloist, the zany bride panics at the thought of getting married to her calm and collected fiancé. Will they get married? Not on this stage.
Next up is a beautiful flight attendant and a dashing passenger who found love in the air – literally! Kimberly Whipple and Ross Witschonke wistfully sing “Barcelona,” as she gets dressed after a night of bliss. Can he convince her to stay? You’ll have to see the show to find out.
Our Host and his Sidekick lead us into the first live commercial starring very funny David Jenkins as a frumpy sad sack looking for love. The product is ‘Boca Grande Loves,’ a new kind of dating site that will restyle even the grumpiest old man.
After the commercial break, the show comes back with a bang as three strippers, Mazeppa, Electra and Tessie Tura show what it takes to get ahead in this world today. Carol B. Forrester, Kimberly Whipple and Joan Kale star in this comedic classic, “You Gotta Get A Gimmick.” Each stripper performs a specialty, along with an appropriate number of bumps and grinds for this PG rated extravaganza.
Then, this is the moment, we’ve been waiting for as Rich Mutkoski takes center stage.. What is he singing for his melodious solo? You guessed it. “This Is The Moment.” The applause is certain to soar at this number.
Another live commercial is up next. Pandemic is the new fragrance perfect for today’s socially distant society. Ned Lehrian and Hal McCombs play a couple who long to be together but understand it is just not possible during lockdown. One whiff of Pandemic protects them from themselves, but nothing can protect them from the audience laughter.
A cute cowgirl, played by Linda Rollyson, comes on as the next contestant. She’s trying her best to sing but can’t get a certain word out of her mouth. Her failure never fails to delight as she dejectedly marches off stage.
John Thomas and Joan Kale are the next contestants. An elderly British gent and his much younger girlfriend come to terms with the age difference in a joyous performance of “Never Too Late To Fall In Love.” Robbie Stanley, the Stage Manager of this funny, funny show, gets called on stage and told to take John to the cold showers after his number. As they leave, two divas enter.
Alice Court and Laurie Meek Watkins perform “Bosom Buddies,” with the knives out, declaration of eternal friendship this sidesplitting number demands. With booming voices and frozen smiles, this is a true showstopper.
A man looking totally lost wanders onstage. It’s David Jenkins again only this time he’s playing an extremely nervous contestant who needs a hernia operation. His attempt at singing and dancing stuns our Host who has him ushered off the stage quickly.
Luckily, some real dancers are up next. It’s the Boca Grande Tappers. Carol B. Forrester, Robbin Gilligan, Ned Lehrian and Mary Hancur perform to an updated recording of Fred Astaire’s “Puttin’ On The Ritz.” Choregraphed by the amazing Chris Lee, these contestants are guaranteed to bring down the house, even without an applause sign reminding everyone to clap.
It’s time for another live commercial. This one is for VacciFast, the new, easy way to get the vaccine of your choice. Linda Rollyson plays a very bored nurse offering her next patient, played by Fred Allardyce, the choice of a 2 shot Pfizer, a 2 shot Moderna or a one shot Keester. Fred is just as surprised as the audience at what she is suggesting in this hilarious skit.
A slightly inebriated Alice Court stumbles onstage holding a martini glass with an olive. Two waiters, Jeff and Ned Lehrian, follow her out. One is holding a bottle of gin bottle. The other has a bottle of vermouth. She belts out “Here’s To The Ladies Who Lunch” with her powerful voice, regaining her dignity with the sounds of applause from the audience.
The final sponsor of a live commercial is for Everhold, the best surgical suture thread ever invented. Our gal, Margaret, introduces two of her friends who recently underwent surgery. Somehow, Ross Witschonke and Peter Powell are willing to compare their recent heart surgeries. A third friend, David Jenkins, comes on to show us his most recent surgery, which is not for his heart.
As the laughter quiets down, our Host reminds us that it’s time to get back to finding the “beautiful” in our lives again. Hal McCombs ends the show with a fabulous rendition of “Make Something Beautiful.” Our Host thanks the audience for coming to Royal Palm Players and asks everyone to join in on a chorus of “Oh, Corona,” RPP’s anthem which is sung to the tune of “Oklahoma!”
Special kudos to Blake and Vicki DeBoest for all the wonderful costumes and props. To Jasmine Deal, Melissa Mutkoski, John Stanley and Cori Palmere for creating and running lights and sound before it gets dark. To Andrea Nielsen and Ed Wilson, Sr. for volunteering to be the backstage crew. To Kathy Kelleher for her management and design skills. To Hannah Ingram for writing and producing “Oh, Corona.” To our sponsors, Ann and Bob Fletcher, Sue Sligar, Linden and Scott Wise. They provided housing for our out-of-town professionals. And to Joe Wier and Khoreen Vetter for all the landscape and grounds prep.
If you haven’t gotten tickets yet, call Kathy at the RPP office. 941-964-2670. A square is $50, which seats up to 4 people. There are a few golf cart squares available.
So, who wins this talent contest? The audience, of course. It’s 90 minutes of side-splitting laughter, joy and feeling happy that we can all be together, safely.
Pandemonium – A COVID Cabaret. With Royal Palm Players, the fun is finally back!