nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
September 26, 2008
If you're a fan of Golden Age musicals, you'll love Idaho!, Buddy Sheffield and Keith Thompson's "comedy musical love story." Cassie Purdy arrives in a Podunk, Idaho town after being bought as a mail-order bride by mean Jed Strunk. Complications arise when she falls in love with town hero Whip Masters. Meanwhile, Slim Johnson keeps trying to get "I Do" Ida Dunham to marry him, but she just cain't say no to the other men in town. It's up to the lady with the shotgun, Aunt Pearlie, to keep order.
If you're thinking that this sounds like a certain classic Golden Age musical about the state of Oklahoma, you're right on the money. Sheffield, the former head writer of In Living Color, and Thompson have taken the stock characters and ideas found in Rodgers and Hammerstein's masterpiece and crafted some of the funniest, most clever musical theater satire in years.
Unlike, say, The Musical of Musicals: The Musical, the jokes in Idaho! don't hit you over the head with a frying pan in order to hammer in the fact that "hey, we're making fun of Rodgers and Hammerstein!" Everything in Idaho! is presented "seriously" to audience members, from the self-referential, breaking-the-fourth-wall theater jokes to the dream ballets, and that's why the material works.
It's certainly got a cast of Broadway pros, led by Elena Shaddow, Rob Sutton, and Bill Nolte as Cassie, Whip, and Jed. Shaddow is adorable, with a lovely voice; Sutton is a matinee idol in the Rodgers and Hammerstein mold; Nolte is nicely over-the-top as Jed. A particularly funny moment between Sutton and Nolte occurs during "Poor Old Jed," a song written in the mold of "Poor Jud is Daid."
Beth Curry is very appealing and sexy as "I Do" Ida, and her big number, "The Boys are Never Put Out," is overwhelmingly funny. She has great chemistry with Stacey Todd Holt, whose unfortunate character name (Slim Johnson) gets laughs every time it's said. Also notable are Jennifer Perry as Aunt Pearlie and Ramona Keller as Mavis, a black woman masquerading as an Indian maid. Don't ask; see the show.
Idaho! has the potential to be a crowd-pleasing Broadway smash. It's a big musical, with outstanding western choreography by Michele Lynch (who just got finished choreographing the Little House on the Prairie musical) and go-for-broke direction by Matt Lenz. The design highlight is the gigantic tornado (sets by Charlie Smith). Julie Duro's lighting and Linda Fisher's costumes are appropriate and pleasing to look at, as well.
Hopefully, some producer will see Idaho! and snap it up for a Broadway outing. It's got everything going for it—and it's original, too! Judging by the audience's reaction, it certainly seems like there's a long life in there beyond the six performances at the festival.