nytheatre.com review by Tim Cusack
August 15, 2004
With all the subtlety of a Saturday morning children’s cartoon and a fraction of the wit, Andru’s Head scribbles a cautionary tale of showbiz stupidity in the theatrical equivalent of florescent broad-tipped markers. This new musical by Mark Dendy (book), Stephen Donovan (book), and Stephen Wilson (music and lyrics) charts the travails of a disembodied head that hosts a children’s television program on public access. Andru (Paul Jason Green), for this is the head’s name, is very popular with the kiddies, despite lacking a torso, arms and legs. How Andru came to be a head (and take a fancy to powder-blue wigs) is never explained—and I can't tell if the fact that Andru is just a cranium means something as a metaphor or if it's just a pointless gesture that is supposed to be funny for its sheer outrageousness. Either way it left me head-achy.
Andru has fallen in love with Calliope (Denise Summerford), who, as it turns out, is the daughter of the evil media tycoon Phineas (Darrel W. Blackburn). Phineas tricks Mr. Stewart (Brad Bradley), Andru’s producer, into signing over the rights to the show to his multinational. He exploits Andru's image for every possible marketing opportunity in an effort to take over the world. Andru is hurt that Calliope didn’t tell the truth about her father’s identity (what intern ever volunteers that Daddy's a billionaire?), but they sing a song and everything is forgiven. Fortunately, Donovan's production design and Dendy's choreography rise several stories above their sub-basement plot.
All of this is hammered home in a musical theatre performance style that amplifies every joke to a mind-numbing level. A notable exception is Summerford who brings a genuine sweetness to her feisty ingenue, but the hands-down show-stealer is Brooke Elliott as Eugenia "Mama" Higgenbottom, a woman whose son wins a contest sponsored by the show. Sprouting a wig that looks pilfered from Harvey Fierstein's dressing room, Elliott's brass-gonads performance delivers the goods. It's so over the top it practically leaves Earth's atmosphere, especially during her fight scene to keep the bad guys from repossessing her television set. She's one cartoon that doesn't make me want to switch the channel.