Tom Lehrer was a math professor with a flair for song parodies and satire. He wrote many of his ditties at cocktail parties for the amusement of his students and fellow faculty. In keeping with the origin of these tunes, the Bartell Theatre's Drury stage has been transformed into an authentic Wisconsin tavern with a fully stocked bar for the run of Tom Foolery, a musical revue of Lehrer's sardonic songs.
Some of the songs may not be as edgy as they were when Lehrer penned them in the '50s and '60s ("Poisoning Pigeons in the Park"). But it's a sad statement on the current political climate that his bomb and war songs ("So Long, Mom" and "We'll All Go Together When We Go") still resonate.
The spirited and silly cast capably tackles the material in this briskly paced show. Thomas Kasdorf, who is not above joining the fray, accompanies on piano. Michael Andersen skewers the South in "I Wanna Go Back to Dixie" while his cast mates harmonize over hominy grits. Andrew Valdez-Cody nimbly attacks "The Elements," in which Lehrer famously set the periodic table of elements to a Gilbert and Sullivan tune. This chemical tongue-twister devolves into a drinking game for the cast.
Daniel Graupner (who also directed the show) seems the most comfortable with the talky business between songs and commands the stage with authority during "The Masochism Tango." Caitlyn O'Mara, an agile physical comedian, entertains with her priceless facial expressions and zingy timing. I always hope actors stay on the stage and leave the audience alone, but O'Mara charmed even me as she careened through the rows singing "The Irish Ballad" while the men folk cavorted during the chorus. Speaking of leaving the audience alone, the otherwise zippy "Vatican Rag" was derailed when some unfortunate souls were dragged on stage to participate.