One of the first things I noticed when I saw Kung Fooey at the Off Broadway on Saturday was a stack of newly designed programs, with space set aside for the title, laughing stock plug and publicity photo on the cover. The inside's better too. Brightened pics from the play set behind the scenes and cast bios. In general, everything looks better in it, except one typo in an actor's name. Very nice. Compare the last play program to this month's.
Off Broadway, keep the current team on program duty: Nic Brown designed the cover, and Melissa Singleton designed the program.
Now, on to the ACTUAL play review (the cast changes slightly each show and I can only write about actors I saw).
Young kung fu master Quay Cain Chain (Scot Butler) is on an adventure in the Wild West, after he leaves his homeland to find his destiny. He falls in love with Sara Lee (Sandy Hubble Jensen), and defends her against the bad guys who are trying to steal the gold in her uncle's mine. Pretty straight forward.
Eric Armstrong (Robin Hood: Boyz in the Hood) directs, Eric Jensen is playwright and Clarissa Armstrong is assistant director and choreographer. What this means for the audience is better, and more fun, dance numbers, along with Jensen's focus almost completely on being funny on stage.
The play's been around a while, but songs and jokes are updated, including a hysterical "kung fu" parody of Cee Lo Green's "Forget You." They also sing "Secret Asian Man" and of course, "Kung Fu Fighting."
It's a family show in more way than one. Eric Jensen plays Dogg, while his wife, Sandy, is Sara Lee and son, Austin, is a drinker at the bar, hopefully apple beer.
The best thing about this play is Dogg, the stooge for the show's big, bad villain Marvin Mudley (Clarence Strohn). Jensen usually plays the goofball at OBT, but really pushed it to the limit this time. Watch for his dance montage, ramblings and attempts to "woo" Sara Lee. Best lines from that scene: "You are a very disgusting man!" "Are you into that?" The other actors did a great job not cracking up in scenes with him. I probably wouldn't be able to hold it in.
Other highlights are narrator Patrick Alderman's constant costume changes between scenes, flashbacks to Chain's training with Master Hu, and the biggest shock of all, Chain taking someone's "life." You'll have to see it to understand why that last part is funny. I also love the costumes and sets (even thought there's only two).
My criticisms: Most of the jokes and songs are new, but some still seem kind of old. YMCA...really? Do I have to see a Village People number in every single parody I see? Please no more of it until it's so old it's new again. And it was dang hot in the theater - maybe they're still setting up the AC.
UPDATE: THE AC WASN'T TURNED ON RIGHT THAT NIGHT, SO IT SHOULD BE COOLER AT OTHER SHOWS.
Overall: You should see this. They've set the bar pretty high in the past, so I can't say it's one of the best I've seen at the theater, but it's still very, very funny and even funnier if you stick around for Laughing Stock. This is a great one to take the kids, too.
The play runs now through July 9 on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays. $16-adults, $12-students, $8-children. Click here for tix and more info.