The New York Times The New York Times Arts May 29, 2003

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Carol Rosegg
Rebecca Young and Robert Hunt in a tribute to Ruth Wallis at the Triad.

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THEATER REVIEW | 'BOOBS! THE MUSICAL'

She Doesn't Need Her Vocal Chords to Sing

By ANITA GATES

The show is just a saucy piece of silliness, and it gets off to an adolescent start (the Bride of Frankenstein with singing breasts), but there's a lot of talent onstage in "Boobs! The Musical," subtitled "The World According to Ruth Wallis."

In the cabaret universe of the 1940's, 50's and 60's, when Ms. Wallis wrote and performed the 20 or so songs that make up this show, it was probably pushing your luck with the vice squad to sing a line like "I always think of my blushing groom/ Whenever I see the pansies bloom" in "Queer Things Are Happening." In 2003, the husband returns to the stage dressed in a sparkly red showgirl outfit trimmed with tons of ostrich feathers and segues into "I Need a Man of My Own," with two boy backup dancer-singers.

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The musical, at the Triad, at 158 West 72nd Street in Manhattan, is mostly about anatomy in addition to the title song, there are double-entendre numbers about yo-yo's and dinghies and heterosexual sex. But it exudes a joyous innocence like that of "Debbie Does Dallas" (the Fringe Festival incarnation, that is; once that show moved up to Off Broadway, things got a little bawdier).

Some of the best humor, like the attack on Max Perlman and Rebecca Young by stuffed Hitchcock-inspired birds, is decidedly asexual.

Jenny-Lynn Suckling's Mommie Dearest impersonation, with J. Brandon Savage as her angelic adopted son, is impressive, even though the number that includes it, "Mama Was a Star," isn't one of the show's best.

Real feeling sneaks into the production from time to time, particularly in the reprise of "Johnny's Got a Yo-Yo," with an arrangement that leaves silliness behind and deliberately evokes Stephen Sondheim's (and Elaine Stritch's) "Ladies Who Lunch" from "Company."

The six-person cast, which also includes the talented and good-looking Kristy Cates and Robert Hunt, is expertly directed by Donna Drake and choreographed by Lawrence Leritz.

Steve Mackes and Michael Whaley wrote the book, which mostly just fills in the blanks between songs.

When Marissa Jaret Winokur is ready to leave her teenage heroine role in "Hairspray," Broadway producers may want to give the lovable Ms. Young a call. Mini-series casting directors may also want to note Mr. Savage's resemblance to Prince William. (This actor just needs to turn the goofiness down a notch.)




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