Thursday, April 26, 2018
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Slapstick comedy 'Boeing Boeing' doesn't offer much to fantasize about

Why? That's the question I had about Boeing Boeing, a pointless comedy now playing at the Jaeb Theater as part of the Broadway series at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts.

Adapted from a French farce, it's the story of Bernard, an architect in Paris, who juggles his love life with three flight attendants — each of whom thinks she's his one and only. Cue the madcap coming and going and slamming of doors when Bernard's geeky friend, Robert, arrives from the provinces and, with flight changes, all the women end up at the apartment at the same time.

Playboy fantasies used to be in vogue. Come Blow Your Horn, Promises, Promises — Neil Simon made a career out of the swinging '60s. And if you're nostalgic for the Coffee, Tea or Me? days of flight attendants as sex objects, then this fluff might be mildly diverting. But except for Eduardo Sicangco's kicky costume design of the "mod" miniskirts and go-go boots of TWA, Lufthansa and Alitalia attendants, there's little of interest in the cabaret-style production. The play is just not very funny once it gets past the silly setup.

Oh, I suppose a top-level performance might elevate things beyond dinner theater fare — the amazing Mark Rylance, playing Robert in the 2008 Broadway revival, won a Tony Award — but there's nothing amazing here.

Chadd Thomas, mainly known as a local radio personality, plays Bernard with the bland, smarmy style of a country club golf pro, and his idea of acting seems limited to making funny faces whenever he is called upon to respond. As Robert — the Jerry Lewis part in a 1965 movie — Justin Lore is better, because he has more slapstick material to work with. Diana Rogers looks like a truck driver in drag, playing Bernard's grumpy housekeeper, Berthe.

Amy Garton, Nicole Abisinio and Amy E. Gray are suitably attractive as Bernard's paramours, playing up the broadest national stereotypes: the brassy American (Garton), the Italian pepperpot (Abisino) and the Teutonic dominatrix (Gray).

Director Greg Leaming essentially replicated the production he mounted last season at Asolo Repertory Theatre, with a set by Judy Gailen. The music — Tom Jones, the Four Tops, Lulu, Petula Clark — is fun.

Boeing Boeing continues through May 6. Run time: 2 hours, 15 minutes, including intermission. $31.50. (813) 229-7827 or toll-free 1-800-955-1045; strazcenter.org.

Whoops: The Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Aida on WSMR Saturday afternoon got cut off in the middle of the dramatic finale at 5 p.m. The station "resumed their regular programming on the assumption that the opera would be over," writes listener Nancy Leach. "It was not over! I call this a Heidi moment, like the TV network that took off a football game in progress to show Heidi many, many years ago."

Blame it on cost-saving automation. Program director Sheila Rue explained:

"There was indeed an interruption…and I assure you the interruption was unintentional and embarrassing," Rue wrote in an email Tuesday. "The producers of the Met broadcast gave us an ending time of 4:41 p.m., therefore we did not see the need to preempt or delay the start time of the Pittsburgh Symphony scheduled to start at 5. Unfortunately last Saturday's production ran well past 4:41 due to some performance delays during the opera. ... We are automated on the weekend and the Met did not provide local stations any notices of timing changes, nor did they send us a technical alarm, so the computer did what it was programmed to do, which was to start the Pittsburgh Symphony at 5, thus cutting off the final moments of the Aida broadcast. It was very unfortunate to say the least."

Conductor: Teddy Abrams, 24, who conducted a coffee concert with the Florida Orchestra this season and will again next season, has been named assistant conductor of the Detroit Symphony, effective in September. Abrams succeeds another conductor with Florida Orchestra ties, Tom Wilkins, who left Detroit in 2009.

John Fleming can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8716.

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