Laverne La Vern! | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

Laverne La Vern! 

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Laverne La Vern! TurnAround Theatre

For years cheesy lounge acts have been right up there with U.S. presidents and TV talk-show hosts on the list of people most often and easily parodied. Everyone from Bill Murray to Bette Midler has skewered the dubious talents of lounge lizards oiling their way through Broadway standards and the charms of gold-lame-clad starlets wiping clean the heads of bald men with red feather boas.

Laverne La Vern!, Luke Nelson's one-act entry in the lounge-act spoof competition, is amusing but treads precious little new ground. Set in the Jurassic Room on the first night of the titular star's reunion with her dipsomaniac ex-husband/accompanist Lester Keys, the play trots out the usual phony show-biz patter, tacky choreography, and songs so hopelessly trite and gooey they send shivers oozing up the spine. The performances at TurnAround are right on target if somewhat overbearing, as the irrepressibly self-assured Donna Jay Fulks and the puppy-dog-eyed Nelson wink and mug their way through these familiar roles.

Little here compares with the insightful, hilarious cabaret-song parodies penned by Tom Waits and Elaine May, but Nelson is a consistently witty composer, targeting everything from "Girl From Ipanema"-style drivel to Smothers Brothers scooby-doo-bee-bop duets to ostensibly show-stopping show tunes. As a lyricist, however, he's only so-so, scoring sporadically but never riotously with clever, sometimes overwrought puns ("All I want is a regular joe to fill my cup") and savagely accurate satire (the dead-on sappy Andrew Lloyd Webber-esque "Eleanor's Song," the title number from the fictional "Give 'em El: The Eleanor Roosevelt Story").

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