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Fascinating Aida

Three British dames accompanied by a gentleman piano player make up this comic cabaret troupe, a mainstay of the West End that's been nominated for three Olivier Awards. The trio pride themselves on frankly addressing up-to-the-minute cultural and political affairs from a zany but accessible perspective. Results are mixed.

Cast:
With: Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson, Liza Pulman, Russell Churney.

Three British dames accompanied by a gentleman piano player make up this comic cabaret troupe, a mainstay of the West End that’s been nominated for three Olivier Awards. The trio pride themselves on frankly addressing up-to-the-minute cultural and political affairs from a zany but accessible perspective. Results are mixed: Some songs are fresh and creative, others lack vitality. Enthusiasm and energy are what keep this act afloat.

Troupe is composed of Dillie Keane, who writes the show’s music; Adele Anderson, an angular, throaty-voiced brunette; and petite blond soprano Liza Pulman. The women all delight in connecting with an audience through their semisophisticated, bawdy style. They exude a contagious joie de vivre.

The first act opens with the three tramping onstage through the audience with coats and pocket books to an uninspired number called “Painting on the Glitz,” profiling the perils of showbiz life. It works ironically in reference to the unrefined style of the act but could be pumped up.

The show’s best songs are primarily peppered throughout the second half, and stand out for being either outlandish or more current.

“Song of Genetic Mutation,” about a 100-plus woman who is artificially inseminated and pays the price, is one of the strongest. “What’s better yet, he can sing a duet, my little two-headed baby,” Anderson croons in her droning alto while rolling a pram.

Other standouts include “Suddenly New Zealand,” a tangoesque number describing the degeneration of society and the sudden charms of that remote land Down Under. The number roasts both Bush and Blair (the latter name spoken like a bad taste in the mouth) and features a chorus highlighting the joys of pastoral monotony.

Songs about a man appearing more initially attractive than he turns out to be (“Shattered Illusions”), the perceived ease of being a lesbian (“Song of Sexual-Reorientation”) or the hot flashes of menopause (“Is It Me or Is It Hot in Here”) are mildly amusing but become repetitive and tired. These numbers, with their well-worn subjects, may prove more amusing for the older theater set.

In a handful of solo ballads, presumably thrown in to mix up the pace, problems emerge. The songs tell stories of regret or stagnation, but the performers are better comediennes than singers.

As the charming piano player and occasional performer, musical director Russell Churney contributes some welcome male energy, a melodic singing voice and excellent musical timing.

Fascinating Aida

59 E 59; 199 seats; $50

Production: A Fiery Angel presentation of a musical revue in two acts, with music by Dillie Keane, lyrics by Adele Anderson and Keane. Directed by Simon Green. Musical direction, Russell Churney.

Creative: Costumes, Sonia Rykiel; lighting, Douglas Kuhrt; sound, Graham Naylor; sound and lighting re-created by Linda Winton; production coordinator Denise Silvey. Opened May 20, 2004. Reviewed May 22. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: With: Dillie Keane, Adele Anderson, Liza Pulman, Russell Churney.

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