Weekly repetition drilled these often clever ditties into a generation’s memory, yet the lack of narrative or character content makes conversion to the stage less than natural. Perhaps inevitably, weakest element in the current package is its swing at a framing device. Tom (Ken Stegmiller), nervous before his first day as an elementary-school instructor, is offered inspiration from the “Schoolhouse” ensemble that leaps from his TV. Thus 20 “classic” tele-tunes are reprised.
Though a few of the songs can stand on their own, most are jingle-style pop-rockers that rely mostly on the recognition factor. Occasional country, soul or doo-wop flavors the melodic vanilla.
Abandoning its first-act dependence on audience participation, the second act features a tap workout (“Rufus Xavier Sasparilla,” about pronouns), a Rollerblade ballet (“Figure 8”) and a prop-heavy dance (“Interplanet Janet”).
Director Scott Evan Guggenheim keeps the six-member ensemble very busy, though a couple of singers falter in their spotlights. Byron Gregory exudes the most comic savvy, Nicol Foster and Shannon Miner the best pipes.
And while it all works well enough, viewers without “Schoolhouse” memories will puzzle over why their neighbors sit (or rise and shout) in obvious thrall.