Cupid and Psyche

With both arms intact, Venus, the Goddess of Love, travels from Olympus to visit dear mortals in order to spread a little beauty, grace and considerable comic abandon in "Cupid and Psyche."

With:
Mercury - Michael Maricondi Cupid - Ryan Reid Psyche - Pheonix Vaughn Venus - Liz Zazzi

With both arms intact, Venus, the Goddess of Love, travels from Olympus to visit dear mortals in order to spread a little beauty, grace and considerable comic abandon in “Cupid and Psyche.” Altered and reshaped since its Manhattan showcase engagement, this campy, good-natured musical spoof is being served up as holiday entertainment by the New Jersey Repertory Company.

The quaint little tuner certainly fails to break new ground. We’ve seen it all before in Cole Porter’s “Out of This World,” Rodgers and Hart’s “By Jupiter!” and most pointedly in “Olympus on My Mind,” the musical pastiche inspired by Heinrich Von Kleist’s 1807 play “Amphitryon.”

The rather tiresome gags focus on legend and mythology: It’s a known fact that Gods are not supposed to fall in love with mere mortals, but that doesn’t stop winged Cupid, appealingly played by curly-headed Ryan Reed, from aiming his romantically lethal bow and arrow at any innocent lass at the freshman bacchanalia.

Venus (Liz Zazzi, in a broad perf) suggests her son’s target be lovely Illyrian princess Psyche (a pert Pheonix Vaughn). She sings prettily and is often upstaged by her own long, fluffy blond hair and a bare midriff centered by a bejeweled navel. Doubling as Mercury, Pan and assorted suitors and mythical monsters, a manic, mugging Michael Maricondi runs amok spreading vaudevillian gags, puns and double entendres.

The one-joke romp is a tad long despite Sean Hartley’s zanily amusing book.

The score, with music by Jihwan Kim and lyrics by Hartley, is unmemorable but painless. Psyche’s “I Don’t Talk About Love” is perhaps the most appealing number, and Venus belts “Don’t Mess With a Goddess” with all the hip-swinging sass of a Bette Midler or Mae West.

Patricia E. Doherty’s fanciful costumes are a snug fit for story-book fantasy. Alan Souza has staged the piece fluently, moving his quartet of actors comfortably around the small stage.

Cupid and Psyche

Lumia Theater, Long Branch, N.J.; 65 seats; $41.50 top

Production: A New Jersey Repertory Theater presentation of a musical in two acts with music by Jihwan Kim, book and lyrics by Sean Hartley. Directed by Alan Souza. Musical direction, Naomi Lee. Choreography, Ron De Jesus.

Creative: Set, Jessica Parks; costumes, Patricia E. Doherty; lighting, Jim Nagle; production stage manager, Rose Riccardi. Opened, reviewed, Dec. 23. 2008. Runs through Jan 18. Running time: 2 HOURS.

Cast: Mercury - Michael Maricondi Cupid - Ryan Reid Psyche - Pheonix Vaughn Venus - Liz Zazzi

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