NY Musical Festival - Idaho! with an emphasis on the "Ho"!
Oscar E Moore from the rear mezzanine for Talk Entertainment.com
In this frisky new musical, Idaho! (with an emphasis on the “Ho”) Oklahoma! meets Oh! Calcutta! Well, just about. There is no nudity but there are innumerable references to the raging hormones and testosterone levels of the populace of the state of Idaho as seen through the lecherous eyes of the creators (Buddy Sheffield - Book and Lyrics) and (Music - Buddy Sheffield and Keith Thompson) of this musical which finds its origins in the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein show, Oklahoma! Sexual jokes are rampant. Very little is left to the imagination. Subtlety is a foreign word in Idaho! – which, I suppose, is the point.
That being said, Idaho! has lots of fun things going for it. What a terrific idea to lampoon Oklahoma! Setting the show in Idaho – ‘tater country - is just about the best place to do it. With a cast of eighteen wonderful performers. With songs that are lively and amusing – especially the title number – Idaho! And some original choreography by Michele Lynch. Her “dream ballet” is a hoot.
Jed Strunk (Bill Nolte – a likable big bruiser of a mean guy) has ordered a mail order bride, paying extra for a virgin. Cassie Purdy (a proper Elena Shaddow) arrives and is hoodwinked into thinking that Whip Masters (a terrific Rob Sutton) is Jed and falls in love with him. Of course Jed wants his bride-to-be back and there ensues a fight over ownership and true love.
Then we have the secondary couple – Ida Dunham (Beth Curry, a knockout performer) the girl who can’t say no. In fact, all she can say is yes – to everyone in the county – literally throwing her legs in the air every chance she gets. Stacey Todd Holt as her wanna-be husband, Slim Johnson, is head over heels in love with her but she wants someone more worldly – until she discovers the basket he’s got between his legs has nothing to do with his name or picnics. He is the perfect foil for her.
Then we’ve got Aunt Pearlie (a show stopping Jennifer Perry) and her Justice of the Peace husband, Uncle Fate (a very fine Jay Rogers) who due to a mining accident can’t get it up, leaving Aunt Pearlie frustrated to no end. Until another accident reverses the effect and puts a huge smile on Pearlie’s face and one of the more embarrassing moments on stage.
Then we have a black woman masquerading as an American Indian nicely played by Ramona Keller - who has to handle a rather large cucumber but gets to sing The Double Standard Blues in Act II, before it is revealed who she truly is, much to the amazement of one and all. And yes, there is a gay ‘tater guy who winds up with…I won’t spoil it for you if you happen to get to Idaho!
As the Meany brothers, George and Manny (Robbie Roby and James Tabeek) make great back up for Jed. Blake Hammond does wonders with two minor roles. But everyone is directed by Matt Lenz to overdo the sex business and to deliver the double entendre jokes with sledgehammer force. We get it. No need for overkill.
Idaho! is enjoyable – with one of the best “twisters” I’ve ever seen. It’s funny when allowed to relax and has some nice unexpected plot twists as well. The score is tuneful with just the right edge to it and there are some great musical jokes. If the saying, “Sex Sells” is true, Idaho! should have a robust financial future.