The fabulous lipitones production by matthew holler 7 rq0mb4

Levin Valayil, D.C. Anderson, Scott Wakefield and Joel Blum in The Fabulous Lipitones. Photo by Matthew Holler

 

It may be no real surprise, given co-playwright John Markus’ roots in sitcoms like The Cosby Show, that The Fabulous Lipitones (now onstage at Florida Studio Theatre’s Gompertz Theatre) comes across as TV-like in its script and character development.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course, when you’re looking for some light summer entertainment. But there’s more depth—not a lot, perhaps, but some—that could be explored in this four-character outing about an Ohio-based barbershop quartet (the Lipitones of the title) faced with some major chord changes.

The first change is obvious from the outset, as we open at a memorial service for Andy, the quartet’s lead, who died suddenly while hitting a high note. The remaining members (Howard, played by D.C. Anderson; Wally, portrayed by Joel Blum; and Phil, played by Scott Wakefield) are grieving, naturally, but Andy’s loss also means there’s a gaping hole to fill in their ensemble.

The fabulous lipitones production by matthew holler 9 vp1isj

The Fabulous Lipitones' D.C. Anderson,Levin Valayil, Joel Blum and Scott Wakefield. Photo by Matthew Holler

 

Wally, a single pharmacist living with his mother, and Howard, a timorous type with an ailing wife, need to plug that hole to plug the holes in their lives, but Phil, a gym owner with a domineering manner, isn’t so sure the group should continue. And he’s not enthusiastic when a new member (Bob, played by Levin Valayil), who sounds fine over the telephone, turns up in Howard’s basement (a faithful rendition of a Midwestern man cave in the set design by Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay) for an audition.

It’s not giving away too much of the plot to reveal that the much younger Bob is a Sikh (you can tell from the cast photos), and for the xenophobic Phil, that equals terrorist, even though no one could seem more mild-mannered than Bob. Just as Bob is willing to overlook his employer’s unfair pay practices based on his immigration status, he’s willing to endure some of Phil’s more pointed remarks, too, in order to sing—and to become part of the American dream.

There’s the setup, and the writers (Markus teamed with Mark St. Germain) generate a few pretty predictable laugh lines out of it. The actors, under Markus’ direction, are game, albeit sometimes playing too broadly for laughs, with Valayil an engaging newcomer. And Act II does allow the characters some room to become a little more two if not three-dimensional than they first appear.

But The Fabulous Lipitones skims along mostly on the surface when it comes to issues of racism or loneliness or even aging. What that leaves audiences with is a few laughs, a few smiles, and some nice harmonizing on mostly familiar tunes as the guys practice for the finals of a big barbershop competition.   

The Fabulous Lipitones continues through June 19; for tickets, call 366-9000 or go to floridastudiotheatre.org.