Beaverquest! The Musical, Sacred Fools’ latest offering, is the brightest and most entertaining surprise of Spring 2008, combining elements of Urinetown: The Musical, Into The Woods, and TV’s Hee Haw.  Though (as might be expected) Beaverquest! The Musical has countless double entendre references to the titular dam-building rodent, including fully five songs with Beaver in the title, it is more importantly a tuneful, joyous defense of acceptance and tolerance, love and sexuality. This is a show that kids can enjoy (the beaver jokes will go right over their heads) but that adults will love even more regardless of their age.

Beaverquest! The Musical begins with a cock-a-doodle-do and a sensational a capella belt of a solo (“Serenade/Come With Me”) by the dazzling Darrin Revitz (recently in Twist), as she introduces us to the characters (human and animal) whose stories we’ll be following over the next two and a half hours.

There’s Bunny (a 6 foot mountain of a bunny rabbit), Petunia (a firecracker of a country girl), Clem and Cletis (two of the goodest good ol’ boys around), Sheriff Jack and his brand new “moooshache,” big bold and brassy Arleta, adorable Beaver the beaver, glamorous Spirit Of The Forest, and the Disney-ready animal trio of Quail, Skunk, and Bear. There’s also lead narrator Annie Mae (Revitz) and her co-narrators Betty Lynn and Pepper, and a monster truck (a real one!) onstage, inside and behind which sit the five-member band.

Petunia and Jack are crazy in love, like “Two Sticks” just a burnin’ to rub together, which they do (repeatedly) in the song of the same name. (“Rub’em together and they make fire,” they sing.) Only one hitch.  Jack is now sheriff, which according to plus-size Mayor Arleta means that he must swear off liquor and sex. “The mayor says I ain’t allowed to date,” he tells a crestfallen Petunia. No matter. She and Jack are in love, and she swears she’s going to get him to “put a little baby in me,” even if it’s the last thing she does.  

Since her parents died, Petunia has been getting “a little clingy” to her pet Bunny (twice her size) and Clem is envious of her good luck in having such a cuddly friend.  To his bosom buddy Cletis’ jealous dismay, Clem decides to go looking for a pal like Petunia’s Bunny. Meanwhile, Bunny has had enough of clingy Petunia, and he packs his few treasures (a couple of small stuffed animals) in a burlap sack and runs away.

In another part of town, Arleta, owner of Arleta’s Taxidemy Shop, bemoans the lack of fresh beaver in town.  (She’s pretty much killed and stuffed them all.)  “I’ve Never Met A Beaver I Didn’t Want To Stuff,” she sings, though these days her dream is to open a petting zoo, if only she can corral enough animals to fill it.

Arleta is mistaken that there ain’t no more beavers around.  There still is at least one, the eponymous Beaver, who goes about with furry flat-tailed water animal trivia on his lips: “I have webbed feet, but I am not a duck.” “I smell like clams.” “Fish live in my belly.” “My stool smells of pine cones.” “I secrete my own oils.”

Before you know it, Bunny and Beaver have met cute, and despite the fact that neither has felt same-sex urges before, they are soon doing their mating dance of love.  “My heart was parched but the sight of you has quenched my soul,” declares the poetic Bunny. “We shall be homosexual lovers.”  And soon the couple are declaring their love in a song: “I Must Be A Tree ‘Cause I’ve Fallen For You.”

“Seduced-and-abandoned” could easily be Beaver’s nickname the morning after, and he is soon weeping on Cletis’ shoulder, all the while Bunny (who may be running from his true self) drowns his sorrows in Jack Daniels straight from the bottle.

Meanwhile, co-narrator Pepper has defied the laws of storytelling and crossed over from narrator to character in order to be with Cletis. (It was love at first sight for  her, you see.)

Beautiful and statuesque Spirit Of The Forest (who Clem keeps mistaking for Jesus) arrives at the end of Act 1 to assure everyone that “Hope’s Your Friend,” in a pre-intermission finale that has the entire cast onstage a-singin’ and a-dancin’ as if at a revival meeting.

And that’s only Act 1. Nothing will be revealed her about Act 2 except that it’s even better, cleverer, funnier, and racier than Act 1, and that it introduces one new character, Neville, an adorable one-year-old with beaver teeth and rabbit ears who is guaranteed to win everyone in the audience’s heart.

Beaverquest! The Musical is the brainchild of Sacred Fools Co-Artistic Director Padraic Duffy, who wrote the book and lyrics and wow does this guy have imagination, wit, and heart. (Proud parents Patrick and Carlyn were in the opening night audience as was dad’s Dallas costar Linda Gray.) Working with directorial whiz Scott Leggett, talented tunesmith (composer/musical director) Bobby Stapf, and choreographer Dorothy Dillingham Blue’s hoedown-ready dances, Duffy has come up with the winningest musical around.

The cast couldn’t be better. In addition to the aforementioned and stellar Revitz as Annie Mae, there are the delicious Emily Pennington as Pepper and the perky Lauren Nasman as Betty Lynn, the trio comprising the narrators/Greek chorus. Bryan Krasner and Corey Klemow are the delightfully mismatched Bunny and Beaver, the best counterarguments around to ignorant bigots like Sally Kern, and poster children for gay marriage.  Krasner particularly has a set of pipes that can belt to the rafters. Laura Sperrazza is a delectable squeaky-voiced Petunia (and one hell of a singer) and Jacob Sidney and Michael Holmes are perfection as best friends Clem and Cletis (the latter a tad less dim than the former). Alyssa Preston is a powerhouse singer and comedienne who burns up the stage as Arleta. Elizabeth Bennett is a lovely Spirit Of The Forest, and Jennifer Gail Fenten, Eulis Kay, and Chairman Barnes are wonderful as both animals and triplet children.  Finally, in a class by himself, is Philip Newby, who charmed Sacred Fools audiences as a talking rabbit in Poona the F***dog, and is even more adorable here as an interspecies mix, giving one of the most endearing performances you’re likely ever to see.

Stapf plays guitar, mandolin, and harmonica, and is joined in the truck by Brian Robbins, Lydia Veileux, Stew O’Dell, and Steve Riley to make infectious get-up-and-dance music.  Natasha Norman shares credit with Leggett and Blue as assistant director and co-choreographer. Janne Zirkle Larsen’s scenic design is simple in the extreme, but a big truck goes a long way, and this show is not about the set.  Jake Mitchell’s lighting and Tim Labor’s sound design are just fine, and Wes Crain deserves highest marks for his imaginative costumes (human and animal), as does Heather Hopkins for makeup.

Beaverquest! The Musical combines the tradition of such offbeat Sacred Fools fare as A Dr. Jeuss Christmas, Poona The F***dog, and The Swine Show with the musical comedy excellence that they recently displayed in Drood: The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Like the equally original Urinetown: The Musical, which began in a small theater and ended up a hit in a big Broadway house, it is not a far stretch of the imagination to picture Beaverquest! The Musical doing the same.

Sacred Fools Theater Company, 660 N. Heliotrope, Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
March 28, 2008

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