The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings





Etcetera and
Short Term Listings



LA/San Diego






Free Updates
Writing for us
A CurtainUp Review
Five Course Love

If it's too silly to be said, it can always be sung --- Voltaire, whose words introduce Gregg Coffin's script and its r'aison d'etre for the sung-through structure and the book's nonstop silliness.

Five Course Love cast
Jeff Gurner, Heather Ayers and John Bolton in Mexican cantina segment of Five Course Love
(Photo: Richard Termine)
With a war that refuses to end, and fears of terrorism attacks overhanging our daily existence, not to mention threats of a flu epidemic and other natural calamities, we can all use a bit of escape entertainment. One possibility for a pleasant 80-minute respite from the real world: Five Course Love, a theatrical repast reminiscent of TV sketch comedies from what now seems a less stressful era with a book, music and lyrics by Gregg Coffin.

Though the title implies a full course musical meal, what you get is a grazing menu of five mini-musicals set in as many restaurants. For audiences, the sketches are more occasionally tasty snack food than solid nourisment. However, for its cast of three the fifteen parts in five different musical styles are a strut-your-stuff feast. Heather Ayers gets to play all the women. John Bolton has swapped his gig as the understudy for the five leads in Spamalot for five opportunities to be onstage for every performance as all of Ayers' romantic opposites. Jeff Gurner takes on the roles of all the waiters.

It's the performers' versatility and energy in executing the segues from one musical genre to another that makes the at times inspired silliness work even if it often seems better suited to a cabaret venue. Not that the Minetta Lane stage doesn't accommodate G.W. Mercier's simple scenic design for the demented romantic interludes that begin and end with a character named Matt (John Bolton), "a very single man/who is trying the best he can/to be a more plural boy."

Under Emma Griffin's nimble direction, a few chairs and tables are all that's needed to effect the culinary scene shifts: down home Texas Bar-B-Que joint (naturally, with country western beat). . .  a Trattoria (for an operatic Soprano-ish triangle). . .  a German cabaret (blending Kander & Ebb with Kurt Weill) . . .  a Mexican Cantina (for a sexy Latin triangle. . .  an anywhere in the USA diner (for some doo-wop).

Wearing his second hat as the show's costumer, Mercier has gone all out to create numerous wearable sight gags -- even the musicians don't get away with plain clothes but are provided with chef's hats to set the overall scene. With such a daunting number of costume as well as hairdo changes (courtesy Bettie D. Rogers), the trio often seems to be at least a sextet and must be as busy backstage as when they are on -- though Coffin has thoughtfully arranged things so that there's always one character on stage to engage the audience while the others go into quick-change mode.

Despite the diverse and spirited performances the show suffers from too much of a good thing. The individual segments tend go on too long (each section has three to five songs). The music is pleasant with several standouts like Bolton and Ayers' operatic "Give Me This Night" and the Brechtian "Gretchen's Lament." (Ayers again). The lyrics vary from clever to trite and seem to stretch too hard for a rhyme. Choreographer Mindy Cooper does her best with "The Bunsen-Krantzentanz," Coffin's invented term for a daffy polka.

Something especially good can be said about each of the three performers, though my own favorite was the captivating and strong of voice Heather Ayers who first crossed my radar at Barrington Stage in the Berkshires. (Someone ought to write a show for Heather and her equally talented sister Becca).

The riffs on the various musical styles do add a special something to this homage to the likes of Johnny Carson and Carol Burnett. However, performed live, this is a show that would work best in a cabaret style theater with audience members seated at a table with nibbles and a glass of something to keep them feeling mellow and primed to laugh at even the flimsiest jokes.

In case it's a special inducement, Five-Course Love is probably the first musical ever to have a song especially written for the usual announcement about emergency exits, recording devices, cell phones and such.

Book, Music & Lyrics by Gregg Coffin
Directed by Emma Griffin
Choreographer: Mindy Cooper
Musical Director: Fred Tessler
Cast: Heather Ayers, John Bolton, Jeff Gurner (offstage singers: Erin Maguire, Billy Sharpe)
Set and Costume Design: G.W. Mercier
Lighting Design: Mark Barton
Sound Design: Rob Kaplowitz
Dramaturg: Marge Betley
Musicians: Conductor/Keyboards-Fred Tessler; Keyboards-Carl Haan; Guitar/Bass-Taylor Price; Percussion-Steve McKeown
Running time: 80 Minutes, no intermission
Geva Theater at Minetta Lane Theatre (Sixth Avenue/ MacDougal Street) (212) 307-4100.
From 10/01/05; opening 10/16/05
Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays & Fridays at 8:00PM, Saturdays at 3:00PM & 8:00PM and Sundays at 3:00PM & 7:00PM. There are no Wednesday performances.
Tickets: $65; $25 rush tickets at the box office day of performance.
Final performance: 12/31/05
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer based on October 10th press performance

  • Five-Course Love Overture/Five Course Love Choral Society a.k.a. the band
  • A Very Single Man/ Matt Jumpin' the Gun / Barbie, Matt
  • Dean's Old-Fashioned All-American Down-Home Bar B-Que Texas Eats/Dean
  • Jumpin' the Gun/Barbie, Matt
  • I Loved You When I Thought Your Name Was Ken/ Barbie
  • Morning Light / Dean, Matt
  • If Nicky Knew/ Sofia. Carlo, Gino
  • Give Me This Night/ Gino, Sofia
  • Nicky Knows/ Sofi, Carlo, Gino
  • Shetler-Lied/ Heimlich
  • `No' Is a Word I Don't Fear/Gretchen
  • Der Bumsen-Kratzentanz/ Klaus, Heimlich, Gretchen
  • Risk Love / Klaus, Heimlich
  • Gretchen's Lament/ Gretchen
  • The Ballad of Guillcrmo/ Ernesto. Guillermo
  • Come Be My Love/ Rosalinda, Guillermo
  • Pick Me/ Ernesto, Guillermo
  • The Blue Flame / Ernesto, Kitty
  • True Love at the Star-Life Tonight/ Clutch, Kitty, Pops
  • It's a Mystery/Clutch, Kitty
  • Medley/ Pops, Dean, Gino, Heimlich, Guillermo
  • Love Looking Back at Me/ Kitty
Playbill Broadway Year Book
The new annual to dress up every Broadway lover's coffee table

broadway musicals: the 101 greatest shows of all time
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

metaphors dictionary cover
>6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


©Copyright 2005, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from