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Audience eats up 'Food Fight: A Musical Comedy for Waist Watchers'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 17, 2009 - Ten minutes into "Food Fight: A Musical Comedy for Waist Watchers," I was having a fight with myself.

"This show's funny! And clever!" one side of me said. "What's not to love about four women crooning "Botox Queen" to the tune of Abba's 'Dancing Queen'?"

You want nips, you want tucks
You want them because your life sucks ...

"It's sexist," another side insisted. "Their musical lamentations over starvation and stomach rolls and their longing for Botox and boob jobs are all about wanting to look like Barbie to get a man."

The internal debate continued as four women representing a spectrum of body types (though three were variations on "thin") performed musical parodies accompanied by live piano. But while the cast has no men, there's plenty of male perspective in this hour-and-a-half show running at the Westport Playhouse through May 24.

Perhaps that's because a man wrote the show, which has also been performed in Jupiter, Fla. and Atlanta.

"Many times the men are laughing louder than the women," said Playwright and Producer Alan Jacobson. "Men have the same issues with their waistline."

To the strands of "West Side Story's" "Maria," Cheryl (Annie Cook) bemoans:

Viagra ... My husband keeps taking Viagra ...

Cheryl's chemically enhanced hubby won't leave her alone, Connie's (Missy McArdle) spouse just isn't interested anymore, Cindy's (Amanda Shae Wilborn) ex left her for a 21-year-old, and fitness instructor Carla (Tafee Patterson) is a 40-and-fit single cougar on the prowl.

Sporting a variety of workout wear, the quartet performed two dozen parodies with voices, expressions and antics well suited for musical comedy. Show-stopper Connie, the only actor to perform in "Food Fight's" two previous tour stops, is the most substantial in terms of girth and talent. Connie's right-on rendition of "If I Were a Rich Man" from "Fiddler on the Roof" was a highlight.

If I were a size two, I'd be an itty, bitty, bitty, bitty girl
All day long, I wouldn't eat a thing ... if I were a skinny girl

In her true-to-Tevye finish, Connie shakes her workout towel skyward, bargaining with God, "I'd rather have small boobs than this big ass!"

Carla strutted her own stuff in a dream sequence during which she's surrounded by the rest of the cast dressed as a Hershey's Crunch Bar, a Tootsie Roll and a Krispy Kreme donut. In what would be a real-life nightmare, she succumbs to a chocolate craving.

After her first bite of the forbidden food, Carla contorts herself over the workout club juice bar and shouts "Yes!" in a performance reminiscent of Meg Ryan's orgasmic impression in "When Harry Met Sally." Basking in the afterglow, Carla vows: "I'm giving up sex and sticking to chocolate -- all of the pleasure and none of the small talk." The audience loved it.

Further realizations lead each of them to self acceptance, as illustrated in Connie's "I'm Fat and I'm OK," a parody of "Don't Rain on My Parade." In the end, they're all OK with who they are and the lives they lead.

While the ending softened my reservations, it didn't quell them altogether. And the play is certainly empty calories compared to a lot more nutritious theatrical fare around town.

But Jacobson hopes the play's universal themes, laugh-out-loud lyrics and feel-good conclusion will make it a popular "girls' night out" destination. While the cast literally sings the praises of eating light and exercising, Jacobson points out its finale bears another healthy message: "No matter what you look like, feel proud about yourself and happy with yourself."

Nancy Larson is a freelance writer. 

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.

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