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Monday, October 20, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 51.0° F  Overcast
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Musical cheers
Mercury Players presents four inspired mini-shows
Gaystroke: The Legend of Tarthan.
Gaystroke: The Legend of Tarthan.

Revenge of the Mini-Musicals
Mercury Players Theatre, through May 5 at the Bartell Theatre

Never a troupe to follow the beaten path, Mercury Players Theatre combines the brand-spanking-new and the almost-new in its current production. Revenge of the Mini-Musicals features two Mercury revivals (Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy and Discordia's Sunshine Death) and two new works, presenting us with a gay ape-man, a deified Stephen Hawking and an ax-wielding Christian teen, all with campy cabaret verve.

Starting the show with a bang is Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy, written by Walmartopia team Cat Capellaro and Andrew Rohn. It tells the tale of male exotic dancers who, in a nice bit of table-turning, struggle with weight issues and self-esteem. Packed with witty lyrics, Meaty, Beaty gives its cast the chance to milk it for all it's worth.

Bingo Night at the First Church of Saint Darwin, a new work by Jonathan Zarov, depicts a group of frustrated scientists who adopt some churchy trappings in order to win the faith of the nation. Though the piece has a few bumps and jerks, it also features some of the production's strongest singing in the form of Kelly Murphy, who belts out an anti-gospel song that could make a cardinal convert.

Up next is Doug Holtz's Gaystroke: The Legend of Tarthan, which puts several new twists on an old tale. Raised by a group of militant "lesbiapes," Tarthan defends his home from a greedy developer by providing "favors" to the construction crew. Sean Langenecker, a cross between Jude Law and Rocky (from the Picture Show, not the boxing ring), takes on the title role fearlessly. Mikhael Farah's lovely singing and Langenecker's vine-chewing antics make the duet "Swing That Way" a high point amid several less subtle numbers.

Concluding the show is Discordia's Sunshine Death, by Rob Matsushita and Mini-Musicals director Moritz Burnard. Vamping on slasher film conventions with inspired absurdity, the piece features a mousy virgin (Kelly Kiorpes) who is compelled by Satan to punish her sinful peers. Discordia's dance with the devil, complete with jazz hands, may be the funniest moment of the entire production.

Each of these mini-musicals is worth seeing on its own, but getting all four together, plus some fantastic intermission improv? That's a bargain.

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