‘Tomfoolery’ at North Coast Rep takes a playful poke at satirist’s music

Kathy Brombacher has returned to San Diego to direct another unique musical for North Coast Repertory Theatre (NCRT). Many have seen her work when she was founder/emeritus artistic director of Moonlight Stage Productions in Vista where she helmed the outdoor summer musicals for 32 years. She also developed the indoor winter season in the AVO Playhouse, where she produced and directed non- and small-musicals for 25 years, including “Ragtime, the Musical” and “My Fair Lady” for the Welk Resort Theatre, and Moonlight’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” starring NCRT’s David Ellenstein as Tevye.

Ellenstein asked Brombacher if she would direct “Tomfoolery,” which was created in 1981 by British producer Cameron Mackintosh, and based on his admiration for Tom Lehrer’s 1960s-era records. Brombacher agreed right away.

“I respect David and his knowledge of British productions,” she explained. “I also like musical revue that contains naughty, twisted, witty and politically incorrect songs that parody our lives with charm and vitriol — Lehrer had a jaunty wit and wrote awesome musical satire.”

Thomas Andrew Lehrer, 89, was born April 9, 1928 in New York City. He was quick to span his incredible talents that included, professor, mathematician, singer-songwriter and satirist. Many people found his work funny and original, while others thought it rude, shocking or politically incorrect. Brombacher said she appreciates both sides of his genius.

(Fun Fact: Lehrer wrote “The Elements,” where he set the names of the chemical elements to the tune of the Major-General’s song from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance.”)

“Tom liked to riff on pop music,” Brombacher said. “He became a classical pianist and was influenced by Danny Kaye’s ‘Tchaikovsky,’ Sheldon Harrick’s ‘Boston Beguine,’ Stephen Sondheim, and Rodgers and Hammerstein.”

The musical cast includes Andrew Barnicle, Sarah Errington, Christine Hewitt and Lance Arthur Smith — all of whom have resumes full of theatrical work. Brombacher was part of the auditions for “Tomfoolery,” and because of its zany music, she knew the show called for special talent.

“With Tom’s tunes so well played by music director Tim McKnight, and the wonderful choreography by Jill Gorrie, these actors are moving all around the set,” Brombacher said. “I was looking for that kind of talent that could follow through, and we found it.”

Brombacher said the audience for “Tomfoolery” can be anywhere from 17 to 50. “I see this production as tasteless, sardonic, a commentary, borderline grotesque,” she said, “and that might offend the more mature audience. However, the Millennials, who watch many shows with these elements already, will really get Tom Lehrer’s work.”

IF YOU GO: ‘Tomfoolery’ is at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach, through Aug. 27. Tickets from $40. (858) (858) 481-1055. northcoastrep.org

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