You might truly believe that all corporations are devil's spawn. Hell, you might be right. But that doesn't mean they can't be the centerpiece of a warm and sweet musical. Kalliope Stage's Dear World, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman (Hello, Dolly!, Mame), features some lovely, cabaret-style songs. But it's the wonderful Kalliope cast, under the direction of Paul F. Gurgol, that turns this rather haphazard material into an evening jammed with memorable moments.
Based on Jean Giraudoux's satire The Madwoman of Chaillot, the story focuses on a rather daft Parisian woman named Aurelia, who finds herself confronting rapacious corporate greed. A snarky fellow called the Prospector has been sniffing hints of oil in the water around town and has tracked the source to Aurelia's café. The Prospector quickly finds three executives, hot on the make for a new way to profitably plunder the Earth, and soon they're making plans to blow the café up and expose their gusher.
Aurelia catches wind of the plot and determines to vanquish the villains, with the help of her two dotty gal-pals, Constance and Gabrielle, and a Sewerman who emerges from the bowels of Paris to lend his subterranean assistance.
While the book adaptation by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee is serviceable, it's Herman's music that catches a surprisingly intriguing vibe floating somewhere between rage (against the corporate cretins) and tender idealism. Oddly, the title song is one of the only clunky numbers in the show, but many others are quite witty or emotionally revealing.
When the Sewerman sings of his love for the way it used to be, in "Pretty Garbage," the effect is almost magical: "There was a time when garbage was a pleasure . . . the world was all ginger and lime . . . the rustle of silk, purple, and puce." This piece is aided immensely by the performance of Omri Schein, a diminutive actor with towering comic talent who has stage presence to burn, as Sewerman. If anyone is wondering where the next Nathan Lane may come from -- well, here he is.
Also outstanding are Juliette Regnier and Marla Berg, who play Constance and Gabrielle. The Kewpie-doll-lipped Berg is hilarious as she snuggles and chides her invisible dog Dickie, while Regnier smolders comically. Another standout is John Paul Boukis as the Prospector, his face and body twisted in a permanent scowl. He looks like Margaret Hamilton in a bowler hat.
Although her acting feels a bit distracted and unfocused, Liz Rubino, as Aurelia, sings her part with professional grace. And her "Tea Party Trio" with Constance and Gabrielle, wherein each woman sings different lyrics to the same melody, is a flat-out showstopper.
Handsome to look at (thanks to Russ Borski's detailed costumes and sets) and beautifully sung, this is another gem to add to Kalliope's long list of remarkable productions.