All’s fair in war and cheese in ‘Strike Up the Band’ 

Americans waging war against the Swiss for slapping a tax on imported cheese is the topic of George and Ira Gershwins’ 1927 musical “Strike Up the Band.”

In the 21st century, the notion remains amusing, thanks to the Marx Brothers-inspired book by George S. Kaufman, played broadly and to perfection by 42nd Street Moon, the San Francisco troupe dedicated to reviving lost and little-known musicals.

But the silliness mingles well with sharp satire and a plethora of strong songs, including standards the likes of “The Man I Love,” “I’ve Got a Crush on You” and the title tune.

The less familiar numbers (“Mademoiselle in New Rochelle”) are just as fun throughout the show, directed with finesse by Zack Thomas Wilde and concisely choreographed by Alex Hsu on the compact Eureka Theatre stage.

The wacky characters come in couples: Horace J. Fletcher (Gabriel Grilli) head of the American cheese company mad about the tariff, pairs up with socialite Mrs. Draper (Stephanie Rhoads). Jim Townsend (Michael Scott Wells), a reporter who questions the quality of Fletcher’s cheese, finds love with Fletcher’s daughter Joan (Samantha Bruce), while Fletcher’s foreman Timothy Harper (Luke Chapman) connects with Draper’s daughter Anne (Sharon Rietkerk).

They all duet terrifically, and all boast delightful vocal talent, doing justice to the classic tunes.

Equally thrilling are the kids in the chorus, who get nice moments in the spotlight, too, particularly in “Oh, This Is Such a Lovely War” featuring soldiers Pvt. McNally (Benjamin Pither), Pvt. Vale (Jack Sale), and Pvt. Hobart (Zachary Franczak) and Swiss misses Muesli (Amie Shapiro), Nestle (Samantha Bartholomew) and Lindt (Megan Amanda Hopp).

Musical director Dave Dobrusky on piano and Nick di Scala on various reeds, onstage among the proceedings, provide tuneful accompaniment, often sounding like a much larger band.

Costume designer Scarlett Kellum dresses the characters in to-die-for 1920s attire.

THEATER REVIEW

Strike Up the Band

Presented by 42nd Street Moon

Where: Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson St., San Francisco
When: 7 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 6 p.m. Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays; closes April 24
Tickets: $24 to $44
Contact: (415) 255-8207, www.42ndstmoon.org

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

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Leslie Katz

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