By Rod Stafford Hagwood
12:43 PM EST, November 13, 2012
Now that the election is really (really) over, the producers of “Laffing Matterz” can finalize their dinner theater show.
The musical comedy revue opens its seventh season tonight in the Abdo New River Room in the Broward Center for the Performing Arts with the usual lampooning of news headlines in a supper club setting. Speaking before last week’s election, the dynamic duo Mark and Rita Wells explain how they were in a holding pattern with a few skits.
“There are at least two big numbers that are kind of twisting in the wind until we see what is happening [with the election],” says Mark, “But that happens a lot anyway. And sometimes we end up pulling a number if it’s not getting a response. Always the audience is the barometer that tells us what is funny and what is not.”
But they both agree that this election, in particular, is good funny fodder.
“The show revolves around what is going on in the news, so we obviously had a good year for stuff,” explains Rita. “And there is a lot of Florida type of humor. It’s a cross between like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ and a musical.”
So this time around expect satirical songs on: a slimmed-down Paula Deen; "Dancing with the Stars;” Ambien antics; “50 Shades of Grey” and Anderson Cooper coming out.
“We do a take on cosmetic surgery,” adds Mark. “We’ve got Katie Holmes being chased by Scientologist. We’ve got a song about erectile dysfunction. There’s one with Arnold Schwarzenegger and some children he’s fathered that he doesn’t know about. [There is] a good way-out-there number about Chick-fil-A. That’s the envelope-pusher this year.”
Dinner theater is nothing new for the Wells. They met while performing at the now-defunct Crystal Palace in Aspen, Colorado. “That’s when I started doing political and social satire up there,” says Mark. “I went to the London Academy, so I came back to the U.S. a classically trained guy. I was used to playing that one part from beginning to end. This is more like Monty Python where you see a guy three or four times and each time he’s a different person. It’s more like Vaudeville really.”
But the couple was looking for a place they could call home and exercise their new satirical skit skills.
“We wanted to be in a city where we could actually buy a house,” says Rita, who graduated Magna Cum Laude from SUNY Fredonia. “Believe me, that wasn’t happening in Aspen. We came here and we were originally in the old McCrory’s building downtown [August, 2005]. We were there for three years and then the economy bottomed out. We call it our recession break. Then Broward Center called [October, 2009] and said, ‘We’ve got a room and you’ve got a show.’ We wanted [to stay here] because you really need a good metro area to feed off of as well as tourism.”
The show now has three writers and 12 performers. “Some of the cast write for themselves,” says Mark. “We try to wait a month before we go into rehearsal. We had a song about Prince Harry when he was in Vegas and went bananas and we tossed it because it was too long ago.”
Rita adds, “We have two news sections in the show that we can change weekly to nightly. We try to keep that super topical.”
“Laffing Matterz” runs Thursdays through Sundays until May 12, 2013. Dinner starts at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays and at 4:30 p.m. on Sundays. Prices range from $59 to $65. Reservations can be made by calling 954-462-0222 or visiting BrowardCenter.org. The Broward Center is at 201 S.W. 5th Avenue in Fort Lauderdale.
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