by Mindy Leaf, Theatre Critic
For comedy of biblical proportions, there's no need to brush up on the Old Testament (who knew the Book of Kings could be so funny!) when you can simply attend the royal court at Ft. Lauderdale's newly gilded Empire Stage. Where you'll bear witness to creative dynamo Ginger Reiter's latest, most delightfully funny (and at times historically accurate) musical comedy sensation: KING SOLOMON & HIS 700 WIVES.
The show stars Reiter's famous comedienne daughter, Sheba Mason, playing the Queen of Sheba (who else?), Joseph Long as her First Minister, Empire's owner (and owning the part) David R. Gordon as King Solomon, Ann Marie Olson as his golden-voiced, guilt-tripping mom, Bathsheba, and the impressive vocals of Mike Dinwiddle as Hiram, King of Tyre. And because there's no way little Empire -- or any stage for that matter -- can fit in 700 wives, we're blessed with the best harem dancers of the lot in Samantha Laney (also great vocals), Kitchy Celestina (an MTV dance competition winner whose belly is art in motion), Cara Hollich-Boll, and the many faces of transvestwife-wannabe Brian Bloomer who, when not gyrating with the girls, morphs into a messenger or Menelik, the Bar-Mitzvah boy.
Above it all, Cantor Manny Silver channels Rodney Dangerfield as the unseen voice of G-d who "gets no respect." Heavily peppered with iconic/ironic words of wisdom, the play also features lacerating political satire. Like when Solomon decides to trim his labor budget by announcing: "We will use foreign slaves from one of the shithole countries to build the Temple." Old film clips of historic battle scenes culminate in a shot of "Yul Brenner and his army from the East." And among the screenings of classic biblical paintings, there's the lineup of "False Idols" where stone and clay figurines are followed by a fancy car and football heroes that will leave you laughing so hard, you'll be falling off your seat.
Reiter's original musical numbers (21 in all) feature orchestrations by Ike Reeves and Kurt Walter with choreography by Nikki Allred Boyd. They include such gems as "Just Marry The Girls" to assuage a pharaoh’s anger at "shtupping" his daughter, "Something is Better Than Nothing" for practical business advice, and popular proverbs such as "From dust we come..." that concludes with "There's nothing new under the sun." To which I say: It ain't necessarily so. King Solomon & His 700 Wives is as shiny and new a musical as you'll see all year!
Playing now through March 18 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Drive, Ft. Lauderdale 33304. 954-678-1496. Tickets at www.700wives.com or call 845-598-2850.
For info about show in Boca Raton on March 25,