Le Comedie du Bicyclette | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Le Comedie du Bicyclette

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Songwriter Mark Nutter's hip humor and mastery of musical genres established him as one of off-Loop theater's top talents, a comic tunesmith in the tradition of Tom Lehrer and Abe Burrows. In the late 80s and early 90s his deft melodies and daffy lyrics distinguished the hit musical Wild Men!, a popular spoof of the men's movement, as well as a string of brilliant revues from the sketch-comedy troupe Friends of the Zoo. Nutter relocated to Hollywood a while back, but Chicagoans have a chance to sample his latest efforts when he returns for a two-week run at ImprovOlympic with Le Comedie du Bicyclette. This one-act musical, a long-running attraction at ImprovOlympic's LA outpost, is a sublimely silly fantasy about an amiable American who crashes his bike while cycling through rural France. The accident strands him in a seemingly quaint French village populated by mimes, puppeteers, and cabaret singers; there he finds spiritual rebirth at the hands of the mysterious, godlike Homme du Bicyclette. Nutter's fellow writer-performers in this hilarious extended sketch are Chicago expats Dave Lewman, Joe Liss, and John Rubano, whose local credits range from Second City to suburban venues like Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire and Apple Tree; their other credentials as actors and writers include Saturday Night Live, Seinfeld, 3rd Rock From the Sun, and Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd's Blues Brothers act. Lewman's bland good looks and pleasing baritone serve him well as the show's gee-whiz hero; Nutter, Rubano, and Liss (who suggests a cross between Dana Carvey and Don Knotts) tackle multiple roles as Lewman's various tormentors. Nutter's score includes French chansons in the Brel-Aznavour mode; a jive Cab Calloway homage, "The White Guys Are Here"; a patter song in the Gilbert and Sullivan style; a tribute to the classic Broadway sound of A Chorus Line, "I'm in a Musical, but I'm Hetero"; and an existentialist lullaby that suggests a cross between Mr. Rogers and John Lennon. ImprovOlympic, 3541 N. Clark, 773-880-0199. Opens Thursday, July 10, 8 PM. Through July 19: Thursdays, 8 PM; Fridays-Saturdays, 9 PM. $12.

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