Soup Du Jour | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader
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Soup du Jour, Light Opera Works, at the McGaw YMCA Child Care Center Auditorium. How many wonderful songs does it take to excuse a silly plot? For this "screwball musical" about a missing recipe, it's a baker's dozen. With an expert score by Gregg Opelka (creator of the hit La Vie Ennui) and a lighthearted script by Todd Mueller and Hank Boland, this is a treat, though no four-course meal. Michael Weber's period-perfect staging turns six Depression-era stereotypes into people you want to hug.

The plot gets its flavor from Opelka's deft songs. Stewart Bailey has inherited his father's New York restaurant (certainly no soup kitchen) but lost the formula for the famous title dish. Now he must deal with a scoop-hungry food critic, Shelly, and his own social-climbing fiancee. Meanwhile Kate, the writer's incognito rival, must choose whether to cover the story or fall in love with the beleaguered restaurateur.

Out of this brouhaha come sparkling tunes that wax jazzy, honky-tonk, or bluesy, richly rendered by a well-picked cast. Chris Petschler as Stewart and J. Chris Baum as his faithful bartender bring down the house with "What Women Get Ya." Playing the Pulitzer-winning love interest, Tammy Mader brings Ann Southern panache to the bubbling "The Scoop on the Soup." Jane Blass's predatory critic, Cynthia Fortune Gruel's restaurant-groupie fiancee, and Mark R. Mahallak's cigar-chomping editor are all authentic blasts from the past.

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