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Bawdy Farce in ‘Olympus on My Mind’

What better way for a god to win the heart of a fair maiden than with a bouquet of cardboard cutout flowers? The cheesiness is intentional and appropriate when Jupiter does just that in “Olympus on My Mind,” an infectiously goofy faux-Greco musical comedy by lyricist Barry Harmon and composer Grant Sturiale at the Odyssey Theatre.

A bawdier contemporary heir to “The Boys From Syracuse,” “Olympus,” an off-Broadway hit, follows the exploits of a love-smitten Jupiter (Paul Keeley) wooing a married Princess Alcmene (Susan Kohler) in the guise of her mortal husband. With fellow deity Mercury (Jose Restrepo) assuming the identity of the royal slave Sosia (Christopher Robertson), the pair trigger a comic tangle of mistaken identity with roots tracing back to Shakespeare and Plautus.

Yet Roger Bean’s staging pulls us sharply back to modern sensibilities with a winning mix of levity and unself-conscious camp. A lisping, raucous and occasionally tap-dancing chorus is headed by Delores (Rhae Ann Theriault), the gaudy, ambitious and hopelessly untalented wife of the show’s “producer,” Murray the Furrier. Sporting a mink wrap over her tunic, Theriault brays her tacky numbers with hilarious comic precision.

Complementing Delores’ trashy excess is Kohler’s wonderfully understated irony and lovely vibrato--the best singing voice in an uneven cast. Keeley also proves a sympathetic lead and capable crooner in his dual roles as the philandering impostor and noble husband, while Sandy Mulvihill--as Sosia’s neglected wife--belts out her numbers with aplomb. The energy falters noticeably, however, in the more mundane traditional musical numbers.

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Harmon’s sprawling book runs the gamut from vaudeville shtick (“I’m so hungry I could eat a Trojan Horse”) to more sophisticated mythical allusions. Finally, a classical education comes in handy for something.

* “Olympus on My Mind,” Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., West Los Angeles. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sunday, July 6 and 27, 7 p.m. Ends Aug. 3. $22.50-$25. (310) 477-2055. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.


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