It must be something in the blossoms.
Those folks in Reedley get downright wacky this time of year. Within the first few minutes of the thoroughly silly “Fanny Buys the Farm,” we’re treated to a local chorus line of community folks grabbing both butt cheeks and thrusting forth with a wiggle as they sing, “We’ve lost our Fanny!”
With all the bad puns, beefy men in appalling drag, jokes about Tiger Woods and other assorted shenanigans, it’s all sort of small-town hammy — and, to me, quite charming. Writer/director Mark Norwood’s goofy sense of humor can really start to grow on you.
“Fanny Buys the Farm,” an original musical continuing through March 14, is the fifth episode in the “Blossoms Up” series at Reedley’s River City Theatre Company. Timed to coincide with the annual Blossom Trail celebration — which my colleague Ron Orozco writes about in Thursday’s Bee — the play finds a certain zippy, civic pride in all those beautiful flowers.
The star of the show — and he’s got this title role down pat — is the amusing Matt Wiebe, who plays Fanny with a sort of coy-but-brusque charm. He even gets the chance to perform a comic monologue midway through the first act in which he gets to riff on various current events — which is how the Tiger Woods jokes fit in. Wiebe’s booming voice could probably fill the Saroyan Theatre, so in the tiny Reedley Opera House it has a cheerfully rattling quality.
In this episode, Fanny has stumbled upon the title to the big farm belonging to the villain, Split Pitts (an amusing Don Applegate), who has been missing for seven years and is presumed dead. When it turns out that he’s alive after all — he’s been in cold storage the whole time — all sorts of havoc is unleashed.
The plot isn’t really all that important, though. The fun is more in Darrell Devaurs’ jaunty score, Nicholle Cash’s goofy choreography and the general overall laidback silliness that unfolds on stage. Norwood frequently goes for the groaner, but he also tosses in flashes of absurdity. (When the country folk in the crowd moan about not being able to go to a barn dance that night, one laments, “I got something pierced!”) Let’s put it this way: When I’m the only person in the audience who laughs at a joke about one of the Olsen twins plucking out the other’s eye, you realize you’re in for a slightly weirder evening than you might have expected.
Standouts in the cast include Chris Giese, Jeff Lusk and Steve Jones — and Norwood himself as the amnesiac Flossie, who seems to have been sniffing more than blossoms.
The best way to take in “Fanny Buys the Farm,” of course, is to get out and see those beautiful blossoms themselves, and then see the show — or vice versa. Together, it’s a true Reedley experience.