Playwright Ken Ludwig may be best known for such Tony-winning musicals as "Lend Me a Tenor" and "Crazy For You" and the teaming of Carol Burnett and Lynn Redgrave in Broadway's "Moon Over Buffalo", but his 2010 non-musical laugh riot, "The Fox on The Fairway", currently onstage at Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre through Sunday, August 24, is perfectly suited to the Barn's audience.
The show centers around an annual golf tourney between rival country clubs and contains as many twist, turns, mixed-up circumstances as any Claudette Colbert/Clark Gable screwball comedy from the 30, or for a slightly more modern reference, any episode of the popular 70s sitcom 'Three's Company'.
For Chaffin's take, the cast features some of their favorites. Having just completed a successful run in Chaffin's "Grease", Sawyer Wallace is back as Justin, a young new hire at Quail Valley Country Club. Not only is he dealing with the stress of a new job, we quickly discover his girlfriend, Louise (Stephani Paige, first seen at The Barn in 2009's "See How They Run") is a waitress at the club. Wallace and Page are great as the young love-struck couple. Whether they're being inappropriately amorous or arguing on the job, it's a sight all-too-familiar to anyone who's witnessed the doe-eyed whole-hearted foolishness of first love.
Further complicating matters, Mr. Bingham (Charles Winton), Justin's frantic boss and president of Quail Valley Country Club needs a last-minute fill-in for the big tournament. Winton's portrayal of Mr. Bingham calls to mind Dabney Coleman's Mr. Hart from 1980's blockbuster comedy "9 to 5". He's a calm-cool, collected mess...in the best way possible.
Add to that, Bingham's overbearing wife Muriel (Debbie Kraski) whose antique shop, unbeknownst to her has been put up as collateral in a wager over the tournament with Bingham's rival. Kraski, last seen in Chaffin's "Always a Bridesmaid", is boisterous and bossy and downright brilliant.
As Bingham's rival, Dickie, president of the opposing country club who appears early on to gloat about having stolen away Bingham's lead golfer, Greg Frey is a nebbish delight. Again recalling "Three's Company", Frey plays Dickie as a sort of mash-up between Mr. Furley and Mr. Roper, undeservingly confident, oddly suave, but hilarious through and through.
As if that weren't enough to elicit laughs from star to finish, there's also Dickie's ex-wife, Pamela, who just so happens to also be Bingham's right-hand-woman at Quail Valley. She seems to be the brains behind the boss, has a birthmark that figures intricately into yet another subplot of the show and just might be in love with Bingham. This plum role goes to none other than Martha Wilkinson. WIlkinson is equally at home on-stage or behind it. This year alone, she directed three of Chaffin's biggest shows: "Driving Miss Daisy", "Grease" and "A Bad Year for Tomatoes". As if that weren't enough, she starred on-stage as the cynically acerbic Joanne in Tennessee Repertory Theatre's stellar production of "Company". Wilkinson seems perfectly at home playing broad broads. Lucky for Chaffin's patrons, Pamela is just that. With every snarky comment Wilkinson now only chews the scenery, she spits it right back out. You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone to play an acid-tongued woman. Funny thing is, she's perfectly lovely in real life. Wilkinson also created the audio for "Fox" which includes some very clever golf-themed interstitial music between scenes.
Kudos also to director Jenny Noel, a veteran on and off stage. Noel takes what, in spite of being a relatively new work, could come across as dated, and keeps the pacing swift and funny. Two world no normally associated with anything golf.
"The Fox on the Fairway" wraps its run with shows through Sunday, August 24. For reservations call 615.646.9977. Thursday matinees are $19. Dinner and Show tickets range in price from $30-$60, with Show Only tickets (with complimentary beverages) ranging from $25-$40. Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre is one of the only dinner theatres in the Nashville area and you can always count of a delicious full buffet with multiple options to satisfy any appetite.
Next up for Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre is "Ain't Misbehavin'", during which Wilkinson will once again step behind the scenes as director. For more detail or this and other upcoming shows at The Barn, CLICK HERE.