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The Von Pufferhütte Family Singers! (the musical)

Studio Theatre – Mead Theatre, 1501 14th Street NW

Remaining Performances

Saturday, July 17, 10 p.m.
Sunday, July 18, at 1:30 p.m.
Thursday, July 22, at 6 p.m.
Saturday, July 24, at 1:30 p.m.

They Say: “The warped minds that brought you I Like Nuts! (the musical) and Captain Squishy’s Yee Haw Jamboree! (the musical) are ready to hurt your brain with The Von Pufferhütte Family Singers! (the musical).”

Ian’s Take: Don’t you just hate those wholesome von Trapps, with their glittering smiles, triumphant story of escape from the Nazis, and cloying renditions of Austrian folk melodies? Well, Helmut Von Pufferhütte and his own clan of lederhosen-clad singing kin sure do. They claim that the von Trapps stole “Edelweiss” from them and that they’re the real stars. So they’re coming to America to make their fame and fortune or die trying.

I Like Nuts! (the company)‘s musical is overwhelmingly silly, in the same spirit as their testicular double-entendre-loaded production of I Like Nuts! (the musical) at last year’s Fringe. How silly? The lady of the family, Mrs. Von Pufferhütte, goes by the moniker Cookie Monster. Their children are named Goldfinger, Ronald Reagan, Octopussy, and, in a rare nod to normalcy, Klaus. Perhaps to compensate for the lack of outlandishness in his name, Klaus carries around the formaldehyde-preserved corpse of his older brother, who died as an infant, with him in a jar.

That might be moderately disgusting, but this company isn’t going for confrontational humor, and the dead baby is presented, as is the entire show, too cartoonishly to ever be very shocking. We follow the family bumbling their way from Ellis Island — where they’re convinced to pretend to be French Canadian due to the unpopularity of Germany, what with the whole Hitler thing — to a talent agency — the over-sexed Octopussy Von Pufferhütte immediately asks where the casting couch is — and eventually to Florida for the inevitable showdown with the von Trapps — who they’ve already declared, in song, to be “hideous evil demons from Hell.”

That plot, such as it is, is mostly filler to get to the often riotously funny musical numbers, starting with “I’d Rather Be Dead Than Not Be Famous,” a biting satire of the American drive for notoriety. Other titles include the aforementioned “The von Trapps are Hideous Evil Demons from Hell,” and “Quiero te que mueros (I Wish You Were Dead),” sung with honorary son Pablo Neruda Von Pufferhütte, who the family drafts after dumping Goldfinger for being ugly and stupid (she’s neither). Yet nothing outshines the slightly transgressive “You Can’t Un-Eat a Baby,” which probably requires no explanation.

There’s a heavy vaudeville influence here, in the exaggerated, broad brush comedy. The cast digs right into a style that might seem dated to some, but will draw big laughs from anyone who still enjoys the occasional Three Stooges or Laurel and Hardy short. Those demonic von Trapps may be better singers, but they were never this hilarious.

See It If: Your sense of humor tends to favor silly over sensical, and you’re unoffended by the occasional dead baby joke. And by “occasional”, I mean “every few minutes”.

Skip It If: The sight of lederhosen makes you break out in hives.