Frothiness abounds in Pockets, an amusing spoof of British musicals that’s presented by the Los Angeles-based comedy troupe Robot Teammate. The rollicking score is a collaboration between the group’s members and lead composer and music director Branson NeJame. The saucy book is a communal effort as well, created with head writer Dave Reynolds. It’s all 70-minutes of good-natured silliness structured as sketch comedy-style scenes and accomplished musical numbers. There are plentiful puns, sight gags and zaniness.
It’s possibly the 18th century or thereabouts, and we’re in the imaginary English village of Crumpten, ruled by the imperious Duchess Winifred Dolores Crumbledunk. The Duchess’ chief duty is wearing judicial robes in court to pass judgement on criminals and sentence them to time in the stock. Crumpet Day is approaching, there’s a revolution brewing and discord with the Duchess’ rebellious 13-year-old daughter, Bellamina Crumbledunk. She runs away, dresses as a boy and takes up with a preeminent pickpocket, attaining the sobriquet of “Pockets.” Offbeat Dickensian complications ensue.
The charming Molly Dworsky’s soaring vocalizing adds to her winning characterization of Bellamina. Kat Primeau is grand, charismatic and caustic as the Duchess. Top-hatted, swaggering and gleeful, the beaming Chris Bramante is a marvelous combination of the Artful Dodger and Fagin as the pickpocket. Mr. Reynolds plays several archetypal supporting roles to comedic effect. The animated ensemble also consists of Jarret Spiler, Max Pescherine, Fayna Sanchez, Paige Gallagher, George Chammas, Dan Macken, Sonja Midtune and Mr. NeJame who all contribute to the giddiness.
Director Lauren Van Kurin’s breezy staging also injects as much theatricality as possible. Pockets is most distinguished by Alli Miller and Ms. Primeau’s terrific choreography particularly in several group numbers. Their euphoric moves combined with the witty songs yield to some dazzling sequences achieving picturesque scope on the small stage.
From a vintage streetlamp, a stock and a bed, set and prop designers Dorla Bramante and Markus Weinfurter conjure up a playfully Oliver!-type environment, that’s complemented by the fine period costumes. Peter W. Mitchell’s adept lighting design enhances the liveliness.
NeJame is at the piano with Harrison Lee on cello, Christopher Sousa on bass, and Alex Keenan on drums. This onstage quartet’s excellent playing renders the score in all its tuneful glory.
Pockets is a bubbly diversion that’s ideal holiday time entertainment.
Pockets (through December 22, 2019)
SoHo Playhouse, 15 Van Dam Street, in Manhattan
For tickets: visit http://www.robotteammate.com
Running time: 70 minutes without an intermission