Variety is the spice

Five-Course Love

Tina Stafford and Robert Yacko are doin’ the hand jive in <i>Five-Course Love</i>.

Tina Stafford and Robert Yacko are doin’ the hand jive in Five-Course Love.

Rated 4.0

Last year, Gregg Coffin—Sacramento’s rising composer of theater music—bowled everyone over with Convenience, his fine debut musical. It was funny, with a touching message about family, acceptance and forgiveness. After Sacramento, Convenience went on to play in Houston and in Kansas City, Mo. Theater companies in Boston and San Francisco are considering the play for next season.

Now Coffin is back with his second effort, charting different territory in a lighter vein. Five-Course Love involves romantic encounters (potential and actual, successful and disastrous) set in five different restaurants: Texas barbecue, classic Italian, German, Mexican and 1950s American.

Coffin wrote the book, music and lyrics, and he shifts styles with alacrity to match each location. (That’s country-western, opera, Berlin cabaret, Zorro-esque romantic and slick doo-wop, respectively.) He doesn’t have anything serious in mind. To paraphrase the old Cyndi Lauper hit, “Gregg just wants to have fun.” And he does.

Five-Course Love is fast, frothy and flirtatious, with plenty of sexy innuendo on the side, both visually and in the lyrics. The German episode features actress Tina Stafford in a glossy black dominatrix outfit that’s better seen than described. She also plays the other women, who range from innocent to femme fatale. Robert Yacko (seen in past Music Circus shows) plays the male suitors in an array of personalities from passionate to awkward. Portly Peter Story plays the waiters in an assortment of wild outfits by Todd Roehrman, topped with bad hair. Choreographer Mindy Cooper, who’s new in town, varies her dance steps with the music.

Five-Course Love is an 85-minute romp with no intermission. It’s a varied goody bag of ear candy and funny situations, all for enjoyment in the moment. Sacramento Theatre Company director Peggy Shannon seems to be closing the loop she started with last fall’s season opener, Dirty Blonde, which likewise had a cast of three, including Story.

Fans of Coffin will be glad to know he’s working on two new projects. Maggie is a new musical based on a novella by Stephen Crane, set in late 19th-century New York. 82233 (named after the Dewey decimal number under which Shakespeare’s work is filed) will compile the 20 songs Coffin has written for various Shakespeare productions into a two-person musical about a scholar who falls in love with a librarian. Speaking of Shakespeare, Coffin currently is writing incidental scores for The Winter’s Tale and W.S. Gilbert’s Engaged for this summer’s Shakespeare Santa Cruz.