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Fascinating Aida - Absolutely Miraculous!

These three spirited women serve up a remarkably sophisticated topical revue. logo
Dillie Keane, Adèle Anderson, and Liza Pullman
in Fascinating Aïda - Absolutely Miraculous!
(Photo courtesy of Fascinating Aïda)
It's difficult not to wonder if the title of the newest offering from the British trio Fascinating Aïda -- Absolutely Miraculous! -- has some sort of religious connotation. Because as the three spirited women perform this delectable revue, now playing at 59E59 Theaters, it seems as if they have performed a kind of miracle: they've raised the sophisticated topical revue from the dead.

For two whirlwind acts, Adèle Anderson, Dillie Keane, and Liza Pullman deliver a wealth of original tunes that hysterically skewer the world in which we live. They may have been celebrating their silver jubilee for two years now (just one of the terrifically self-deprecating jokes they freely tell about themselves), but the material is ripped from today's headlines: Tiger Woods' infidelities are joyfully mocked and even Time magazine's man of the year, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, is not left unscathed by the group's incisive wit.

Bernanke is actually not mentioned in song, but rather in Keane's droll introduction to one of the finest tunes in the show: an "educational" patter song about the financial markets that borrows liberally from the oeuvre of Gilbert & Sullivan. Other highlights are the group's opening tune, which mocks the cult of celebrity, as well as a whimsical paean to Viagra and an almost surreal reggae number about the hazards of global warming.

Equally bizarre -- but amazingly effective in delivering a comic one-two blow -- are a series of numbers so brief that they might be considered musical haiku. The women claim (with false seriousness) that these dissonant and intricately and perfectly harmonized a cappella pieces are based on traditional Bulgarian folksongs, which may or may not be true. But, it really doesn't matter because in just a few brief lines, they can hilariously tackle subjects ranging from Michael Jackson's death to Mayor Bloomberg's third run for office.

While group numbers are generally the order of the evening, there are chances for each of the performers to shine in a solo spotlight. For Keane, whose piano playing throughout is meticulous, there's an incredibly risqué number about a new phenomenon in the U.K. that she fears might be headed stateside. The pointedly pixie-like Pullman gets the show's one ballad, a heartbreaking tune about watching a partner slip away into the arms of another woman, and her strong soprano glides across the soaring melody with finesse. Anderson's luscious lower registers -- as impressive as her high alto ---are used to perfect effect in a sequence that parodies German art song performers.

Director Frank Thompson keeps the show moving with genial buoyancy and has given the numbers some stylish embellishments. The pseudo-Bob Fosse moves for Anderson's Teutonic number are side-splittingly funny. Unfortunately, with a couple of the numbers, including a bluesy tune of false political correctness and a gospel indictment of superstores, his work can't disguise the fact that the songs themselves are overextended.

Special note should be made of Carl Ritchie, who has provided what the women describe as "translations." He's deftly made sure that some of the U.K. humor lands with precision for American ears, and Ben Hagen's lighting is as sprightly and impish as the show itself.

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