The Von Pufferhutte Family Singers! (the musical)

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Editorial Review

Von Pufferhütte Family delivers the most while singing at the Capital Fringe Festival

Oh, Von Pufferhüttes, why must you tease your audience so? The Fringe show by I Like Nuts (the Company), which follows a German family musical troupe, holds so much promise -- lederhosen, umlaut jokes, a bitter rivalry with the publicly adored Von Trapp family -- but often the quips were too perplexing to earn a laugh.

Perhaps part of the problem was the venue. While Studio Theatre provides something few Fringe venues do -- high-functioning air conditioning -- the space may also unintentionally raise expectations. Seeing a Fringe show on a stage that usually hosts more polished productions feels a little like seeing a kid dressed up in adult clothing; something just seems amiss.

Still, "The Von Pufferhütte Family Singers," which plays through July 24, has its moments. As with the company's lovably oddball 2009 Fringe offering, "Captain Squishy's Yee Haw Jamboree," the Von Pufferhüttes were at their best during the musical numbers, including the ditty that kicked off the show, "I'd Rather Be Dead than Not Be Famous." The highlight of the performance was when the otherwise German-accented family broke into a down-home ballad about a fictional American folk hero. The music was catchy and the lyrics were amusing, recounting the Chuck Norris-like character's mix of impressive feats (he can run marathons!) and more ordinary practices (he likes beer!). Sadly, the songs didn't come often enough.

As for the cast, Nick Greek has to be commended for his commitment to his character, the militant family patriarch. And Christopher Michael Todd (the impressive star of last year's Fringe show "The Skywriter") had an entertaining turn as both a egotistical television host and a self-proclaimed artiste of a tambourine player.

-- Stephanie Merry