The musical "Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?" is a prime example of how to make a lot out of not much.
Author/Producer John R. Powers' inoffensive entertainment about going to Catholic school has been playing somewhere (other than Broadway, where it was only a short-term tenant) since 1979, including several viewings in Washington. That should make up for whatever unhappiness Powers may have incurred during his 16 years of Catholic school.
The road company now at the Warner Theatre has all the sprightliness and talent the show requires, including the ability to age from 8 to 18 during two acts, while singing and dancing. The concerns of the characters are the predictable ones of sex, being different and getting in trouble, flavored with the cultural distinctions of being Catholic.
While not meant just for parochial school alumni, those schooled by nuns may have a richer appreciation of some of the play's more pointed jokes. One gag of nuns making clicking noises with a little device in their hands passed right over my head, for example. And while everyone can appreciate the nun who cautions a young charge, "Never go to a restaurant with white sheets because it makes the boy think of bed," those who've ever had such advice may laugh harder.
For unclear reasons, the show is set in the '50s, possibly because the manners and mores of that time seem funnier. (In what other era could the senior prom possibly be presented as the "most important night of your life"?)
sk,3 There is one touching song, in which the chubby heroine, taunted and friendless, wonders "does God love little fat girls, too?" Eileen Blackman, who gets more glamorous as the show goes on, handles the number sweetly.
sk,2 Russ Thacker, as the wholesome if unachieving Eddie, has a gee-whiz charm that seems just right for the role. Eddie's undying adoration of the chubby-turned-beautiful Becky supplies what frail plot material there is. Brigid Cleary, who has appeared in the musical in two productions at Olney Theatre, is the mean nun, Sister Lee, in a performance more caricature than even this show needs. Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?, book by John R. Powers, music and lyrics by James Quinn and Alaric Jans. With Russ Thacker, Eileen Blackman, Brigid Cleary, Christian Kauffmann, Mary Buehrle, Louis DiCrescenzo, Amy Marie Dolan, Susann Fletcher, Mary Ellen Grant, Tonette Hartmann, Dan Schiff, Todd Taylor and C.S. Webb. At the Warner Theatre through April 27