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Compass Rose Theater’s The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd

First-rate performers, playful ­choreography, excellent music and an enduring message

Piers Portfolio as Cocky​,​ Elliott Bales as Sir​, and Tommy ​Malek as Kid with the urchins above: Sarah Kathryn Makl, Charlize Lefter and Sarah Grace Clifton.

The game of life has no stadium or season yet is rife with winners and losers, superstars and scandals. We all love a good underdog story, and if it can be told in song and dance, all the better. Compass Rose Theater’s The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd is just such a spectacle.
    This allegory about the little man versus The Man debuted to lukewarm British audiences in 1964, only to be revised a year later into an American hit and now revived in another makeover with references to current political, religious and pop icons. Clever word play and an energetic score by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley (of Goldfinger and Willie Wonka fame) make this show as amusing as it is timeless.
    Set in a playground dominated by a hopscotch grid, this show focuses on an average Joe named Cocky (Piers Portfolio) and his establishment nemesis, Sir (Elliot Bales). Cocky is a sweet schmuck who just can’t seem to get a break. All he wants is food, work and love, but all he gets is the run around from Sir, a shrewd man who believes above all in ME. Sir writes the ever-shifting rules of their game, thwarting Cocky’s every tentative advance. Watching their maneuvers is like watching Charlie Brown and Lucy play football with the strategic planning of chess masters.
    Then Foreigner (Nygel Robinson) arrives in his dashiki, and Cocky senses an opportunity to laud his supremacy. Foreigner, however, refuses to be jerked around, inspiring Cocky to revolt against Sir’s oppressive regime. In the end, Cocky gains control and Sir is the one doing the sulking and groveling. Joining in the fun and frustration are Sir’s apprentice, The Kid (Tommy Malek); Cocky’s muse, The Girl (Anna Deblasio), and three urchins: Mitzi (Sarah Grace Clifton), Kay (Sarah Kathryn Makl) and Cyndi (Charlize Lefter.) Jimothy Rogers provides accompaniment onstage at a baby grand piano.
    The performers are first rate. Diminutive Portfolio is earnest and endearing with a naive spirit and hopeful eyes. His tenor is most moving in the plaintive Who Can I Turn To and in his revolutionary anthem Nothing Can Stop Me Now. The Joker remains one of the show’s enduring hits due to Bobby Rydell’s recording, but I preferred This Dream and My First Love Song, Cocky’s gorgeous ballet and duet with Deblasio.
    As Sir, Bales is an imposing figure with a commanding voice well-suited to such boastful numbers as A Wonderful Day Like Today, Where Would You Be Without Me and Things to Remember. But I most enjoyed his sad Reprise: Who Can I Turn To.    Foreigner Robinson’s phenomenal Feeling Good is the highlight of the show.
    Malek is hilarious as the spoiled Kid, and his golden voice is the leavening of each ensemble number.
    Flattery may be the key to open any door, as Sir says, but it is no flattery to say that this show will far exceed what you might expect from a seldom-seen retread. With playful choreography, excellent music and an enduring message, this is an entertaining two hours. (Suitable for teens.)

Director: Lucinda Merry-Browne. Music Director: Anita O’Connor. Choreographer: Elizabeth Spilsbury. Accompanist: Jimothy Rogers. Stage Manager: Mary Ruth Cowgill. Costumes: Renee Vergauwen. Lights: Kathryn Moncur. Props: Joann and Mike Gidos.