Play:    Food Fight

Group:    Touring company

Venue:    Playhouse at West Port Plaza, 635 West Port Plaza Drive

Dates:    Wednesdays through Sundays through May 24

Tickets:    Contact 314-534-1111, or 636-443-9736

Story:    Cook’s Women’s Gym is the place where Cheryl Corn, Connie Pizzarelli and Cindy Burger congregate to work out their frustrations and tone up their physiques in their quest to pursue the American dream of female beauty.  Under the strict guidance of gym owner Carla Cook, the trio discusses their various travails between bouts of calisthenics and temptations of all the foods on their ‘bad’ list that happen to taste great.

Highlights:    Written and produced by Alan Jacobson, this one-act, 90-minute musical follows an increasingly tired format of penning new lyrics to familiar melodies from the youth of the Baby Boomer generation.  Jacobson’s effort varies a bit from works such as “Menopause: The Musical” and “Parenting 101” by relying on tunes from Broadway musicals as much as the Top 40 hits of yesteryear, thus providing an occasional highlight to the otherwise tepid template.

    “If I Were a Size Two,” for example, provides an entertaining vehicle for Missy McArdle to demonstrate her fine comic abilities as an overweight woman who is trying to restore some spark to her lackluster marriage.   And “Lazy” provides a nice comic moment for Amanda Shae Wilborn as she parodies the Patsy Cline tune, “Crazy,” to articulate why she struggles with her exercise regimen.

Other Info:    Mostly, though, “Food Fight” comes across as strained and forced, particularly in its weak book that struggles to bridge the various tunes together.  There seems to be a noticeable lack of chemistry as well between the performers, who individually all demonstrate their capabilities but collectively struggle to bring any muscle tone to this flabby piece.

    Annie Cook warbles “Viagra” to the tune of “Maria” from “West Side Story,” and also is saddled with a real stretch when she laments her lack of desirable breakfast food on “If I Had a Bagel,” sung unconvincingly to the melody of “If I Had a Hammer.”  Tafee Patterson, as the athletic trainer with her own dark secrets, has fun with “The Morning After,” but has the unfortunate job of crooning “I’m a Cougar” with limited success.

    The quartet fares better on some ensemble numbers, such as variations on “I Feel the Earth Move” and “Heard It Through the Grapevine,” although “Botox Queen” is a major disservice to ABBA.  Jenna Hoefert has some fun with the costumes, particularly on a dream sequence when Carla is visited by favorite temptations such as a Nestle’s Crunch Bar, and the set and lighting design by Exclusive Events is colorful and playful enough.

    Kevin Black’s choreography is a bit compressed on the compact West Port stage, but Victor Glazer’s musical accompaniment at the keyboards is lively and upbeat and the true strength of the show.  Andy Rogow directs everything in straightforward fashion, although there are a couple of scenes that come to an abrupt halt as the crew prepares for the next setting.

    Plans are underway to take “Food Fight” on the road to more cities, and in fact it’s been fine tuned already in other markets before arriving here.  Many in the opening night audience truly enjoyed the festivities, but the question is whether this schtick of penning witty new lyrics to familiar tunes has become a weary, one-trick pony on a track to Forgettableville.

Rating:    A 2.5 on a scale of 1-to-5.