Around the World in a Bad Mood

By Rene Foss
Directed by Tom Mills
Upstairs at Rose's Turn
55 Grove Street
Varied schedule, 712-8702
Non-union production (closes Jan. 27)
Review by Doug DeVita

Rene Foss has been a Stewarde..., um I mean Flight Attendant, for nearly 16 years. In her (mostly) delightful cabaret revue Around The World in a Bad Mood, she chronicles her experiences in a series of sketches and songs that, if they don't provide the smoothest ride, at least get you there in one piece and in a much better mood than most travel these days.

Foss, and her show, was at its best when she showed herself at her worst. Having worn that relentlessly perky smile for so long, Foss probably couldn't frown if her life depended on it (which in her line of work must be a tremendous asset). And when she got down and dirty, muttering "Jesus Christ" under her breath while dealing with an obtuse passenger, the contrast between plastic, grinning professionalism and true human emotion was unexpected, and truly hilarious. When she stayed in this vein, Around The World in a Bad Mood zipped along on bursts of inspired, stinging satire. But not everything in the show was on this level of brilliance. One skit in particular -- an extended battle between two passengers done in the style of Macbeth -- skidded along the runway without ever taking off, and there were repetitive references to unavailable food, fights over seating assignments and delays in service that became less welcome each time they were lampooned. But for every bit that misfired, there was a sublime bit of silliness that bounced the evening into the heavens once again, particularly a spectacular montage of stupid passenger questions that was cheerfully nasty and convulsively funny.

Foss was blessed with an outstanding supporting cast, all of whom had terrific voices and contributed immeasurably to the evening's brightest moments, especially the big-voiced, rubber-faced Jennifer Winegardner and the adorably versatile Hector Coris. Musical Director Michael McFrederick provided a catchy original score, with pointed lyrics by Foss (her reference to a French "Hello", while obvious, was nevertheless a scream), and director Tom Mills kept the whole enterprise moving at a smooth, quick pace that glossed over the rough patches with the ease of a 747 cruising at top speed. Production values were minimal, although the uncredited costumes gave a sense of colorful opulence that made up for the lack of scenery and lighting effects.

There was a time when flying was the glamorous way for the elite to travel. Passengers dressed in their best and were served by perfectly coiffed stewardesses who worked wearing white gloves. Of course, that is an era that is long gone, and anyone who travels by air today is hard-pressed to find anything even remotely glamorous, to say nothing of elite, about it. At its best, Around The World in a Bad Mood offered first-class service with a sly wink, despite occasional bits of turbulence, and ultimately reached its final destination safely, on time and with giddy high spirits. Altogether, not a bad way to travel. Buh-bye.

(Also featuring Kerri Aldrich and Lou Rudy. Special material provided by Brad Ross and Ken Jones.)

Box Score:

Writing: Book: 1 Music: 1 Lyrics: 2

Directing: 1

Musical Direction: 1

Acting: 2

Set: N/A

Costume: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2000 Doug DeVita