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“Front Page Flo” calls back classic musical theater



Big Broadway numbers tap dance onto the stage in the musical “Front Page Flo.”

The musical is being performed Dec. 1 through 16 at Bloomington Playwrights Project.

In post-World War II New York City, rumors spread that Russian spies are invading the publication New York News in order to corrupt America. Hotshot reporter Flo, looking for her chance to crack the story on the front page, gets to work on the investigation. Meanwhile, a team of Russian spies manages to infiltrate the newspaper's office.

“This show is a funny combination of chaos and charm,” said Claire Logan, the actress who plays Flo. “Jumping around between romance, Russian spies and incest, it's both ridiculous and heart warming.”

Set in the 1940s, the production contains both music and dance from the time period. Genres such as ragtime and big band, and dances like the Charleston, have prominent roles in propelling the show's music and lyrics, both written by Larry Kass.

“He writes in the style of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, the great American songbook,” book writer George Pinney said. “These are songs you can hum and sing going out of the theater.”

Most of the musical numbers, such as “Got to Get the Story,” “We are the Boys from Budapest,” or “Emma is a Russian Spy,”  revolve around a grand chorus line. Accompanying the singers is a live band composed of piano, bass and drums that performs on stage with the actors.

“It’s very typical of early 40s small club jazz type arrangements,” Pinney said. “It’s particularly nice at the Bloomington Playwrights Project because the trio is right on stage with the cast.”

Many songs also feature tap dancing solos or moments where the characters use the clicks of tap dance to represent their excitement and urgency to work. Tap is also used to emulate the commotion of typewriters as reporters work on their stories.

“The tapping within the show is definitely a form of the reporters' expressions and a way of miming certain office quirks,” Logan said.

Space was limited in the Timothy J. Wiles Theater, with the band onstage amid numerous dancers. 

“It was like putting together a Swiss watch,” Pinney said. “Every little movement had an effect on someone else. It’s incredibly exciting to have a whole line of tap dancers coming right at you.”

Much of the humor in the show is derived from farcical moments of confusion between characters. Two reporters, Logan and Zelda, are determined to help find the Russian spy, but suspect the wrong person. 

The janitor, Emma, realizes two other reporters who are falling in love are actually her long lost twins. Characters also speak with colloquial phrases, such as “jeepers creepers” and “jiminy cricket.”

“It’s really very typical of the madcap comedies of the early 40s,” Pinney said. “A lot of it is very character driven. A lot of it too is rapid fire dialogue.”

Overall, the show is a two hour escape from classes, stress and tension in social media and news headlines, Logan said.

“This show is truly outrageous,” Logan said. “The audience will feel that energy from the actors and be able to see the show for what it is, which is simply fun.” 

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