Top Gun! The Musical

Presented by TG!TM Coop Productions as part of the 2004 New York Musical Theatre Festival at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, 304 W. 47 St., NYC, Sept. 27-Oct. 3.

First, let it be said, this is not merely a campy takeoff of the Tom Cruise movie. Rather, this "most successful show in the history of the Toronto Fringe" follows a theatre company mounting such a conceit, with the focus on the cast's backstage antics.

There's the frustrated director and the leading lady with whom he's having an affair. The female stage manager who loves him. The dumb leading man. The gay actor attracted to him. The producer, an ex-military man called the General, whose real agenda is to spread American values. You get the idea.

Book writer-lyricist Denis McGrath's main target is the absurdity of musicalizing a property so wildly inappropriate, but there's also the gay subtext of the film, the state of Broadway, and some labored political jibes. The result is gently rather than scathingly funny. Scott White's tunes are hummable.

The likeable cast (Dmitry Chepovetsky, David Collins, Steven Gallagher, Sharon Heldt, Alison Lawrence, Brett McCaig, and Racheal McCaig) perform with conviction. And the evening was well, if simply, staged by Colin Viebrock.

We've seen better versions of the putting-on-a-bad-show device, often done with more consistent wit and sharpness, but this is a pleasant 90-minute diversion.