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Absolutely Fascinating

Presented as part of the Brits Off Broadway 2004 festival at 59E59 Theaters, 59 E. 59 St., NYC, May 20-June 13.

"Absolutely Fascinating" is not absolutely fascinating from beginning to end. But this three-woman (collectively known as Fascinating Aida) revue certainly picks up steam as the evening progresses. By the second act, these Brits have captured the audience. With songs, movement, and patter, singly and in unison, they offer up very witty satirical commentary on women's place in today's world.

The trio consists of Dillie Keane, a blonde Brünhilde type with an acerbic wit and sharp tongue; the adorable little Liza Pulman, with the golden voice; and the statuesque brunette Adele Anderson, whose coolness contrasts with the wildly undignified songs she gets to deliver. Equally important is Russell Churney, a real pro who backs them up on the piano and has his own moment with a flawless take on Arnold Schwarzenegger.

What is most fascinating, however, is the originality of the material. Keane wrote almost all the music, and shared almost all the lyrics with Anderson. And though the trio works hard at its onstage presence, it is the material that outstrips the performances. On the poignant side are such memorable tunes as "Little Lines, Little Tears" (sheer poetry that bemoans the marks of time on a woman's face) and "You Keep Me Awake at Night" (a lovely ballad that gives Pulman the chance to shine).

But it is the wildly comic pieces attacking current mores that explain Fascinating Aida's popularity in their native England. The second act opens with the trio barely able to mouth their words as they sing of their cosmetic surgery and body tightenings. And Anderson croons a love song to her two-headed baby, while she later offers an acrobatic Dietrich singing off-key. Everything—from geography to genetics, art to adultery, sex to skin tightening—comes in for its share. And though they chant of taboos in "Taboo," little is taboo in this show.

All told, Fascinating Aida (whatever that name means!) offer good fun.

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