Review: ‘Jest in Time’ an upbeat night of comedy
By MAXINE GINSBERG, Special to the Daily News
February 17, 2004
While the dopey drivers on U.S. 41 and the diminished capacities of advancing age have put a furrow on many a brow, Fred Tobias finds them fodder for funniness, grist for giggles, and the stuff that screams are made of.
There were plenty of all three when he and his wife, Lee Tobias, performed “Jest in Time,” Saturday night at Gulfview Middle School.
About 80 showgoers laughed their way through a generous program that poked fun at plastic surgery, performance enhancement drugs (and they don’t mean steroids), retirement and politics.
There was nothing MTV about the audience, the material or the performers, which accounted for the great success of the evening. The Tobiases are show business veterans so comfortable on stage that a couple of first-night flubs didn’t faze them at all.
They weren’t even buffaloed by their venue, a middle school cafeteria/auditorium. The balance of their show dates are slated for the rebuilt Norris Center at Cambier Park — whose exact opening date is still uncertain — but opening night took place in what might be considered primitive surroundings.
The dubious need not have dithered. The ample stage, close to the audience, and effective lighting made a more than adequate scene for this intimate show. A good sound system enabled any showgoers with less-than-perfect hearing to appreciate every lyric and one-liner.
That’s a critical factor for a Tobias show, since wit is the core of the entertainment. It was far from ironic that one early attendee seated in the front row used the time before the show to complete the Daily News crossword puzzle. Fans of these local performers are awed by the New York-born septuagenarian’s ability to take popular songs and bend them to his fancy.
For example. The Barbra Streisand/Neil Diamond lament, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers Anymore,” has been transformed to a senior version of diminished love, “You Don’t Put The Seat Down Anymore.” And another Streisand favorite, “He Touched Me,” has been verbally relocated to the corporate world with “He Faxed Me.”
But someone has to sell the songs, and this the duo does expertly. Lee Tobias is lovely to look at and possesses a voice both strong and pleasing. Whether she’s soloing on a poignant ballad, such as Helen Reddy’s “You And Me Against the World,” or belting out more humorous tunes, the tone is melodic and the timing just right.
Fred Tobias was more relaxed than ever as he warbled his way through witty duets and did verbal acrobatics on such tried-and-true crowd pleasers as his real estate song.
Husband and wife are equally adept at the rapid-fire comedy routines that pepper the musical menu. Lee Tobias uses her flexible face and body language to boost the comedy. Her mate’s deadpan style is equally efficient in getting a laugh.
The happy balance of songs and skits also included a welcome musical tribute to the late lyricist Charles Tobias.
A couple of caveats: Snow birds take a good-natured ribbing, so the ultra-sensitive should be advised. Those in the Saturday night audience seemed to be amused, although the laughter might have been a trifle less hearty than when the topic was otherwise.
And some of the material, as the couple sings from the stage, “is suggestive.” While the great majority of the population would deem the jokes powder blue at most, those with no tolerance for anything less than Disneyesque should also take note.
For everyone else, “Jest in Time” is just what’s needed to chase away the blues. The $18. admission price buys 90 minutes of hilarity delivered by a pair who defy the description of over the hill. That’s a spirit boost and a bargain to boot.