Although the stylized quirks of "The Robber Bridegroom" run precociously high, so does the randy fun. That generally prevents the affable International City Theatre revival of Alfred Uhry and Robert Waldman's 1975 bluegrass take on Eudora Welty's novella from tripping over its own flying coattails.
Director-choreographer Todd Nielsen hits Joe Layton-goes-a-courtin' moves headlong, his cast and ace musical director Gerald Sternbach's festive band greeting us all over the house. Cue "Once Upon the Natchez Trace," and a bipolar Mississippi fable unfolds, as 1942-era citizens of Rodney's Landing recount storied events of 1795.
The talented ensemble sashays in and out of designer Stephen Gifford's skeletal-timbers set, Donna Ruzika's rich lighting and Kim DeShazo's costumes sparkle. Chad Doreck's charm as titular Jamie Lockhart, though somewhat soft-edged, certainly connects with versatile Jamison Lingle's pert, Emmylou Harris-voiced Rosamund.
Michael Stone Forrest as her wealthy father is correctly jovial, Michael Uribes' rapacious Little Harp and Tyler Ledon's disembodied Big Harp weirdly tickling. Adam Wylie's simpleton, Tatiana Mac as his sister (and a talking raven) and Teya Patt as their mom redefine over-the-top, while dryly wacky Sue Goodman absconds with the evening as villainess Salome (pronounced "Suh-LOW-mee").
That last should alert viewers allergic to outré Southern-fried whimsy, and Nielsen's corn-pone-commedia invention eventually doubles back on itself. Nonetheless, this singular entertainment seems certain to steal the hearts of general audiences.
-- David C. Nichols
"The Robber Bridegroom," International City Theatre at Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. 8 pm. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 6. $37-$44. (562) 436-4610 or www.ictlongbeach.org. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.
Photo: Michael Stone Forrest, left, Jamison Lingle, Chad Doreck and Sue Goodman. Credit: Carlos Delgado