Everything's Coming Up Rosaries

A bouncy musical about Catholic school rules at Theatre Arlington

Unlike two other 1980s comedies about Catholicism, Nunsense and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up?doesn't get angry over its subject matter. This is an affectionate look at boomers' years at parochial school, not a bitter exposé.

Quinn and Jans' songs make it clear that they think religion is OK, even if some parts of it ring a little ridiculous. Their "Patron Saints" song is a funny tribute to the saints of everything from baseball to baby aspirin. "Private Parts" has Father O'Reilly singing to the boys about the dangers of "self-abuse," including dire predictions of hairy palms and pleasure-induced blindness.

Then they wind up the show with "Thank God," a reaffirmation of faith in all things bright and beautiful--and Catholic. The songwriters have a deft touch with melody and harmonies, and they flirt with some unexpected internal rhymes, pairing "you know so" with "Minnie Minoso." Like Sondheim without the East Coast intellectual angst.

The only real stumble in Shoes is the confused and distracting lighting by Ana Pettit. Follow spots? Who uses those anymore, especially on a small, boxy set? B.J. Cleveland's well-designed set pieces and expert staging are underserved by the lighting, which leaves some characters singing in dark shadows and others jostling to follow the bouncy follow spots.

For messing up what otherwise is a perfectly nice production, the lighting designer and her nervous follow-spot operators should get a good hard whack on the knuckles with a wooden ruler.

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