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Barbershop Leaps into the 21st Century with ESPN Coverage

Erin P. Doherty
By Erin P. Doherty
Posted on Apr 25,2017
Filed Under Entertainment , Local Style,

Photo by Howard Soroos
left to right:Jerry Hoffman, John Brown, Peter Halverson, Gurpreet Sarin

Funny and Likeable Quartet Finds Cultural and Musical Harmony

ALEXANDRIA, VA. - When a barbershop quartet loses their lead singer to a heart-stopping high B flat, they must either find a game-time replacement or forego the national competition, which ESPN covers.

John Markus and Mark St. Germain have co-written a touching and humorous show that transcends the geriatric-themed jokes to showcase barbershop singing’s technical challenges. The characters and writers maximize the plays on words and jokes that the old-fashioned barbershop quartet evokes (e.g., Lipitor, prostate and heart health issues, challenges of a middle-aged person accessing a nerdy dating site from a cell phone, and nursing homes).

The show begins with Andy Lipinsky’s funeral. The rather square and aging choral group got its name from Andy30 years before, when he was their lead singer ina rural Ohio high school. The wildest thing that probably happened to them was when Howard’s wife ran off with an encyclopedia salesman. Their singing provides a pleasant diversion from their boring lives.

Wally Smith (John Brown), the tenor, is an awkward and lovelorn pharmacist who can neither find the motivation to move out of his mother’s basement nor handle his smart phone.

Phil Rizzardi (Peter Halverson), the baritone, is thrice divorced, bigoted about Middle Easterners, and an insensitive ignoramus about anyone who falls outside his little box of how everyone should be. He runs a combination gym and tanning parlor, or “salon” as he calls it. He is painfully aware of the barbershop quartet’s diminished popularity, so urges the group to disband and find more modern pursuits.

Howard Dunphy (Jerry Hoffman), the bass, is best known for letting his prodigal wife return home after her affair with the aforementioned encyclopedia salesman fizzled out.

The main focus, however, is on Baba Mati Singh, or “Bob”(Gurpreet Sarin) the mechanic. He is at least 20 years younger than the middle-aged trio who needs him and very new to American culture. Many jokes center around figures of speech and references in songs that upset him when he takes their literal translation to heart.

After being accidentally discovered while singing in the background during a phone conversation, Bob becomes the sole candidate for the late Andy’s part. Further, he is a Sikh who wants to assimilate into the milquetoast Midwest population without compromising his beliefs and customs. He exudes a vibrant curiosity and eagerness to learn their antiquated music and modify his style just enough to blend while maintaining his uniqueness. He is a likeable, humorous character who remains true to himself, however narrow-minded others are. Eventually, Bob helps to bring the quartet towards mutual empathy and tolerance.

Bob’s audition is held in Howard’s wood-paneled man cave set, which is well-designed and creatively dressed by Jocelyn Steiner and well-lit by Marzanne Claiborne, who included a vintage barber shop light, much to Bob’s fascination at his audition.

Experience this evening of social and vocal harmonization, which Chuck Leonard expertly directs and The Fabulous Lipitones humorously and touchingly provide, before it ends on May 13. Tickets are available from The Little Theater of Alexandria’s Box Office ( or 703.683.0496).

Photo by Howard Soroos
left to right: kneeling in front is Gurpreet Sarin, back row, Jerry Hoffman, Peter Halverson, John Brown (walker)
Photo by Howard Soroos
left to right: Jerry Brown, Peter Halverson

Photo by Howard Soroos
left to right: Gurpreet Sarin, John Brown, Peter Halverson, and Jerry Hoffman

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