As songwriter for Friends of the Zoo, probably the most intellectually eccentric of Chicago’s improv-style comedy troupes, Mark Nutter demonstrates a singular flair for the logic of illogic. Like the work of Tom Lehrer, Stan Freberg, and Abe Burrows, Nutter’s songs derive their comic infectiousness from the refinement with which he develops their absurd or satiric premises. This extensively revised version of Friends of the Zoo’s 1988 revue showcases 35 tunes from Nutter’s trunk–wonderful send-ups of Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, and Rodgers and Hart, with nods to country-western, early 60s do-wop, and the James Bond film scores along the way. Nutter, at the piano, backs up singers Russ Mack, a master of vaudevillian excess; Paul Raci, hilariously smug as a would-be Sinatra; and Karol Kent, whose brassy belting inhabits a niche midway between Libby Holman and Fanny Brice. Rob Riley’s staging exhibits a playful eye for the details of cabaret kitsch, and the show’s witty material and brisk pacing leave the audience breathless with laughter. At the High Hat Club, open run (812 N. Franklin, 784-3084). Friday and Saturday, 8:30 and 11 PM. $10, plus a two-drink minimum.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/George Grandchamp.