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Comedy Review:

"HERE COME THE FAMOUS BROTHERS" at the Royal George Theater

BY LUCIA MAURO

If you happen to wander into an upstairs room at the Royal George Theater that resembles a Catholic grammar school with a bar in the back and a trio of Appalachian coal miners crooning in front of a crucifix, you’re not drunk…yet.

Once you settle into this impromptu hoe-down on the set of Vicki Quade’s long-running "Late Nite Catechism," don’t guzzle your Pabst Blue Ribbon too noisily or slap your thighs and stomp your feet too rambunctiously. Otherwise, you’ll miss the piquantly poetic one-liners tossed out by this three-part harmony band in the new musical-comedy revue, "Here Come the Famous Brothers."

Quade helped these tuneful rednecks write a lightly satiric story to string together their clever, irreverent and downright hummable bluegrass death songs, love ballads to women with names like Wanda June and Lurlene, and a rafter-raising aural salute to oral pleasure called "Yodel in the Valley." This hour-long late-night jamboree features Will Clinger (host of WTTW’s "Wild Chicago") as irate control freak Willie "B" Famous; Darren Stephens as womanizing charmer Darren "2B" Famous; and Rick Vamos as the slow-witted Ricky "Famous" Famous. All three play off each other with a pleasant mix of self-conscious bad humor and innocent pathos.

Although director Kevin Theis can pick up the pace and do some program juggling so that the show-stopping "Yodel in the Valley" is the finale, "Here Come the Famous Brothers" is quite a witty piece of musical-style parody. The story goes that these good ol’ boys -- who hail from Monkey’s Crevice, West Virginia -- won a one-way ticket to Chicago on a radio call-in show. The only way they can raise money for bus fare to get back to this primate hole of a town is to put on concerts like this one.

So back to that beer guzzlin’ and thigh slappin.’ Listen closely to their zany repartee, like Clinger’s observation of a shuttered company that disappeared "as fast as brain cells at a moonshine picnic"; or a wry announcement that "Gibbon’s Crease" is the sister city to Monkey’s Crevice.

The Famous Brothers have the same father but three different mothers (all of whom were sisters). Apart from being "born and in-bred" to sing three-part harmony, they make it a point to describe their dad as "a man with a big rig, and he knows how to use it." Even a bit about their father majoring in coal mining – making him a "miner major" – is hilarious as delivered by these crafty "Deliverance" dudes.

Who could resist a song like "Scarecrow"? – "Why do you turn your back on me and give my love the bird?"; or lyrics like "It took a single piece of rope to take my brother’s life, but I’ve got 20 ways to kill you with my Swiss Army Knife?" and "Your love is like a Slippery Floor, my heart two stocking feet?"

They’ll win your heart – and wrap it lovingly in a pair of dirty socks.

"Here Come the Famous Brothers" runs Saturdays at 10:30 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m. through July 15 at the Royal George Theater, 1641 N. Halsted. Tickets: $20. Call 312-988-9000.

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