Compton & Bennett bring song-writing skills to funny, flippant 'FleaBitten'

Show chronicles the quirky characters who inhabit the flea market stalls

Article Highlights

  • Tickets to "FleaBitten" are $24.99 per person, plus tax, tip and bar.
  • Reservations are required; call 239-793-2644.
The flea market's resident hairdresser and wig-maker extraordinaire Earlene will showcase her 'skills' in 'FleaBitten.' Collier County comedians Rick Compton and Betsy Bennett will open their latest satire 'FleaBitten: A Day at the Flea Market' Thursday, June 21 at Mongello's in East Naples. The 75-minute show features 14 all-new original songs. Tickets $24.99 per person, plus tax, tip and bar. Reservations are required; call 239-793-2644.

Courtesy Compton & Bennett Inc.

The flea market's resident hairdresser and wig-maker extraordinaire Earlene will showcase her "skills" in "FleaBitten." Collier County comedians Rick Compton and Betsy Bennett will open their latest satire "FleaBitten: A Day at the Flea Market" Thursday, June 21 at Mongello's in East Naples. The 75-minute show features 14 all-new original songs. Tickets $24.99 per person, plus tax, tip and bar. Reservations are required; call 239-793-2644.

What: Original satirical musical written by Neapolitans Rick Compton and Betsy Bennett

When: 5:30 p.m. Thursdays

Where: Mongello's Restaurant, 4221 U.S 41 East (at Lakewood Blvd)

Cost: $24.99 per person, plus tax, tip and bar.

Information: Reservations required; call 239-793-2644

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Mongello's

4221 Tamiami Trail (US 41), Naples, FL

Call Mongello's at 239-793-2644 for reservations to "FleaBitten." Find out more about Compton & Bennett at comptonandbennett.com.

Rick Compton and Betsy Bennett have a bill of goods to sell you.

Yul Brynner Chia pets. Helen Keller flashlights. Used matches. Viagra-infused coffee beans. Earline's "Hair & There" stall. Anita's Sweet Mesquite Fajitas.

Find these one-of-a-kind bargains in the indigo aisle, the gray aisle, the green aisle or the blue aisle. And score all these goodies every Thursday at Mongello's on U.S. 41 East for just $24.95, marked down from $99.99 - tax included.

Welcome to "FleaBitten: A Day at the Flea Market." The merchandise might be tacky and the characters eccentric, but the laughs are plentiful and free. And remember, "All sales final! No returns!"

Not that you'd want to return this touching, endearing and brilliantly written ode to the denizens who hawk everything from used DVDs to "antiques" of questionable age and provenance.

"FleaBitten" clocks in at 65 minutes, eviscerating and evoking everything from lonely condo salesmen begging for buyers to dim-witted salesgirls trying to sell chenille toilet tank covers. If you've ever been to a flea market - and seen the array of characters (and merchandise) on display - you recognize a personality or three.

The pair's previous shows, ranging from satires of Southwest Florida politics to their breakout hit "Assisted Living: The Musical," usually contained parodies and aimed for a more lowbrow, comedic tone. "FleaBitten" still hits the comedic notes - but features sixteen all-new original songs.

Categorizing "FleaBitten" proves difficult. The material represents a gigantic leap forward for Compton and Bennett's writing skills. At least half the songs in the set don't just satisfy, they genuinely move and please the audience. The lyricism and honest emotion they manage to pack into the tunes - even while retaining a measure of humor - marks a growing skill and confidence in their work.

Lovely ballad "The Fairest of the Mall" sees Bennett trace a teen's trail from mall to flea market with beauty and surprising grace. "I was one of those shop girls / Rack Room heels, Joe Cool curls / I said I liked his Brut cologne / He said I was the cherry on his hand-dipped cone."

Likewise, "Anita's Fajitas" and "Donde Esta" tackle immigration, taco stands and success stories with humor. Someone, somewhere should snatch up the tune "Anita's Sweet Mesquite Fajita's" ASAP - it is a signature jingle waiting to explode onto the American consciousness. It is the song audiences leave humming - and still can't get out of their heads days later.

Solid humor numbers include an a capella opener "God Bless Our Flea Market" ("may our labels seem real / everything's a deal!") and ode to money "Another Day, Another Dollar." Don't miss jaunty "The Hurricane Song" - which contains one of the best choruses ever written for a Compton & Bennett show. We'll give you a hint. What do hurricanes do? They blow.

I suspect too, that much like in "Assisted Living," the show will truly bloom once Compton is able to step out from behind his keyboard. The pair have a brilliant chemistry built from years spent working together - and their shared duets remain "FleaBitten"'s best moments.

Fast-paced ice cream paean "Soft Serve, Hard Pack" dazzles as a gloriously over-the-top theatrical number - complete with as many sexual innuendos as the pair can "pack" into a song about feuding ice cream families. There's also "Anita's Fajita's," "Hurricane" and the fabulously titled "If Bull**** Was Concrete, We'd Be I-95," - each guaranteed to induce guffaws.

"FleaBitten" never cashes out without a sale. This is a good show, a heartfelt, honest and intelligent and at times brilliant examination of a particular culture. At the same time, it needs an elusive "something" to lift the experience from smart and satisfying to awesome and amazing.

Audiences - and their collective graying (or fear thereof) glued "Assisted Living" together. While flea markets are still an identifiable slice of Americana, the show yearns for a stronger identity to unify the disparate characters. "FleaBitten" has to become more than just a collection of "songs about quirky people," no matter how good the tunes are.

There are hints of personalities, but none weld the show together just yet. Real-life Flamingo Island Flea Market radio voice Jim Hord contributes a half-dozen announcements, including some wildly goofy product spoofs (Dean's Ding De-Dinger anyone?). Compton dons various disguises as "Captain Baldrick" (bald Rick - ha-ha), a blues-playing seaman with an "alternative" source of income immortalized in "Square Grouper." Bennett slaps on a variety of towering flower-bedecked (and frightful) wigs and accents to become the hair-raising gossip queen Earline.

There's also a nagging sense that the customer perspective needs a chance to shine. Haggling is a much a part of the flea market game as counterfeit DVDs, "Channel" purses and novelty cuisine you'll regret an hour later. I'm not a fan of audience participation, but this might be one show that could use a jolt of interaction.

Whether you seek treasure or trash, antiques or amusement, "FleaBitten" has something in its varied aisles for you. There's even an advice manual for sale - "Fifty Shades of Flea." These bargains won't last - get there before Labor Day!

Call Mongello's at 239-793-2644 for reservations to "FleaBitten." Find out more about Compton & Bennett at comptonandbennett.com.

What was your greatest flea market find? Email me, csilk@naplesnews.com, find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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