'Kyle & Monte' celebrates friendship

Kyle Vespestad and Monte Wheeler are two of the funniest guys in Wichita, and when they want, they can also sing up a storm.

Their long-standing friendship over 13 years has also made them comfortable with each other's comic timing on stages all over town.

That's what makes their new, original musical revue at Cabaret Oldtown an expected joy but, sometimes, a bit of a letdown. The two spoof — through exaggeration — their very different personality quirks to become Wichita's "Odd Couple" in a show called "Kyle & Monte: The Musical! The Men, The Myth, The Medleys."

Though much of the show is tremendous good fun with lots of laughs and banter with the audience, I felt that the two were occasionally too casual with their musicality. To be sure, there were segments — particularly a tribute to the ballads of Neil Diamond with "I Am, I Said" and "Sweet Caroline" — that were spot-on and beautifully precise.

But for some medleys, which were designed to be as much comedy as music, they slid through notes rather than bothering with each one. They also sounded a little breathy, as if the medleys were a race.

Wheeler, whose baritone is slightly deeper and stronger than his partner's, plays the straight man — the persnickety, perfectionist guy (think Felix "Odd Couple" Unger) who leaves himself wide open to ridicule.

Vespestad, whose falsetto is terrific, is somewhere between cuddly teddy bear and rambunctious puppy as he plays the goofy, easy-going, permanently rumpled slob (think Ed "Honeymooners" Norton rather than Oscar "Odd Couple" Madison).

The show opens with a "Tribute to Friendship" medley as the two not-so-subtly establish their styles: Kyle with plain, basic colors and no-nonsense plaid, and Monte with fussy pastels and paisley. They also do a medley showcasing famous showbiz duos: Their Sonny and Cher as well as Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers are fall-on-the-floor hilarious. And they do a medley of their favorite Broadway showstoppers before pulling out the stops — and the sparklers — for a "Medley of All Medleys Tribute to America."

The clever thing about these medleys is that the two merge songs that you would never imagine could go together, from completely different musicals such as "Rent," "The Sound of Music" and "Les Miz." They find common words in unrelated lines then gleefully and mischievously splice them together.

Between medleys, the two improvise audience-participation contests and games (with help from stage manager Denny Grilliot, making a rare appearance), from "What's in Your Purse?" and "What's in Your Pants?" to "The $100 Pyramid."

It's all a little scattered rather than focused, but often very funny.

If you go

'Kyle & Monte: The Musical!'

What: Original musical revue starring Kyle Vespestad and Monte Wheeler

Where: Cabaret Oldtown, 412 1/2 E. Douglas

When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday through May 29.

How much: Tickets $18; call 316-265-4400.