The People vs. Mona gives new meaning to the term “show trial.” This new musical, by the husband-and-wife team of Jim Wann and Patricia Miller, frequently interrupts its courtroom action for a song, a story, even a bit of tap dancing. These interventions distract from the none-too-suspenseful question of whether or not Tippo, Georgia, bombshell Mona Mae Katt offed her husband on their wedding night. The outcome, though, is pretty pre-determined: Do you really think a musical comedy is going to condemn its heroine to Ole Sparky?
Predictably, each Tippo citizen gets a song and a turn on the witness stand. Some of the lyrics are clever—the anthem for the disreputable Euple R. Pugh School of Law is a charmer—but too often the songs seem mere sketches rather than fully realized tunes. Wann’s best-known work, the immensely likable Pump Boys and Dinettes, had plenty of stand-alone numbers, but this piece only boasts two: “Lockdown Blues” and “You Done Forgot Your Bible.” Nor does the production benefit from Kate Middleton’s unashamedly corny direction. Still, the live band and game performers (though as the evil prosecuting attorney, Broadway vet Karen Culp outclasses them all) make for an innocuous evening, and the air-conditioning in the Abingdon Theatre assures that audiences won’t have much need of the complimentary fans they’re handed.