Songwriter hopes audiences buy his new musical revue

With his new revue “Shopping! The Musical” set to debut this month in San Francisco, songwriter/director Morrie Bobrow is coping with the usual pre-opening jitters. But there’s one thing he’s not worried about.

“I couldn’t have picked a more obvious title,” he says. “I think I made it very clear what this show is about.”

And that, of course, would be shopping, an activity Bobrow says “everyone engages in every day. There are a lot of things about it I thought were amusing: the anxieties, the quirks.”

“Shopping! The Musical” begins previews Friday, March 10, and officially opens March 18 at the Shelton Theater in San Francisco.

With 24 songs and a cast of four, Bobrow’s revue examines the hows, whys and wherefores of shopping, American-style. That includes the gaping differences between male and female shopping (hint: women love it, men hate it), buying on the Internet, and even ordering that electric dog-polisher from TV’s Home Shopping Network.

The show is the result of several years of Bobrow’s wry observations on the topic. And of course some are more wry then others.

“I’ve always been curious about art galleries,” he says. “I’ve been to a thousand of them and never have I seen a single person buy a single thing.”

Finding the humor in the mundane has been Bobrow’s métier in his previous revues, including “Party of One,” “With Relish” and “Are We Almost There?” Over the years, the native San Franciscan has taken on such topics as food, travel and the single life.

His shows aren’t overtly Jewish, but Bobrow readily admits his artistic outlook has been informed by his Jewish upbringing, especially by his late father’s sardonic view of life.

“As I get older,” he says, “I see how a lot of my humor came from him. He was a little cynical and loved to prick the pomposity of certain people.”

Raised in the Richmond district, Bobrow graduated from Washington High School and U.C. Berkeley. He became an attorney specializing in estate planning, which remains his “day job.” But at night, Bobrow lets his inner Chorus Line come out.

“What I try to do is create amusing lyrics and catchy melodies,” he says. “Steven Sondheim is the giant of the business, a role model for all show writers. Then there are Cole Porter, Frank Loesser and Gershwin.”

What started for Bobrow as a hobby writing song parodies evolved into creating full-scale revues: no plots, no intermission, just a string of thematically related songs meant to keep the audience in stitches.

“There’s no greater thrill then hearing an audience laughing,” adds Bobrow. “There’s nothing more wonderful then seeing them enjoying something you wrote.”

Beyond his legal and stage work, Bobrow has been a committed activist in the Jewish community. Over the years he has served on several boards, including the Anti-Defamation League, the S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, Israel Bonds and the local chapter of Histadrut.

He’s also blended art and Judaism, having written and performed original musicals for fund-raisers. Clients include the Hebrew Free Loan Association, the ADL and major corporations.

Bobrow occasionally likes to perform on his own, accompanying himself on piano for cabaret-style shows at the Plush Room, the Punch Line and other local haunts.

It adds up to a full life for the songwriter/

showman. And though he takes his art seriously, it seems he never strays too far from seeing things through a humor-jaundiced eye.

While putting together an original show in 2003 to honor Martin Feldman, former cantor of S.F.’s Congregation Sherith Israel, Bobrow brought together a talented cast, several members of which happened to be non-Jewish.

“There was a lot of Jewish stuff in the script,” he recalls. “Believe me, teaching a gentile to say ‘shvitz’ isn’t the easiest thing.”

“Shopping! The Musical”plays 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, beginning March 10, at the Shelton Theater, 533 Sutter St., S.F. Tickets: $23-$29. Information: (800) 838-3006.

Dan Pine

Dan Pine is a contributing editor at J. He was a longtime staff writer at J. and retired as news editor in 2020.