The Andrews Brothers
The Andrews Brothers
By Roger Bean
Directed by Michael Edwards
Musical Direction by Chris Leavy
Winter Park Playhouse, Winter Park FL
I think I saw this in an old Phil Silver’s Show, or maybe in an Abbott and Costello film. The premise is simple – the Andrews Sisters are the ONLY musical act in the USA during the deprivations of WW2 and they can’t make it to a remote island for a USO show, so the men on the island drag it up and pull off a hit. The leggy Peggy Jones (Sarah Michele) is the only available female, but fortunately everyone else is an exceptionally talented stage hand of some sort. Act one agonizes over whether the Andrews Sisters will show up, Act Two throws in the towel, the boys dress up and the physical comedy takes over. Stage left we find a compact musical group: Chris Leavy on keys, Sam Forrest on rhythm, and Ned Wilkinson as multi-instrumentalist covering trumpet, conga, and whatever other musical doodads are requires to get that boogie woogie Big Band sound of the era.
The songs tend toward period standards; the hot numbers in Act One is Peggy’s “I Wanna Be Loved” and her big sloppy kiss in “On a Slow Boat to China”. Act Two’s best number is her “Stuff Like That There”, but the funniest song is “Six Jerks in A Jeep.” Audience members are recruited and put into less than typically embarrassing positions as they drive a cardboard jeep around. The actors on stage each had their own special talent, a buff Kevin Kelly faked a stutter and got the girl, the smallish Todd Mummert did the sexy girl with glasses number and Roy Alan – well, Mr. Alan did some excellent tap while wearing pumps, but in drag he’s one of the scariest women I’ve seen. There’s a mixture of styles here, Hawaiian folk tunes come out as 8 bar boogie, there’s a German love song which felt weird in a WW2 piece, and “Mairzy Doats” sounds as lame as it did when I first figured out the lyric as a kid. Still, this mixture of sexual frustration, unbridled patriotism and men is dresses entertains without threatening and reminds us that tap dancing can always raise the sophistication of the silliest premise.
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