note: entire contents copyright 2008 by Beverly Creasey
NO, NO, NANETTE has not one, but two singable songs just about everyone knows by heart ---but that’s not why the musical will go down in history. This is the show that led to the famous Red Sox curse. Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees in 1919 to finance NANETTE’s Broadway debut. Although the Sox finally won the World Series in 2004, I’m sorry to say the curse may have transferred to the stage.
The good news is that the Reagle Players dance the heck out of the big Charleston number at the end of Act I ---and it’s a treat to see two women “of a certain age” take the spotlight. The sensational Mary Jane Houdina leads the “kids” in a rousing tap-fest for “I Want to Be Happy” and A CHORUS LINE legend Donna Mackecknie hoofs it up elegantly with Russell Rhodes in the specialty numbers. Jessica Greeley, the Nanette of the title, an ingénue who just wants the chance to kick up her heels, is adorable, despite an unfortunate wig.
The bad news is that the rest of the show doesn’t measure up to the pizzazz of that infectious Charleston number and then there are the unflattering costumes (by Costume World Theatrical of Florida). You can’t prove it by this show but the twenties set fashion styles for decades to come. The ditsy plot about a two, make that a three-timing Bible peddling philanderer (It turns out he was only lusting in his heart but who cares!) and his gorgeous, trusting wife (but you wouldn’t know it from the frumpy frocks they give her) ---is set against a backdrop of tea dances (as in the famous “Tea for Two”). Where were the glamorous flapper dresses? Even a showcase of showgirls ŕ la Busby Berkeley leaves us under-whelmed. Never have so many sequins been sacrificed for naught.
Reagle’s other two shows this summer were home runs. That makes their batting average, to continue the baseball stats, over six hundred. In baseball (and Meatloaf) terms, “two out of three ain’t bad.”