Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Take a corny 1927 musical, rewrite it in 1982, and change its name from "Funny Face" to "My One And Only", still containing a hokey storyline, add fantastic singing and dancing by an 18 member cast and you have the opening production at Theatre-by-the Sea's 68th season. With the strength of the George and Ira Gershwin score, the direction, musical direcion and choreography plus beautiful scenery and even more gorgeous costumes and you have a show well worth seeing.
The simplistic storyline of country boy meets famous British city girl, they fall in love at first sight, surmounting all obstacles including a Russian spy and an FBI undercover agent. The talented performers sell this show to the audience. It is a dancing show with a lot of 20's style numbers. Director/choreographer Bob Durkin incorporates tap, jazz, ballet, the Charleston and the Shimmey into the show and this cast masters all of them. Musical director Jay Atwood and his orchestra handle the sublime score with ease and Jay makes the singers shine in their numbers. The set design is handled masterfully by Jeff Modereger (the blue sky with the clouds and all the sets dazzle you with their bright colors). The lighting by Tom Sturge changes the mood of the show especially enhancing the dance segments. But most outstanding is the multitude of 1920's fabulous flapper costumes designed by multitalented David T. Howard. This man not only designs costumes he acts, sings and designs sets wonderfully, too. Great job with the the production values of this show.
Craig Waletzko as the country hick, Billy who is an aviator trying to get to Paris before Lindbergh has a strong voice in his numbers especially in the first act finale, "Strike Up the Band". He dances perfectly and can out tap anyone I've seen. The naive love scenes and preparations are very funny and he handles these scenes with ease. His lady love, Edythe is played by Liz Pearce who plays the British swimmer with a lot of moxie. She gives this girl the strength needed to escape her overbearing svengali manager. The silent movie scene,"He Loves and She loves", a brilliant tap dance by Craig and Liz (excellently executed) leads her to run away later in the show to a harem in Morocco but true love wins out in a 1920's show so lovers are reunited. Liz acts and sings with a proper British accent making the "Boy Wanted" (sung in counterpoint with Craig's "Soon) and "NiceWork if you Can Get It" shine. The water dance number with real water, "S'Wonderful" stands out and shows the characters happiness at finding each other at last.
The evil Russian, Prince Nikki, is played with gusto by Steven Stein-Grainger. His campy portrayal is very comical. He calls Edythe, his little fish and his fish dancers scenes in rehearsal and in a water ballet number are handled very well. (The girls smoke, eat and drink in the first and wear Esther Williams style clothing in the latter while performing "In the Swim/What Are We Here For".) His counterpart,the feisty, foul mouth, lady mechanic, Mickey, is played by Kirsten Wyatt. She has such a pretty young speaking voice so she makes you laugh when she utters "Shit for Brains". She and Steven have one of the best songs in the show, "Funny Face" which he performs after having been shot. Their voices blend perfectly and their character dance make the number sparkle.
Andrei Clark plays the smooth talking Bishop who sells moonshine at night. He sends Billy to Mr. Magix (Richie McCall) who transforms Billy into a suave tuxedo tap dancing wonder. Andrei gets to show off his voice in "Kickin' the Clouds Away". Richie finally gets out of his chair to teach Billy how to woo his girl properly in the tap number "My One & Only". He and Craig dance up a storm and won thunderous approval from the crowd.
The dancing boys and girls help supply the backbone of this dance show playing multiple roles. Eric Feldman, Brook Castleberry Hall and Bruce H. Wilson as the dance trio open the show perfectly entering through the sky set one at a time clad in tuxes and tapping their feet away. Later Eric, Paul Ashley, John Raterman and Robert Spring sing fantastic harmonies together as the Ritz Quartette. All these guys sing and dance extremely well while wearing hot costumes. The girls are just as splendid playing the Fish and in another scene beauty contestants at a night club. (The costumes in this segment are a hoot especially the banana peels outfit.) The talented girls are Jill Braverman, (returning for her third year at TBTS) Vannessa McMahan, Sara Braslow, Charly Seamon, Suzannah Taylor and Natalie Weld. The flapper outfits are stunnign on them all. So for a look at very talented cast run to "My One And Only" before the tickets sell out.