Theatre Mirror Reviews - "My One And Only"

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AisleSay (Boston) "My One and Only"



Music and Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin
Book by Peter Stone and Timothy S. Mayer
Directed by Robert J. Eagle and Eileen Grace
Associate Musical Director Rick Scalise
Tommy Tune's original choreography recreated by Eileen Grace
Robinson Theatre, Waltham High School
Waltham, MA. through August 12 2000.

Reviewed by G.L. Horton

The Reagle Players production of "My One And Only" is utterly charming. It is 2 hours or so of sheer enjoyment: unpretentious, self assured, ridiculous, sentimental--not quite totally mindless entertainment, but certainly wearing most of its wit in its top hats and dancing feet. It is a show guaranteed to send you out of the auditorium with a smile-- converted to a belief in happy endings, and newly determined to appreciate any that may come your way, however improbable. Everyone in the Reagle show-- and this one contains many familiar faces-- looks absolutely delighted to be on stage and absolutely determined to make the people out front as happy about their being up there as as they are themselves to be up there. Believe me, they succeed. If you go, you'll join the standing O.

I had no idea what to expect on the Robinson Theatre stage, even though I was in the audience in Boston in 1983 when legendary Harvard wunderkind Peter Sellars and his team of Craig Smith and Timothy Mayer opened their first-- and last-- Broadway musical, "My One And Only". Then as now, the score was Gershwin, pilfered from various shows, the book a spoof of 20's musicals, and the 1983 stars were Twiggy and dancer/choreographer Tommy Tune. I do remember that the music was gorgeous, and that there were a couple of really nifty dance numbers featuring tap. I remembered one choreographed for 2 or possibly 3 pairs of tapping feet in red stockings, visible beneath a curtain raised only 18 inches off the floor. At least I think that memorable number was in "My One And Only". I am sure that the memorable number where Tune and Twiggy danced in a stage wide through of splashing water was in the 1983 show, because it still is-- and that is the only bit besides a cubist rendering of a yellow life raft that is in the version of "My One And Only" that is currently on stage at the Reagle Players that I am quite sure I have seen before. Other than that, all I recall from 1983 is that it had ugly vaguely Modrianish scenery-- much improved in Adrianne Lobel's version, I think-- and a story that made even less sense than the notoriously sketchy ones that stitched together gag lines and pretty girls in the typical musical comedies of the 1920's. I wasn't present, though, for the historic moment when Tune came in front of the curtain and apologized to the audience for the production he was performing in. I saw the show a little later; when whatever the fired Sellars team had intended to do with "My One and Only" was being transmogrified by a new Peter Stone book and Tune's re-direction into the show that pleased Broadway for 767 performances, and won 3 Tonys. At that point it seemed total muddle.

The Stone book is just an excuse for an excuse, but it does the trick. When we meet our hero Billy he has his heart set on beating Lindbergh out to do the first nonstop flight to Paris, but our heroine Edythe causes the pilot's heart to detour all the way to Morocco. There he proves he knows his heart by picking his love out of a veiled chorus line of belly dancing cuties. Some of Tommy Tune's original choreography for himself in the leading role of the hayseed Texas aviator doesn't quite fit the Captain Billy Buck Chandler of Kirby Ward, a performer who is a good foot or more shorter than Tune but every bit as talented. Ward's Billy doesn't tower over the chorus guys, his top hat can't quite serve as a visual joke while the others' disappear. But shoulder to shoulder with off stage wife Beverly Ward, Ward is the vision of a man who has found his one and only, his perfect partner. Mrs. Ward can act and sing and dance circles around my memory of Twiggy in the role of Edythe Herbert, the glamorous English channel swimmer who is also a lonely woman with A Past.

Besides flattering them with Rita Ryak's delicious Jazz Age costumes, Bob Reagle and Eileen Grace have tailored this staging of "My One and Only" to fit the particular talent at hand, and deftly invited the audience in on the in-jokes. Some of the talents showcased are Reagle regulars like Nathan Croner and Katie McCue, and others guests who have returned to the Waltham stage often enough to count as friends of the family. Scott Mikita, who was such a romantic figure in "Showboat", returns as a comically wicked Russian doubled with an obsequious Arab, each commanding the same harem of chorus lovelies. Robin Taylor plays a feisty tomboy mechanic who finally gets her man. Peter Allen-- a young player much involved in local community theatre, who gets better every time I see him-- is the Rt. Reverend Bishop who runs a speakeasy on the side. The "New Rhythm Boys" consisting of Ron Brooks, Ernest Williams and Royce Zachery, the Ritz Quartet-- each have vaudeville type turns that are done to a T. It's difficult to decide which choruses of Gershwin are most exciting: the ones where Roy Goth's orchestra really wails, or the ones where the instruments and voices drop out and all the music is made by the dancers' feet. Luther Fontaine as Mister Magix gives Kirby Ward's hick two lessons in Harlem elegance via challenge tap: "High Hat" in Act I, and the advanced lesson, "My One and Only", in Act II, stopping the show with both. All ends happily as it should with a jazzy flapper wedding set to "Kickin the Clouds Away"-- and then it ends again, with romantic duet in "How Long Has This Been Going On?", and again, a triumphant flag waving march to "Strike Up the Band"! My Usual Young Companion, ten year old Alex, didn't "get" any of the gentle spoofery of the 20's, and needed some whispered explanation during the silent movie scene, where the feature was a desert bodice ripper titled "White Baggage of The Casbah". But the plot wasn't ridiculous as far as a ten year old is concerned. It was as exciting as his Saturday morning cartoons! Adding to that excitement all the wonderful singing and dancing, Alex pronounced "My One and Only" the best show he's ever seen. If not "best", maybe we could agree on " happiest"? Happiness is infectious-- go catch it.

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