Story: It’s 1927, and barnstorming pilot Billy Buck Chandler has his sights on being the first aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. While preparing for his anticipated fling with fame, Billy falls hard for Edythe Herbert, a one-time swimmer of the English Channel who now toils in the International Aquacade overseen by supposed Russian Prince Nicolai Erraclyovitch Tchatchavadse.
Edythe longs to escape the clutches of Prince ‘Nikki,’ but he has some compromising photos of her that compel her to continue performing for the high-living taskmaster. Can Billy accomplish his dream to be the first pilot to fly solo from New York City to Paris, and also find happiness with his newfound love?
Highlights: As with Crazy for You and Nice Work If You Can Get It, this two-act song and dance charmer is a tribute to the Herculean musical abilities of the brothers Gershwin, composer George and lyricist Ira. Following a stormy pre-Broadway development, My One and Only hit the Great White Way in 1983 and ran for nearly two years and more than 800 performances. Given its legendary pedigree and the dapper terpsichorean skills of its leading man, Tommy Tune, it’s no wonder that My One and Only was a rousing success.
Stages St. Louis, which presented Crazy for You in 1996 and again in 2007, offers its first rendition of this silly, splashy and sizzling work that is high on energy, dazzling footwork and the eminently hummable, Roaring Twenties melodies of the Gershwins. Michael Hamilton’s deft direction and musical staging and a likable and smoothly talented cast combine to make My One and Only a smooth excursion down musical Memory Lane.
Other Info: The tissue-thin book by Peter Stone and Timothy Mayer serves to bridge together a succession of classic Gershwin tunes such as ‘S Wonderful, Strike Up the Band, Funny Face, Kickin’ the Clouds Away and the title tune. That’s just fine, though, because this show is all about singing and dancing, and most especially the tap dancing prowess exhibited to Dana Lewis’ mesmerizing choreography.
There’s a memorable scene, for example, when David Elder and Dexter Jones, portraying the indomitable Billy and the ‘cool’ sage Mr. Magix, demonstrate their dexterity and skillful dance moves in a witty take on the show’s signature number. It’s a show-stopper and also a clever way to showcase the talents of the two stars.
Tari Kelly has her moments to shine, too, as the elusive Edythe, splashing around with Billy on the beach of a ‘deserted island’ to ‘S Wonderful. The comic touches of Elder and Kelly are on display in an amusing silent film being shown at the local cinema as Billy and Edythe charm with their He Loves and She Loves duet.
Local favorites Steve Isom and Zoe Vonder Haar command the lion’s share of laughs as the humorously villainous Prince Nikki and Billy’s tough-talking, motivational mechanic Mickey, respectively, with Isom also contributing as Achmed in a humorous scene in Morocco.
The stylish, urbane trio of C.K. Edwards, Richard Riaz Yoder and Borris York introduce various scenes with their smoothly choreographed, elegant entrances, such as the opening number, I Can’t Be Bothered Now, while Larry Mabrey impresses as the slick Reverend J.D. Montgomery, a “preacher by day and producer by night” at the sassy Club Havana speakeasy.
Costume designer Brad Musgrove is one of the busiest folks involved in this production, with a bevy of priceless get-ups, including a banana dress that is displayed for all of 30 seconds or so, as well as Prince Nikki’s ornate togs and the gaudy gowns of his ‘Fish,’ who are played winsomely by Dana Winkle, Julie Kavanaugh, Lara Turek, Lois Enders, Ellen Isom and Gabriella Gamache.
Veteran Stages performer John Flack is the genial stage doorman, while ‘The Dancing Gentlemen’ are comprised of Craig Blake, Joe Grandy, Eric Huffman, Jason Luks, Tony Neidenbach and John Wolfe.
James Wolk’s cartoon-style set designs match the light-hearted mood of the piece. Matthew McCarthy adds some complementary lighting touches, Lisa Campbell Albert provides pinpoint musical direction and Stuart Elmore contributes the winning orchestral design.
Elder and Kelly make for an appealing couple to guide us on this merry mix of fun-loving romantic bits and high-kicking choreography that is based on the original efforts of Tune and Thommie Walsh. Hamilton keeps everything moving briskly and seamlessly as Elder, Kelly and their cohorts cavort impeccably on the cozy Reim Theatre stage with nary a care in the world.
That’s why the music of George and Ira Gershwin continues to resonate today.
Musical: My One and Only
Group: Stages St. Louis
Venue: Reim Theatre, Kirkwood Civic Center, 111 South Geyer Road
Dates: Through October 7
Tickets: From $15 to $55; contact 821-2407 or stagesstlouis.org
Rating: A 5 on a scale of 1-to-5.
Photos courtesy of Peter Wochniak