My One and Only
Written by Peter Stone and Timothy S. Mayer
Glorious Gershwin, delightful dancing, silly story
|Marriott Theatre presents|
|My One and Only|
Review by Leah Zeldes
We all tend to get a little nostalgic at this time of year, and The Marriott Theatre’s look back at George and Ira Gershwin’s bouncy show tunes and the nearly forgotten art of tap dancing are great reasons to go to the theater this holiday season. Set in 1927, this revival of Peter Stone and Timothy S. Mayer’s 1983 My One and Only features lively performances of some of the Gershwins’ best-known songs — including “S’Wonderful,” “Nice Work If You Can Get It” and “Strike Up the Band” — and a fine-stepping cast.
I can’t think why tap dancing, an all-American art that dominated stages in the first half of the 20th century, ever fell out of fashion — except that it requires great skill to do well. Marriott’s performers might not be Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson or the Nicholas Brothers, but they’ve certainly mastered the form.
The performances of Quinn M. Bass, Jarran Muse and Clinton Roane, as the New Rhythm Boys, a kind of tap-dancing Greek chorus to the action, and Ted Louis Levy as Mr. Magix, the mystical, dancing barber, are worth the price of admission on their own. Leading man Andrew Lupp channels Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, and in Act 2, he and Summer Naomi Smart put on a delightful, watery pas de deux worthy of Singin’ in the Rain. Smart adds a lovely voice to boot.
Director and choreographer Tammy Mader has made brilliant use of Marriott’s theater in the round for her staging and dance numbers, and the orchestra is first-rate. About all that keeps this from being a four-star show is its lame plot.
Like Mamma Mia!, the 1999 production based on the songs of Abba, and other jukebox musicals, My One and Only grafts a sappy story onto its collection of songs. In this case, we have the bashful Capt. Billy Buck Chandler (Lupp), determined to be the first pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, who falls in love at first sight with Edythe Herbert (Smart), the British star of Prince Nicolai’s International Aquacade (an art form whose demise is completely understandable).
To the chagrin of his faithful mechanic (Paula Scrofano), Billy pursues Edythe, seeking advice from the Rev. J.D. Montgomery (Felicia P. Fields), who steers him to Mr. Magix’s Tonsorial and Sartorial Emporial. At first unsuccessful, Billy’s pursuit of Edythe prospers after she sees him as a means of escape from the dastardly Prince Nikki (Roger Mueller), who keeps her under his thumb by blackmailing her with compromising photographs. On finding out Edythe has a past, however, Billy wavers. By the time he decides that doesn’t matter, she’s on the road to Morocco. Meanwhile, Mickey and Nikki turn out to be more than they seem.
It might have been better if they hadn’t bothered with all that. After all, in the Ziegfield Follies era in which My One and Only is set, musical theater had no plots. The mid-20th-century Golden Age of musicals didn’t hinge on their plotting, either. However, modern audiences have come to expect somewhat more substance.
And fewer stereotypes. Haven’t we gotten beyond a storyline in which black guys teach white guys how to dance?
Had this musical actually been penned in the period during which it is set, its racial profiles might be more understandable, if no less deplorable. The only African Americans in the show stick out as hackneyed tropes: The shady evangelist, the witch doctor and the singing, tap-dancing trio. Marriott exacerbates the tokenism of the book by casting an all-white chorus, as well. One would have hoped we had reached a more colorblind theatrical era.
My One and Only continues through January 6th at The Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire (map), with performances at 1 and 8 p.m. Wednesdays, 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 4:30 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 1 and 5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $40–$48, ($55 with dinner on Wednesdays and Thursdays; $5 off for seniors and students at selected performances), and are available by phone (847-634-0200) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at MarriottTheatre.com. (Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes, includes an intermission. Free parking.)
Photos by Peter Coombs
Andrew Lupp, Summer Naomi Smart, Felicia P. Fields, Ted Louis Levy, Roger Mueller, Paula Scrofano, Quinn M. Bass, Jarran Muse, Clinton Roane, Jaclyn Burch, Jameson Cooper, Dina DiCostanzo, Zachary L. Gray, Amanda Kroiss, Alex McCrary, Matt Raftery, Stephen Schellhardt, Steven Spanopoulos, Tiffany Topol and Melissa Zaremba.
Patti Garwood (conductor, keyboards); Kitty Snyder (keyboards), Billy Rogers (flute, clarinet, alto sax); Peter Brusan (clarinet, tenor sax, bass clarinet); BJ Levy (trumpet); Robert Lustrea (trombone); Scott Rosenthal (bass); and Joe Ludwig (drums).
behind the scenes
Tammy Mader (director and choreographer); Michael Mahler (music director); Thomas M. Ryan (set designer); Jesse Klug (lighting designer); Nancy Missimi (costume designer); Robert E. Gilmartin (sound designer); Sally Weiss (properties designer); Michael Hendricks (stage manager); David Siegel (orchestral reductions); Patti Garwood (musical supervisor); Melissa Zaremba (dance captain, assistant choreographer); and Kate Boka and Stephen Kopel (New York casting); Peter Coombs (photos)