the andrews brothers press packet
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DESCRIPTIONPress Packet containing reviews of the musical The Andrews Brothers.
Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Rep
Roger Bean is a master at creating high-spirited jukebox musicals (The Marvelous Wonderettes). Now in its West Coast premiere is Bean’s gleeful salute to the USO shows that entertained our overseas troops during World War II. Adding to the appeal is the reunion of three gifted actor-singers (David Engel, Stan Chandler, and Larry Raben) from the original production of Stuart Ross’ Forever Plaid, the granddaddy of jukebox musicals. Stir in a pinup-girl performer (played to perfection by sweet-voiced Darcie Roberts) clearly modeled on Betty Grable, and the stage is set for stellar entertainment. Under Nick DeGruccio’s direction, the potential for fun is realized at every turn.
What sets this apart from most jukebox tuners is the seamless way Bean integrates evergreen 1940s tunes into a clever story line. The slapstick antics of the consummate cast elevate the piece beyond a nostalgic songfest. With its charming characters and wonderful sense of time and place enhanced by an inspired production design, this feels like a loving re-creation of those wonderful B-movie musicals of the 1940s, driven by scintillating musical sequences and infectious broad humor. The zany plot is vintage I Love Lucy, with a touch of Some Like It Hot.
Three men who were rejected from military enlistment due to minor health ailments have been serving as stagehands on USO tours, yet each yearns to be on stage. During a gig at a South Pacific Army base, the trio finagles its way into a guest spot in a revue, starring the Andrews Sisters, featuring supporting songstress Peggy Jones (Roberts). When the sisters cancel their appearance, our trusty three don wigs, makeup, and high heels to carry on in show-must-go-on fashion.
As the basket-case neurotic Patrick, aka Patty, Raben offers a tour de force explosion of hilarity. In drag or out, this performer knows his way around a laugh line and a physical comedy bit. Roberts’ sexy and saucy performance feels like a career breakthrough; she’s a delectable cross between classy Mitzi Gaynor and goofy Martha Raye. Engel as Max, aka Maxine, is likewise a first-rate farceur. The uproarious Chandler as the nearsighted Lawrence is Mister Magoo by way of Laverne Andrews.
Roger Castellano’s chorography is terrific, at its best in the showstopping “Plain Jane Doe” tap quartet, and John Glaudini’s buoyant music direction seals the deal. This Musical Theatre West production is unadulterated musical comedy bliss.
The Andrews BrothersBy Les SpindleApril 29, 2008
If you like the music from the ‘40s, if the memories of Maxine, Laverne and Patty—collectively known as the Andrews Sisters—send you swaying and beating “Eight to the Bar,” or, if you just love a good story accompanied by great music, then Shadowland’s latest production, The Andrews Brothers is for you.
Written by Roger Bean who also created Shadowland’s 2010 recording-breaking musical hit The Marvelous Wonderettes, The Andrews Brothers has been described as part Marx Brothers, Part Hope and Crosby, and part Lucy and Ethel. Whichever part you subscribe to, great music and fun are guaranteed.
The setting is a south Pacific island during WWII, where the three Andrews brothers named Max (Gordon Maniskas), Lawrence (Josh Kenney) and Patrick (Michael Alan Jacobs) are getting ready for a USO show starring the Andrews Sisters. (Did you notice that the characters share a similarity in names with the famous sisters?) The opening act, pin-up girl Peggy Jones (Erin Crosby) is onsite and ready to rehearse with the boys, thinking they are her backup singers instead of the stagehands they really are. And indeed, their singing is top-notch as they belt out hit after hit like “The Hut-Sut Song,” “Mairzy Doats,” “Hula Wana-Hini Medley,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” and eight other popular songs from the WWII era, getting into the mood for the show.
As Act I continues, a romance develops between Peggy and the shy Patrick, giving director and choreographer Michael LeFleur additional motivation for his oh-so-clever staging of the romantic songs like “Slow Boat to China.”
The show’s crisis (there’s always a crisis) comes when a telegram arrives announcing that the Andrews Sisters are in quarantine because of LaVerne’s chicken pox, and the show will have to be canceled.
But theatre people know that the show must always go on, and Act II consists of its brilliant resurrection, which includes another 16 wonderful songs, great costumes by Holly Lewis Budd, outrageous make-up, the perfect set designs of Drew Francis, the clever use of props designed by Paul Delamerter, and the appropriately atmospheric lighting design of Ariel Benjamin, plus, of course, the superb singing talents of the quartet of fine actors.
The audience clearly delighted in the songs which featured “I Want to Linger,” “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Rum and Coca Cola” and perhaps the best known Andrews Sisters’ classic, “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.”
Five-star musical accompaniment for this swinging musical is provided by Jake Lentz on keyboard, Larry Balestra and Mark Heinsman on percussion, David Winograd and Bruce Jackson play bass and Zachary Seman, James Fitzwilliam and Lee Stowe share the synthesizer duties, all led by Musical Director Bobby Perry.
There is no doubt that you will leave The Andrews Brothers with a song on your lips and in your heart.
Another swinging, dance-in-the-aisles, fun musicalBy Carol MontanaJuly 24, 2011
The Catskill Chronicle
Never underestimate the power of drag. From pantos to Python, men have donned women’s garb for laughs. The impulse seems atavistic. It wouldn’t be surprising if archaeologists were to find cave drawings of Neanderthals in peekaboo saber-toothed skins.
Certainly, Roger Bean understands that drag still packs a punch. That’s clear in the West Coast premiere of The Andrews Brothers, the musical revue presented by Musical Theatre West at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach.
Bean, who created the show, is also the brainchild behind The Marvelous Wonderettes, now wrapping up a long run at the El Portal before a planned move to off-Broadway. His formula is simple: Concoct a flimsy but workmanlike story, assemble a small cast of terrific singers and set them loose on vintage songs, famous and obscure, of a particular period.
In Brothers, the time frame is World War II, and the lush, big band numbers from that era are perfect fodder for a crowd-pleasing jukebox musical that is heavy on harmonies and light on subject matter.
The organically simple Wonderettes treated the fortunes of four young women, first seen at their high school prom and later at their 10-year reunion. Brothers is far more contrived. Patrick, Max and
Lawrence Andrews (twists on Patty, Maxene and LaVerne, get it?) are brothers who have all, for non-life-threatening reasons, been deemed 4-F. Unable to serve in the military, the guys have been doing their bit as stagehands with the USO. Now in the South Pacific, they’re awaiting the arrival of the Andrews Sisters, who are scheduled to perform before the fighting men on the base are shipped off to parts and fates unknown.
For backup singer Peggy Jones (Darcie Roberts), a popular pinup girl, it’s a chance to prove she’s got real talent. Ditto for the brothers, who are also dying for a chance to get onstage. When the Andrews Sisters are quarantined with chicken pox, the show must go on—with the Andrews Brothers masquerading as...the Andrews Sisters.
That far-fetched premise is so intrinsically specious, it makes a Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney movie seem Shakespearean. Yet, if you are not averse to lighter-than-air entertainment without the ballast of plot, you are likely to have plenty of fun.
Director Nick DeGruccio, musical director John Glaudini and choreographer Roger Castellano orchestrate the prevalent inanity with appropriately military efficiency. Roberts has a dream voice and a sultry stage presence that nicely counterbalance the slapstick,
The Wonderettes formula is rewored for the entertaining The Andrews BrothersBy F. Kathleen FoleyApril 22, 2008
performed with no-holds-barred goofiness by Larry Raben, David Engel and Stan Chandler, who play Patrick, Max and Lawrence, respectively. Consummate professionals all, the cast sells this insubstantial diversion like they are hawking war bonds.
Vintage cartoons and footage, ranging from Kate Smith singing “God Bless America” to a Bugs Bunny cartoon, play before the show and at intermission. But producers missed an obvious bet by not including a snippet of Bugs in drag. That would have jibed perfectly with this antic, cross-dressing, pleasingly silly amusement.
Do you still remember those great songs from the 1940s like “Hold Tight,” “On a Slow Boat to China,” and “Rum and Coca Cola?” Do you remember the USO shows of World War II? If there is still a nostalgic thirst running through your veins for that time in history, then truck on down to Musical Theatre West’s production of The Andrews Brothers and grab some tickets before they’re all sold out. It is an evening full of that great period music that lovingly pays tribute to those USO shows of World War II.
The premise of the evening is simple. Three stagehand nerds have been working the USO tours. They are frustrated being behind the scenes. They are preparing a show for the Andrews Sisters and pin-up girl Peggy Jones. We get to know each individually when suddenly news arrives that the show will have to be canceled as the Andrews Sisters have been quarantined and will not be there to entertain. All seems lost when the idea is planted that the three guys, who have seen the Andrews Sisters perform many times, can just put on their costumes and go on in the Andrews Sisters place. What ensues is a second act that is the USO show with the three men doing the Andrews Sisters act. The laughter doesn’t stop from this point on as the show must go on and does—hilariously.
It is hard to imagine a better cast. The four here are a continual delight to watch. All 27 songs are sung well with the appropriate style. Stan Chandler is very funny as the nearsighted Lawrence. David Engel, a Music Theatre West favorite, entertains as the flat-footed Max. Larry Raben gets all the laughs possible as the asthmatic Patrick. Darcie Roberts reminded me of Rosemary Clooney when she torches the theatre with “I Wanna Be Loved” as Peggy the pin-up girl. The four harmonize seamlessly and will remind you of groups from the 1940s. Musical Theatre West continues to give us quality theatre for a reasonable price.
This show you will have you jumpin’ and jivin’ on home to dust off your 78s of songs from this era, remembering the days when you drank rum and coca cola, and reminisce about sitting under that apple tree. It’s a show that ac-cent-tchu-ates the positive and eliminates the negative. So relax, hold tight, and let this cast take you not to China on a slow boat, but back in time to a USO show. It’s a fun-filled two and a half hours you won’t regret spending in the theatre.
The Andrews BrothersBy Larry BlakeApril 2008
There’s more than just old newsreel footage and a WWII throwback story that make The Andrews Brothers as warm and comfy as an old shoe.
Roger Bean’s cross-dressing comedy, now in its San Diego premiere at Welk Resorts Theatre in Escondido, is a celebration of the look, music, laughs, innocence and patriotism of a 1940s USO show, and it’s cast with a team of seasoned performers who are as familiar with each other as they are to local audiences.
The Andrews Brothers stars Vista-bred musical theater veteran Bets Malone, along with three of the original New York castmates of Forever Plaid, whose 20 years of continued collaboration gives them an ease, timing and obvious joy together onstage that’s infectious.
The thinly plotted musical revue is set on a South Seas airbase in 1945, where Washington state pin-up girl/singer Peggy Jones is slated to open a USO show for the Andrews Sisters. Peggy quickly realizes that the three “Andrews Brothers” who’ve shown up to serve as her back-up singers are really starstruck stagehands. But when the Andrews Sisters cancel out due to illness, Peggy conceives a way to give the brothers their big break and go on with the show.
The musical is packed with 27 pop, patriotic, swing and novelty songs from the war era, including “Mairzy Dotes,” “Rosie the Riveter,” “On a Slow Boat to China,” “The Hut-Sut Song,” “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive” and many more. And director/choreographers Nick DeGruccio and Roger Castellano give the show all of the pizzazz and fast-paced energy of a highspirited USO show.
To add to the show’s retro feel, real newsreel footage, war bond promotions and patriotic cartoons open the show and fill the intermission (elongated to 20 minutes to give the actors time to get into drag). And a fun audience interactive bit in the second act is a show highlight.
The Welk staging is a remount of the production (cast, director, sets and costumes) produced earlier this summer in Fullerton, so it arrives in Escondido with the well-rehearsed polish of a long-running show. Lots of fun are Malone’s soldier girl outfits, a prop dinghy the actors “row” around the stage and the outrageous drag costumes and wigs created for the Andrews “sisters” in the second act.
Malone (who grew up on the Moonlight Amphitheatre stage) brings her trademark pluck, sass and professionalism to the role of flirty singer Peggy. Malone’s a solid singer, dancer and actress and her big eyes, heart-shaped face and perky personality make her an ideal fit for period shows.
All three of the Andrews brothers are terrific in their individual roles and as a team.David Engel stands out as stage manager Max. He’s a strong singer, a gifted comedian and dancer, and a hilarious
drag performer (his facial expressions are priceless). Larry Raben is endearing as Patrick, the stuttering stagehand who wins Peggy’s heart, and he’s the most feminine of the “Andrews sisters.” And Stan Chandler, seen locally at the Moonlight Amphitheatre, is very funny as the nerdy, bespectacled Lawrence.
Music Director Justin Gray and his crack pit ensemble includes two trumpeters (Jack Houghton and Brad Steinwehe) who really wail on the swinging, jazzy score. With drummer Mike Masessa, they produce a much bigger sound than their number would suggest.
The Andrews Brothers is ideally suited to Welk’s core audience, many of whom probably grew up listening to the music in the show and watching the Milton Berle-style drag comedy that it celebrates. It’s a fun, innocent throwback to the past that succeeds on its professionalism.
Welk’s Andrews Brothers is anything but a dragBy Pam KragenSeptember 9, 2009
Few show business acts embody World War II as much as the Andrews Sisters. That fact makes Roger Bean’s “new” (2008) ‘40s musical The Andrews Brothers a natural, one that raises the question: Why didn’t anyone come up with this sooner?
FCLO Music Theatre’s staging is only the second (the first being at Long Beach’s Musical Theatre West), and it’s a valentine to everyone and everything associated with this country’s war effort, from USO shows and bond drives to rationing resources and putting funds into savings.
The ingenious plot is relatively simple: We’re in the South Pacific theater of war, circa 1943, where the Andrews Sisters are due to arrive soon to entertain the troops. Set to handle the stagehand work for their show is a trio of brothers whose last name is Andrews.
Not only do these three young men love everything about the Andrews Sisters, including singing all of their songs; their names are Lawrence, Max and Patrick, corresponding with LaVerne, Maxene and Patty.
The Andrews Brothers starts with the arrival of pinup girl Peggy Jones (Bets Malone), who meets the Andrews Brothers and asks who they are. Convinced they’re good enough to perform on stage, the confident Max (David Engel) tells
her they’re “backup singers” for the sisters.
Peggy eventually realizes that the brothers aren’t really USO entertainers—yet she thinks they’re good enough to headline. Thus, when a telegram arrives stating that the Andrews Sisters are canceling their appearance due to illness, the Andrews Brothers get their big break—in drag, of course.
Director Nick DeGruccio’s staging accentuates the comedic while letting us sympathize with the boys, who know they’re good enough to sing but need Peggy’s help to pull off their impersonation of the worldrenowned Andrews girls.
Larry Raben’s wheezing and hyperventilating underscore his terror at performing solos, heightened by Peggy’s attraction to him. Raben’s comedic style is akin to the stammering shyness of Danny Kaye and, from a slightly later era, Jerry Lewis’ pratfalls. Engel’s Max is a quietly confident take-charge guy, while Chandler’s Lawrence is Mr. Reliable.
All three characters are most at ease when performing, and The Andrews Brothers gives the actors a chance to prove this, with 27 numbers from the World War II era—many of them popularized by the Andrews Sisters—in Bean’s vocal arrangements, with music arranged by Jon Newton.
The Andrews Brothers in Fullerton captures WWII’s swingBy Eric MarcheseJuly 17, 2009
Malone combines a sexy stage persona with an endearing Betty Boop-type speaking voice that often carries over into her singing. Her character connects the boys to the show-biz world they idolize, and she’s a quintessential ‘40s heroine: the plucky small-town girl who made good.
All four actors are terrific hoofers, executing Roger Castellano’s dance steps with precision and apparent ease.
Malone scores with the tongue-twisting lyrics of “Breathless” while shimmying and swaying to the slow, jazzy “I Wanna Be Loved” and teaching the boys to sing “Mairzy Doats.”
DeGruccio’s creativity blossoms in his staging of “On a Slow Boat to China,” as Peggy and Patrick row a small prop boat across the stage with an inventive use of a length of blue silk (the ocean), a small crescent moon and a parasol.
Other first-act highlights include a charming, relaxed version of “Rosie the Riveter” and a medley of “Hawaiian War Chant” and “Beat Me Daddy, Eight to the Bar.”
The show’s second half is done as a USO show, with the audience functioning as the servicemen being entertained and the boys trying to navigate their numbers while in high heels, their many staging mishaps played for laughs.
All of the Act Two songs are (continued)
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aptly swingy, jazzy and sentimental, ranging from “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Hold Tight, Hold Tight” to “Shoo-Shoo Baby” and “I’m Doin’ It for Defense.”
Act Two highlights include a Hollywood Canteen segment and the use of two gents from the audience for the “Three Little Sisters” and “Six Jerks In a Jeep” numbers, while one of the volunteers does a slow dance with Malone to “I Want to Linger.”
In conducting the nine-piece pit orchestra, music director Lloyd Cooper achieves an authentic 1940s sound. Kevin Clowes’ set is a realistic mixture of flats, cutouts and actual objects (crates, foot lockers and the like), and Musical Theatre West’s costumes add to the show’s authenticity.
Ditto the numerous movie trailers, shorts and Disney and Tex Avery cartoons shown as pre-show and intermission entertainment. During these screenings, as with the entire show, you won’t want to leave your seats.
The Andrews Brothers in Fullerton captures WWII’s swingBy Eric MarcheseJuly 17, 2009 Page 2 of 2
Sweet romance, soaring harmonies and musical comedy so good your face will hurt from smiling ear to ear for two happy hours. That’s what you get with The Andrews Brothers, Musical Theatre West’s West Coast premiere production of Roger Bean’s new 1940s wartime musical.
Stan Chandler, David Engel and Larry Raben, three of the original four cast members of Forever Plaid, join the delightful Darcie Roberts to sing and dance, stutter and wheeze and do a show-must-go-on charmer of a USO performance when the Andrews Sisters can’t make their gig.
Roberts sizzles, and her chemistry with Raben is off the charts. Roberts’ Peggy thinks Raben’s Patrick is cute, cute, cute. And oh, he is, is, is.
The show probably doesn’t fully utilize the considerable talents of Chandler and Engel, but who cares? They’re both great even when not called upon to do juggling or acrobatics, and when Engel isn’t challenging his vocal chords to slide from counter tenor down to bass in one fell swoop.
They fall all over themselves on first meeting Peggy, who finds their nerdiness flattering and funny. They’ve been waiting for their big chance to do a show and think they have to hide their true identities to see their dream come true.
The stage fright is palpable, Patrick’s asthma worsening by the minute. He can, he can’t, he can, he can’t...and then, he does. And so do the others.
The curtain goes up for the second act and the Andrews brothers are the Andrews Sisters...minus a little ladylike finesse here and there. Dresses, high heels, wigs and make-up take them only part way there. Broad vocal ranges that permit raising the pitch into the female’s range, and a lot of sexy strutting and batting of eyes, take the performances home.
Fabulous oldies, some all too familiar (“Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”) and others rather obscure, were well selected. Every number’s a humdinger.
The show-within-a-show has its pratfalls, garment “problems” and general screw-ups—flaws that make it just perfect...perfectly adorable, that is.
Musical Theatre West delights with the show-within-a-show The Andrews BrothersBy Vicki Paris GoodmanMay 1, 2008
Musical Theatre West has come up with the perfect musical for those who found last year’s Altar Boyz a bit too young and edgy for their tastes. In fact, the highly entertaining The Andrews Brothers is the kind of show which the older you are, the more you will love.
Written by The Marvelous Wonderettes’ Roger Bean, The Andrews Brothers is the slapstick tale of three 4F stagehands who end up taking the place of the ailing Andrews Sisters at a WWII USO concert, the kind that Bob Hope headlined throughout most of his career. That the three Andrews Brothers, Patrick, Max, and Lawrence, happen to have similar names to Patty, Maxine, and Laverne is purely coincidental...not.
Sunday’s matinee audience was filled with nostalgic 70-and-80 somethings for whom every early 1940s hit was a trip down memory lane. In fact, this sentimental journey began from the moment they took their seats. 1940s newsreel and cartoon footage depict such 1940s icons as Kate Smith (introducing a new song entitled “God Bless America”) and the three little pigs fight a swastika-wearing big bad wolf. Even Executive Director/Producer Paul Garman’s pre-show announcements were delivered on the giant silver screen in glorious black and white.
We meet the Andrews Brothers just as USO songstress and pinup girl Peggy Jones (The Pajama Game’s Darcy Roberts) is instructing them on the fine art of dance. We soon learn that Patrick (Larry Raben) is a stutterer with panic attacks and asthma, Max (David Engel) is a klutz with flat feet and Lawrence (Stan Chandler) is so nearsighted that he is nearly blind without his glasses. The boys’ dream is to be entertainers. They couldn’t get drafted, and now they worry that they’re going to get booted out of the USO. “It’s our only chance to get on stage,” says one of them, “and we can’t blow it!”
This shoestring-thin plot serves as an excuse for some Bob Hope/Bing Crosby Road to (fill in the blank) style humor and a couple dozen well-(and lesser)-known tunes. In other words, here the humor and the music are
the thing.The jokes come fast and furious. When Peggy
inquires about the boys’ experience as entertainers, they reply, “We’ve performed here, there...mostly there.” Peggy is reputed to have “the chassis that made Lassie come home.” And just before the end of Act 1, when the boys are told that they’re going to have to don dresses and pretend to be the ailing Andrews girls, Peggy reassures them, “The men need this show. And they’ll be far, far away.”
There are sight gags galore, many of them centered around the amusing vision of men pretending to be women. Patrick can’t remember to keep his legs together when seated, and Max somehow ends up upside down revealing his not so girlish boxer shorts.
Songs like “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Mairzy Doats,” “On a Slow Boat to China” and “The Hut-Sut Song” may be familiar even to those in the audience born as late as the 1950s (who, me?). My favorite among those I’d not heard before is Eddie Cherkose and Jacques Press’ “Breathless,” a song so cleverly constructed that it indeed makes the singers...breathless.
There’s a great audience participation segment of the show when two men are selected to join the Andrews “Sisters” and Peggy onstage for “Six Jerks in a Jeep” with one of the them at the wheel and the second in charge of the “beep beep” horn. One of the men gets to remain on stage and dance with Peggy!
Among the musical numbers inventively staged by choreographer Roger Castellano is an amusing “Hawaiian War Chant,” with the guys wearing tambourines around their waists, grass skirts and flowered headdresses. The best dancing is saved for Act 2, however, when Chandler, Engel, and Rabin (three of the original Plaids of Forever Plaid fame) have donned wigs, makeup, dresses and heels. A standout number is the tap dancing “Plain Jane Doe,” in which Engel and Roberts are given a particularly fine opportunity to strut their Broadway tap dancing stuff.
The Andrews BrothersBy Steven StanleyApril 20, 2008
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The USO finale is grand indeed, with one 1940s song after another: “Corns for My Country,” “Any Bonds Today” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” And that’s not all. The Andrews Brothers return, dressed as men once again, this time in uniform, to join leggy Peggy in “Stuff Like That There” and the immortal Andrews Sisters hit “Bei Mir Bist Du Schön.”
The cast couldn’t be better and superlatives are most definitely in order for Chandler, Engel, Raben and Roberts, consummate triple threats all four, and expert comedians as well. Nick DeGruccio has directed with his accustomed blend of talent, professionalism, and imagination. Maybe best of all is the big band sound of musical director John Glaudini and the fabulous pit band. (Musical arrangements are by Jon Newton and vocal arrangements by Roger Bean, both period perfect.)
Steven Young’s lighting and Julie Ferrin’s sound are first rate, and Debbie Robert’s period costumes are colorful recreations of the period, Peggy’s lack of 1940s shoulder pads in her Act 2 slinky black dress being the sole misstep.
The Andrews Brothers is as much a courageous choice for MTW as was last year’s Altar Boyz. For the Boyz, it was some of the older, more conservative audience members who were less than pleased by the show’s more irreverent moments. Here, it is the under-30s who may very well scratch their heads and wonder what the excitement is about.
Still, The Andrews Brothers is full of memorable tunes and couldn’t be better performed. Once the guys are in drag, there’s nary a dull moment. Though younger audience members may not turn out in droves, quite the opposite is certain to be true for their parents and grandparents. They will—mark my words—be in 1940s heaven!
The Andrews BrothersBy Steven StanleyApril 20, 2008 Page 2 of 2
No law exists against being thoroughly entertained (even beguiled) by another Exit 7 Players runaway hit. There’s enough of a story line to mount two dozen Hit Parade favorites of decades ago, many still played today, that capture the flavor of 1945 wartime. At a South Pacific island, a traveling USO act is expected to perform for troops shipping out the next day, back into the fighting.
In the meantime, three stage hands (Joe Alvernaz, Robert Clark III, Steven Sands) are recruited as replacement backup singers and dancers for a canary—a girl singer scheduled to open for the expected Andrews Sisters. They tear up the stage. These are ordinary guys, who in 2009 real life have day jobs, but don’t tell anybody because they perform with the aplomb and professionalism for which Exit 7 is well-known. As for the canary (Diane Lamoureaux), she’s so perfectly cast that she’s almost a cliche: super pretty, she sells every song with perfect pitch and radiates a sweetness.
An eight-piece orchestra swings, stoking urges to dance. There’s no room for violins in this big band knock-off that features clarinet (Doug Glanville), saxophones (Kristen Dye, Nathan Carr), trombone (Donna McKeever), trumpet (Sheldon Ross), bass (Sherri Jyringi) and drums (Kevin Barker) all under the direction of conductor Karla Newmark at the keyboard. Their beat is infectious.
Director Pam Abair keeps the stage alive: it hums. Jennifer Marshall’s choreography is outstanding: no dance moves are repeated—no small feat. Remember? There are two dozen musical numbers. The first act opens with the novelty hit, “The Hut Sut Song,” about as close as the ‘40s came to rap. Costumer Cheryl Chant gets the ‘40s: the singer’s shirt dress is a canary yellow (well, why not?) and the guys wear various combinations of fatigue parts.
Towards the end of Act I, word arrives that the Andrews Sisters won’t: one of the sisters has chickenpox and the trio is quarantined. With the help of “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive,” the canary convinces the guys that they can’t let down the troops who are expecting a show, and further, that they have the chops to perform as the Andrews Brothers. When the guys discover the Andrews Sisters’ props have arrived, they are inspired to go certifiably nuts singing and dancing “The Hawaiian War Chant” which, among other accomplishments, lends credence to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and almost destroys the audience with laughter.
Triple threat Paul Hamel (technical director and master carpenter, producer) together with Ken Samonds (scenic artist) have caught the look of the tropics with only a couple palm trees as well as the austerity of a war zone hosting USO morale boosting activities.
The first half of Act 2 combines song and dance routines by the Andrews Brothers, three hotties in drag, wobbling in heels, hairy legs showing through stockings, wearing generously proportioned cantilevered bras. Creator/Author Roger Bean knows when to phase out the joke in favor of the canary’s solos which give the trio time to change back into guys, this time wearing military issue suntans. The reuniting of this talented foursome reignites the charm and fun they generated at the beginning. The combination of long-loved songs sung by trained voices coupled with innovative dance routines brings a cheering audience to its feet, a salute to the performers and production team for a well-deserved standing O.
This show is worth seeing twice.
The Andrews BrothersBy Donna Bailey-ThompsonOctober 17, 2009
With his latest effort, the uproarious The Andrews Brothers, writer-director Roger Bean continues his string of entertaining jukebox musicals in a show presented by Cabrillo Music Theatre.
The Andrews Brothers is the 10th show Bean has written for the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. His modus operandi is to focus on a specific time period from American musical history and write a show around the songs. Bean’s The Marvelous Wonderettes is currently in its second year playing off-Broadway.
The premise of The Andrews Brothers is simple: It’s 1945, and the famous Andrews Sisters are set to entertain at a USO show in the Pacific, but when Laverne Andrews contracts chicken pox, the act is quarantined.
Enter three brothers, who happen to be named Andrews, who happen to be performers and who happen to be working as the sisters’ stage crew. Rather than cancel the show, the brothers decide to masquerade as the sisters and do the show themselves. Once we get past all of these ridiculous assumptions, the fun starts to happen.
Here, as in other Bean musicals, the cast is limited to a quartet of performers. Flat-footed Max (David Engel), asthmatic Patrick (Larry Raben) and myopic Lawrence (Stan Chandler) are the brothers, while Peggy Jones (Darcie Roberts) rounds out the act as the Andrews Sisters’ backup singer.
Left to their own devices, the four work out a plan to put on a show of their own.In Act One, too much unnecessary, forced dialogue leads into the songs. The only important development other than
the discovery of the sisters’ illness is that Peggy falls for Patrick and spends most of the act getting him to loosen up.The songs alternate between the familiar (“Beat Me, Daddy, Eight to the Bar,” “On a Slow Boat to China”) to the
refreshingly obscure (the marvelous patter song, “Breathless” and the gorgeous “I Wanna Be Loved,” an Andrews hit that wasn’t recorded until 1950, sung here in a ravishing solo by Roberts).
After intermission (which features vintage film clips of cartoons, newsreels and wartime propaganda), the show gets into gear and the boys get into dresses. After the initial waves of laughter following their first number, a question comes to mind: How long can these guys hold the audience’s interest in what is basically a one-joke act—clumsy guys trying to sing and dance while wearing high heels, heavy makeup and women’s clothing?
Fortunately, director Nick DeGruccio and choreographer Roger Castellano fill the second act with enough shtick to keep things moving at a fast pace. With virtually no dialogue, Act Two is nonstop hilarity, with slapstick, spot-on comedic timing and great vocal arrangements.
The hit parade also continues: “Bei Mir Bist Du Schön,” “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” are all here, but we also get other wonderful songs like Livingston and Evans’ “Stuff Like That There” and the exquisite “I Want to Linger.”
Chandler, Engel and Raben all sing in the same register, which makes for easy vocal arranging, although Lloyd Cooper’s crackerjack jazz band has to play in some difficult keys in order to accommodate them.
All three male actors, original cast members from Forever Plaid, are terrific, with Raben the funniest cross-dresser since Jack Lemmon in Some Like It Hot.
The delightful Roberts manages to keep pace with the manic antics (no easy task).The Andrews Brothers is not just for old-timers. It is silly, old-fashioned fun, with a bushel of terrific songs. That’s
something to write home about.
The Andrews BrothersBy Cary GinellFebruary 11, 2010
Uncle Sam wants you!!!...to watch The Andrews Brothers, that is.Backdoor Theatreʼs latest production, which follows a stop on the Pacific leg of a World War II USO tour, is more
crowd-pleasing than those gentle Pacific breezes.This jukebox musical by Roger Bean has it all: throwback ‘40s tunes everyone knows, zippy three-part harmonies,
likable—almost overly likable—characters, humor, love and lots of heart.And, itʼs delivered in an easily-digestible fashion. Youʼll be shipping out in about two hours (including intermission).Maria Thompson, a musical director whoʼs making her debut as the director this time around, has scored her first
success with The Andrews Brothers, thanks to an amazingly talented cast, but also thanks to her musical prowess.The musical direction in this production is sharp, and Thompson obviously spent a lot of time helping the cast
achieve the tight, three-part harmonies that are so vital to this show.The musical follows Maxwell Andrews (Adam Holley), Lawrence Andrews (Jonathan Barnes) and Patrick Andrews
(Justin Partridge), the backup singers for pinup girl-turned-USO singer Peggy Jones (Abby Clements).Theyʼre practicing the numbers theyʼll be performing for the troops, though Peggy doesnʼt quite know that her
backup singers arenʼt backup singers at all. Theyʼre actually the stagehands and decided to join the USO to serve their country, since the military rejected them for various reasons, namely Maxʼs flat feet, Lawrenceʼs farsightedness and Patrickʼs asthma.
When news comes in that the star attraction, The Andrews Sisters, canʼt make it because LaVerne Andrews has been quarantined for some illness, Peggy comes up with an idea. She wants the brothers to pretend theyʼre the famous sisters so the troops wonʼt be disappointed.
Holley, Barnes and Partridge have their harmony singing down, especially for numbers like “Rosie the Riveter” and “Hula Ba Luau.” Talk about impeccable vocals.
And each actor handles the physical comedy of the show extremely well, and there is a lot of physical comedy going on. Theyʼre able to sing and move props on and offstage at the same time—so impressive.
Each also gives life to these characters—Partridge as the cute, shy Patrick; Barnes as Lawrence, the somewhat excitable brother who canʼt sing without his cheat-sheet; and Holley as Maxwell, the brother who always has a plan at hand.
Clements, as striking pinup girl Peggy, just fits. She is striking, and gives her character that high-pitched voice and bubbly spirit that seem to define the pinup girls of the era.
The play is so hilarious when the guys emerge on stage in drag, and I have to mention the performance of “Breathless,” one of those tongue-twisting songs thatʼs easy to trip over, but the cast just breezes through it.
You wonʼt find much wrong with The Andrews Brothers, particularly if you need something a little crowd pleasing.Like Rosie the Riveter, itʼll keep you riveted until the end.
Andrews Brothers is a cool breezeBy Lana Sweeten-ShultsJanuary 30, 2010