If it sounds implausible to you that three male stagehands with 4F draft classifications would decide to impersonate the Andrews Sisters (who are quarantined in Hawaii) to bolster troop morale at the big USO show, you should know that's not an unusual way for show-biz types to address emergencies in real life. Ah, it doesn't really matter -- The Andrews Brothers is super-fun regardless of whether you think it could really happen.
The relentlessly perky, musically strong revue is currently working its magic way out east at Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre. This under-the-radar charmer is sort of a Saving Private Victor/Victoria or Some Gave All About Eve, if you will. And all the pistons are firing, with no serious missteps.
Before we even address the strengths of the play itself, I have to share my relief about all those untripped booby traps: The recorded musical accompaniment is imaginatively arranged (i.e., different orchestrations for each number, and not just a dreary electronic keyboard track), properly recorded, and nicely mixed and amplified. Alan J. Plado's musical direction of the four vocalists is also outstanding, with crisp diction, sincere interpretations, and great blends.
The costumes, by Mary Atkinson and Jim Conti, are cute, flattering, well-finished, and appropriate (for instance, a tearaway costume in 1943 would have snaps, not Velcro, and here, it has). Props and set pieces show similar attention to detail. The dancing, choreographed by Amy Marie McCleary, is just right for a small cast in the theater's intimate Marquee Room. The three fellas (Galloway Stevens, Lynx Murphy, and Sean Riley, each of whom brings sweet signature quirks to both the show and the show within the show) don't jump into singing and dancing out of nowhere -- the characters have been rehearsing numbers in the their spare time and, at the opening of the show, are filling in as backup singers for pinup-turned-performer Peggy Jones, who is played with adorable sass by Katherine Walker Hill. If you're not crazy about good music presented by men in intentionally bad drag, that's okay, too -- that part is confined to the second act.
Roger Bean, a big ol' music fan in Wisconsin, created this and several other jukebox revues/small musicals partly, he claims, because he has a huge library of pop music that keeps calling out to him. (Broadway Palm-goers might remember his The Winter Wonderettes from December 2010.) Bean seems to have a knack for this, so even if you don't tend to like revues (as I don't), you might enjoy his work (as I did).
It's a treat to hear the cast's smooth renditions of assorted popular songs from the WWII era along with some more obscure ditties like "Six Jerks in a Jeep" (from the motion picture Private Buckaroo, because I'm sure you were wondering) and Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer's "Doin' It for Defense." Walker Hill has a big but warm voice, and I've never been so convinced that a slow boat to China would be romantic and fun as I am when she sings about it. The Andrews Brothers even has an actual little plot with dramatic tension, suspense, and a resolution -- and because the script crafts consistent characters and the company ably fleshes them out, you'll actually care, because you've been rooting for them the whole time.
The Andrews Brothers continues through Saturday, August 27, at 5247 East Brown Road in Mesa. Admission is $39 and includes a full buffet. Call 480-325-6700 for tickets or click here.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.