Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Yes, Yes, Nanette!

"No, No, Nanette" presented by Encores! at City Center, May 11, 2008

You just can't beat a nostalgic show with good tap dancing.

And, Encores! has brought us one of the best. Using the 1971 revival of the 1920's original, this was the show that brought Ruby Keeler back to Broadway after a 42 year absence.

Now in 2008, Encores! brings back Sandy Duncan as Sue Smith, the loving and trusting wife of philanthropist bible-seller, Jimmy Smith (Charles Kimbrough) raising their niece Nanette (Mara Davi). Jimmy's attorney Billy Early (Michael Berresse) is married to Lucille (Beth Leavel), Sue's best friend. Their nephew Tom Trainor (Shonn Wiley) has been dating Nanette. Round it out with Pauline (Rosie O'Donnell) as the wise-cracking maid.

It's all very sweet, isn't it? Actually, it is. I think this could be described as the




Director Walter Bobbie lets the sweetness flow at the helm of this gem. Simple staging allows Randy Skinner's excellent tap and soft shoe choreography shine through (I didn't find some of the other numbers quite so shiny).

Ms. Duncan is in fine form and still kicks to the right with the best of them (to the left, not so much), but she looks great and sets a standard for the rest of the cast.

As her husband Jimmy, Mr. Kimbrough (of "Murphy Brown" fame) stammers and stalls his way through the well-meaning character, often resorting to his signature "I want to be happy" reprise to deflect focus from his "...philandering with those three lovely girls. Especially, the big one."

The girls are Betty from Boston (Jennifer Cody) in a Rosie Perez-inspired turn, Winnie from Washington (Nancy Anderson) all sweetness and light, and Flora from San Francisco (Angel Reda) as "the big one."

Mr. Berresse's Billy dances best (though "Telephone Girlie" went about two phrases too long), while Ms. Leavel literally stopped the show with "The 'Where-Has-My-Hubby-Gone' Blues." I'm pretty sure that was the song which won Helen Gallagher her Tony and Drama Desk awards for the role in 1971.

As Nanette and Tom, Ms. Davi and Mr. Wiley embodied old-school-style good kids in love. Both sang and danced beautifully.

But it is the score that is the star of this show. With songs like "Tea for Two," "I Want to Be Happy," and the aforementioned show-stopper, Encores! was very fortunate to have the ever-talented Rob Fisher as musical director and conductor.

It's been 35 years since the last revival closed. I'd love to see a full-scale revival of this show back on Broadway (not just a transfer like the recent "Apple Tree" and "Wonderful Town").

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