Friday, May 27, 2011

Review of "My One and Only" - Goodspeed Opera House

The cover of the program for the Goodspeed Opera House’s first show of the season, My One and Only, says it all – “A Tap Dance SPECTACULAR!” For aficionados of tap the musical, which consists of an all-Gershwin score, is a dream come true. Within the first five minutes the cast is hoofing it up with a sweeping production number on the small stage.

The show, a 1983 hit on Broadway for Tommy Tune and his friend, Twiggy, is a variation of the old standby of boy meets girl, boy loses girl and, in the end, boy gets girl. Billy Chandler, played with sprightliness and vigor by Tony Yazbeck, an aviator looking for fame and fortune by being the first pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, glimpses bathing beauty and English Channel crosser, Edythe Herbert, and his heart goes a thumping. Throw in her controlling Russian promoter, political intrigue, a salty female mechanic and even the Arabian nights, and you have the loopy, frivolous plot, crafted by Peter Stone and Timothy S. Mayer, for My One and Only.

The storyline is not the reason for sashaying to East Haddam, CT, home of the Goodspeed Opera House. There are two more important motivations—the songs and the dancing. As mentioned before, the creators of the musical incorporate a slew of George and Ira Gershwin classics into the score. They include “High Hat,” “’S Wonderful,” “Strike Up the Band,” “Funny Face,” and the title number. They are delivered with polish and exuberance. Add the spirited dance routines choreographed with grace and abandon by Kelli Barclay, and you have all the ingredients for a buoyant and carefree theatrical experience.

One new feature of the production is the incorporation of a projection system, which heightens the realism and playfulness of the backdrops for the show. While affording the musical to go beyond the normal props and scenery, let’s hope the technology is used accordingly in subsequent offerings and does not take away the intimacy and charm, hallmarks of the Opera House.

Tony Yazbeck as the flying ace, Billy Chandler, is more country boy hayseed as opposed to the formal elegance of Tommy Tune’s original.
His “aw shucks” demeanor works well within the framework of this production. What really matters, though, is he’s a tap dancing whirlwind with a fine singing voice and strong stage presence. Gabrielle Ruiz, as his love interest, Edythe Herbert, is too aloof in her role and she and Yazbeck have little chemistry as a couple. Kirsten Wyatt, as the aviator mechanic, Mickey, is the requisite comic foil, even though some of her lines and antics were a bit over-the-top. Alde Lewis, Jr., as the proprietor of Mr. Magix’ Emporial, while a lowkey presence during his scenes, primarily seated in a barber chair, is a proficient dancer. His singing and dancing with Tony Yazbeck during the Gershwin classic, “My One and Only,” was the highlight of the show.

Director Ray Roderick takes all the components of the musical, shakes well, and pours out a tuneful, dancing extravaganza that is sure to be a crowd pleaser during the first part of the summer. My One and Only, now through June 25th at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, CT.

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