Review: ‘The Andrews Brothers’ at Allenberry Playhouse
BOILING SPRINGS – Little do the soldiers realize that the Andrews Sisters are quarantined with chickenpox and not showing up to perform their USO show because Max, Lawrence and Patrick Andrews – “The Andrews Brothers” – have taken their place onstage with some hilarious results.
“The Andrews Brothers” is Allenberry’s season opener with matinee and evening performances Wednesdays through Sundays at the playhouse, 1559 Boiling Springs Road.
Because of reportedly good advance ticket sales, this jukebox musical, originally scheduled to end on April 5, has bumped the second attraction and will run till May 5.
Created by Roger Bean, prolific at penning jukebox musicals, “The Andrews Brothers” is a mixture of slapstick comedy, nostalgic music from the 1940s and an old fashioned if not downright loopy romance.
The time frame is World War II on an island in the South Pacific where three Andrews brothers work as stagehands for the USO show, hoping one day to perform themselves. Turns out that’s sooner than later when Maxine, Patty and Laverne Andrews get sick and the brothers hearken to a pinup girl’s plea that “The Show Must go On”.
There’s only a cast of four: The backup singer, Peggy Jones, falls for Patrick, the brother who stutters. Max is the brother who has flat feet and Lawrence is the near-sighted brother.
So, although they can’t see the action at the front, their escapades lead to plenty of action backstage.
With a running time of only two hours, including a 15-minute intermission, “The Andrews Brothers” is top heavy with more than two dozen songs, including many Andrew Sisters’ hits.
Act I sets up the far-fetched storyline with some familiar tunes (“On A Slow Boat to China,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate-The Positive”) and a few others which don’t really move the paper-thin premise forward.
The pacing and the laughter noticeably rise in Act II when the brothers squeeze into nylons and don wigs, falsies and some pump heels. The comedy is physical and slapstick as the brothers stumble, tumble and show off their colorful underwear while singing The Andrews Sisters’ songbook.
A Hawaiian-themed medley is almost a nod to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” as the boys wiggle their grass skirts and tap away on bongo drums. (If they used coconuts for bras, any could have passed for Luther Billis. And with Peggy Jones wearing a sailor’s outfit, she looked a lot like Ensign Nellie Forbush.)
Mykel Vaughn crisply directs and choreographs, with the talented cast seemingly in a constant state of motion. While they aren’t choreographed to gracefully walk in heels, the boys slip into flat tap shoes for a nifty dance number.
Michael C. Brown plays Lawrence, Gregory Dassonville is Max, and Calvin David Malone portrays Patrick, all displaying fine voices with a bit of over-the-top acting which fits in well with some of the show’s silliness.
Heading the cast is Casey Weems as the perky pinup girl Peggy Jones, who has the lion’s share of solos, mostly in Act I.
Playing the big band numbers is the small band of five with Music Director Nicholas Werner conducting. There was good jitterbug and swing music, although there was some noticeable balance problems between Weems’s mic and the band, no doubt easily remedied as the run progresses.
With the brothers in drag, Act II never drags. The most familiar Andrew Sisters tunes “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon,” “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and the perennial favorite “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” get the heartiest applause. Getting the heartiest laughter was the comical number “Six Jerks in a Jeep” with two audience members joining the foursome on stage for lots of horn-beeping and harmony.
Like last year’s season opener “Forever Plaid,” “The Andrews Brothers” is breezy and easy to like. The plot may not be riveting (as “Rosie the Riveter” might say), but this mix of songs, sounds and slapstick hits the right balance as Allenberry Playhouse opens another promising season of professional theatrical entertainment. For tickets and season information, call 717-258-3211 or visit www.allenberry.com.