Regional Reviews: Phoenix
Created by Roger Bean, who was also behind another jukebox musical called The Marvelous Wonderettes, The Andrews Brothers is set on an island in the South Pacific in 1945. It follows three brothers who are the stage crew for the upcoming USO show headlined by The Andrews Sisters. Pin-up girl Peggy Jones arrives, excited for her first appearance in a big USO show and overjoyed to open for the famous Andrews Sisters. The brothers are also a performing trio who long for the spotlight. When the Andrews Sisters are quarantined and the show appears set to be cancelled, it could be the end for Peggy's big break. But the brothers have an idea to save the show.
The 25 songs in the show include many hits such as "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," "Slow Boat to China," "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive." "Mairzy Doats," and "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree," as well as a few lesser known tunes. Director/choreographer Cambrian James keeps the sentimentality of the show in check, focusing instead on the hijinks, humor, and warmth of the characters and story. While the first act is a behind the scenes tale of the brothers and Peggy as they rehearse her numbers for the show, the second act explodes with wit and hilarity as we see the USO show the foursome perform, with the audience becoming the audience for the show. James does well in balancing the two separate halves of the musical and his cast is exceptional in bringing the characters to life.
Reminiscent of another fun jukebox musical comedy, Forever Plaid, the Hale cast features two cast members who excelled in Hale's production of that hit show last season, Brent Graham and Tedd Glazebrook, along with Chad Campbell and Jessica Graham (Brent's wife). All four create unique characters and provide tight harmonies and vibrant solos. The three brothers are 4-F, meaning they were deemed unfit for military service, and the specific reasons are incorporated into the show: Max has flat feet so he is a clumsy dancer; Lawrence has poor eyesight so he has issues seeing clearly if he isn't wearing his glasses; and Patrick has asthma so he has trouble breathing, which only gets worse whenever Peggy is around, causing him to stutter and become tongue tied. Brent Graham, Glazebrook, and Campbell do well in instilling the 4-F character pitfalls into their roles as well as providing plenty of humor, with elements of slapstick and sharp comedic timing. Jessica Graham brings a sense of ease to the part of Peggy. While Peggy might be nervous about performing, Graham shows us how Peggy is a trooper, ready for anything that comes her way, including some fun spontaneity that is required when she interacts with the audience in the second act. The cast forms a winning foursome, especially in their working together seamlessly in the surprise-filled second act.
Music director Lincoln Wright effectively leads the small band, achieving a big, brassy sound. While the set design may be simple, it is quite useful, featuring some inspired palm trees situated in the audience, moveable trunks, and a raised performance platform for act two. Marty Atkinson's costumes provide plenty of color, nostalgia, and charm, and Jeff A. Davis' lighting changes appropriately between the bright backstage scenes and the colorful onstage performance numbers.
While The Andrews Brothers may be a little sentimental or old fashioned for those who've aren't familiar with The Andrews Sisters, the sense of nostalgia and the charming, familiar songs evoke the timeless period of the piece. With a winning cast, clear direction, and period inspired choreography, Hale's production is a hilarious, lively, and ultimately very enjoyable show.
The Hale Centre Theatre production of The Andrew Brothers runs through April 19th, 2016, with performances on Mondays and Tuesdays at 50 W. Page Avenue in Gilbert. Tickets can be ordered at www.haletheatrearizona.com or by calling (480) 497-1181.
Directed and Choreographed by Cambrian James