My One and Only Music and Lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin Book by Peter Stone and Timothy. S. Mayer Performed by Cynthia Dale, Laird McIntosh and Company Directed and Choreographed by Michael Lichtefeld Avon Theatre – Stratford Festival May 12 to October 28, 2007
Live! On Stage Review by Mary Alderson
My One and Only is an extravaganza with all the glamour and glitter of a big Broadway production, and it’s sitting right on our doorstep at Stratford’s Avon Theatre. While the plot of this faux twenties musical may not be very deep, it’s done up in such a spectacular fashion that the shallow story is easily forgiven. My One and Only is the pulling together of many of George and Ira Gershwin’s favourite songs and putting them into a new story, but one set in the Roaring Twenties. Producers knew that today’s audience doesn’t want to sit through the original, dated plots, so they had a new story written to make use of the great old tunes. The Broadway hit Crazy for You was put together in a similar fashion. In My One and Only, Edythe Herbert, famous for swimming the English Channel, has joined The Ladies of the Aquacade, a water ballet/synchronized swimming entertainment troupe. She is being pursued by Captain Billy Buck Chandler, an aviator who hopes to beat Lindbergh in making the first trans-Atlantic flight. Edythe is trying to escape from an overbearing manager, while Billy is helped by Mickey, the female airplane mechanic. The role of Edythe Herbert is ideal for Cynthia Dale. Dale, a perennial favourite of Stratford’s musical theatre audience, is the ultimate flapper – not only can she tap dance with the best, she can make the kewpie-doll faces to add laughs to the role. And the old Gershwin tunes suit Dale’s beautiful voice perfectly. Her co-star Laird Mackintosh is wonderful as the tap-dancing aviator (yes, even the play itself makes fun of that combination). As Captain Billy Buck Chandler, Mackintosh goes through a transformation from a Texas hayseed to a polished gentleman, thanks to lessons from Mr. Magix, the smooth dancing Mark Cassius. Kyle Blair, Julius Sermonia and Ray Hogg are delightful as The New Rhythm Boys. Their feet never stop tapping and their musical interludes add to the comedy. Together with the rest of the company, there is hardly a moment without tap-dancing feet on stage. There is an amazing underwater ballet in black light with bubbles, where only the neon-trimmed bathing suits of The Ladies of the Aquacade are visible. While it’s similar in appearance to the Famous People Players, real people are swimming about the stage, rather than puppets, in this very interesting number. In another scene, Dale and Mackintosh are tap dancing in the shallow water on the beach. Remember last year’s tap dance in the showers in South Pacific? That was so cute that they’ve repeated it this year, and it works just as well. The costumes are fantastic – lots of colour and sparkle, with frequent changes. The sets are also extravaganzas. Everything is oversized, from the big train the pulls into the station, to the air plane where we see both front & back, and even a giant camel. For the final curtain, we’re treated to an airplane with dancers tapping across the wingspan. Even that repetitive (but necessary) announcement to turn off cell phones is glitzed up at the beginning of the show. The Ladies of the Aquacade come out in cute costumes and wait, tapping their toes, while audience members turn off phones and pagers. Just like the performance, the announcements are very cute and splashy.
My One and Only continues at the Avon Theatre, Stratford until October 28. For tickets, call the box office at 1-800-567-1600 or check www.stratfordfestival.ca.
Mary Alderson offers her view of area theatre in this column on a regular basis. As well as being a fan of live theatre, she is a former journalist who is currently the Community Economic Development Officer with the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation.