9:52 AM CST, November 15, 2012
"'S Wonderful ... 'S Marvelous," goes the promotional tag line for the current Marriott Theatre production, signaling to the ticket buyer that this show features the glorious music of George and Ira Gershwin. Those adjectives, though, do not tell the whole story. So let's flesh things out. Marriott's "My One and Only" features "'s wonderful ... 's marvelous" music (assuming you don't get too hung up over context), a perfectly "'s solid" production from director Tammy Mader and her likable stars, Summer Naomi Smart and Andy Lupp, "'s splendid" tapping and a totally "'s stupid" plot.
So do you need veracity with your singing, your dancing and your Gershwin? You decide. But you won't get it here. Originally conceived in 1983 as a royalty-spinning vehicle for the great Tommy Tune and the famous English model Twiggy (who now is close to retirement age, but don't let that depress you), "My One and Only" was designed to find a new way to showcase the songs the Gershwins wrote for "Funny Face" and other shows of the 1920s that dated more quickly than their timeless scores.
The show is famous for its traumas on the way to Broadway (there were numerous versions of this mongrel). The late Peter Stone, with the unlikely help of writer Timothy S. Mayer and uncredited avant-garde director Peter Sellars, eventually presided over a dizzyingly contrived plot. It involved a struggling aviator (Lupp), his feisty mechanic (Paula Scrofano), a beautiful channel swimmer with a Twiggy-friendly English accent (the glamorous Smart), an African-American song-and-dance man named Mr. Magix (knockout Ted Louis Levy), a minister of religious and tavern-keeping affiliation (Felicia P. Fields, in fine fettle) and, since such a piece needs a villain, a nasty impresario of vaguely Russian origin (Roger Mueller), holding our sweet swimmer captive in a way only a dancing aviator can solve.
In the midst of all that was slotted the likes of "Strike Up the Band," because it's a great number, period.
The problem with many of these retrofitted musicals, of course, is that the songs are shoehorned into the plot in such a way that they don't flow with much dramatic logic. That's an especially acute issue with "My One and Only," and it can only be ameliorated, really, with a heavy dose of tongue-in-cheek irony. That useful quality is not as prevalent in Mader's Marriott production as would be ideal. Her principals offer a mix of broad characterizations and dead-on honest interpretations (Lupp, a fine Chicago actor and dancer, can't help himself there), so that creates something of a disconnect throughout, although it flows from the material more than the production.
Thankfully, the dancing distracts constantly.
Mader's peripatetic choreography is zesty and ebullient throughout — Levy stops the show with his Act 2 tap number, with Lupp matching him step by step. At one point the romantic couple are on a desert island (you don't want to know why) and Lupp and Smart — both of whom are eminently likable throughout, if something of an unlikely couple — get to hoof it in a shallow trough of water, designed by Thomas M. Ryan. On the night I saw the show, that shower of hooves sent the front rows into a kind of splashy ecstasy that carried until the final ovation. The ensemble is tiptop, and Nancy Missimi's costumes and bobbed wigs are especially glamorous. Of course, you'll leave humming the likes of "How Long Has This Been Going On?" — which is always an interesting question.
When: Through Jan. 6
Where: Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire
Running time: 2 hours,
Tickets: $40-$48 at 847-634-0200 or marriotttheater.com
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