BWW Review: Swift Creek Mill Theatre's THE ANDREWS BROTHERS: Non-Stop Nostalgia at its Best
*Review by Brent Deekens
In a swingin' cavalcade of big band excitement, director Tom Width and his sterling team of singer-actors, musicians and technicians have packed a real red, white and blue wallop!
Complete with cherished tunes such as "Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree," "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive," "Hit The Road To Dreamland," and the inimitable "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy," THE ANDREWS BROTHERS is a figurative and (sometimes) literal salute to the Greatest Generation from an "oldie but goodie" era of American History.
Conceptually, librettist Roger Bean has written this WWII spectacle into a noticeably gray area between that of a "jukebox musical" and a "musical revue." A revue, like Rodgers and Hammerstein's A Grand Night For Singing, traditionally features established tunes sung as singular entities bereft of almost any story or character development. A jukebox musical, on the other hand, uses story beats and distinct characters to weave in and around an array of preselected songs that act in service to the narrative. Concomitantly, this veritable balancing act in dramatic structure can be done effectively (Singin' In The Rain) or can often prove to be something of a convoluted misfire (there are more than a couple of those out there...).
THE ANDREWS BROTHERS, dramatically speaking, is happily in a class all its own because it is, quite frankly, a musical revue within a jukebox musical. The show's sense of self-awareness is what makes it all work!
And to its indelible credit, the story is simple: the world-famous Andrews Sisters are "no-shows" for a USO concert in the South Pacific, so the Andrews Brothers, a trio of 4F stagehands, and their triple threat, pinup associate Peggy Jones rehearse and ultimately stage the GI concert themselves - with the brothers standing in as the Andrews Sisters!
And thus, the audience is affectionately bombarded with musical, hit after hit, accompanied by the likes of patriotic confetti, streamer curtains, makeshift percussion instruments, hula attire, vibrantly-colored serapes, wigs, skirts, stockings, taps, heels, as well as depictions of a moving plane, a jeep, a ship, and even a "Small Boat To China."
For, indeed, it cannot be overstated that every single musical number - 29 songs in all! - is handled with individualized care as a result of balanced (and often-uproarious) staging from Width, lighting from Kate Blair, and costumes from Maura Lynch Cravey.
The cast of four is also top-notch. The three brothers (played with athletic precision by PJ Llewellyn, Ian Page and Caleb Wade) look, feel, and sound related as they nimbly share the stage with the singing, dancing, and cartwheeling graces of the irresistibly platinum blonde Georgia Rogers Farmer.
Everyone's vocals sound fantastic, though special consideration acutely belongs to Musical Director Travis West. Apart from his deft direction of an eight-person swing band, his work on recreating those quintessential close harmonies of the original Andrews Sisters through the projections of three male voices was a captivating delight to my ears. Seriously, there just isn't a sound quite like that unmistakable three-part harmony; and to hear it sung aloud live (instead of on an old phonograph) has been an experience in-and-of-itself.
And this Mill experience, as a whole, is a must-see-and-hear!
THE ANDREWS BROTHERS is family-friendly for most ages, and runs through the 31st of December.