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Front Row Centre Theatre Review: NO NO NANETTE

By Mark Andrew Lawrence, Front Row Centre

The quintessential 1920s musical comedy NO NO NANETTE is one of the very few from that decade still regularly revived. This is thanks largely to a Tony award winning 1971 revival. It is the revised revival version that Theatre Sheridan is staging as their second big musical this season, and it is an effervescent delight.

A good deal of the success of NANETTE is due to the Vincent Youmans'' sparkling score. The two big hits "I Want to be Happy" and "Tea for Two" are well known beyond theatre circles, but there is a good deal more in this show. From the lively opening number "Too Many Rings around Rosie" through the energetic "You Can dance with Any Girl at All" to the blues lament "Where Has My Hubby Gone." Irving Ceasar's lyrics remain fresh and vibrant and note how he weaves the second act Finaletto around fragments from several key songs.

The story is paper-thin and serves mainly as an excuse to get the entire cast into their tap shoes and on-stage. Not that they need much of an excuse. Midway through Act One, the wealthy Jimmy Smith tries to cheer up his ward, Nanette by giving her $200 and singing "I Want to Be Happy." As soon as they leave the stage a chorus of glee club boys enter the living room and take up the refrain. Soon their girls join them for a show-stopping tap routine that galvanized the opening night crowd. But who are all these people and where do they disappear to between songs? 

They are billed as the friends of Nanette and they seem to be there to eavesdrop on every conversation. "No! No! Nanette! You told a lie!" they admonish in the second act finale. It is so wonderfully ludicrous that you smile in spite of the silliness. 1920s musicals were like this: all fun and frolic, providing nothing more than light-hearted entertainment. It is good that the students at Sheridan are being given a chance to explore this style of entertainment alongside the more modern musicals COMPANY (staged last fall) and FALSETTOS (to be presented in April.)

Lauren Busteen makes a strong willed and strong-voiced Nanette. She is paired with the sweet-voiced Justin Stadnyk in the role of her suitor Tom Trainor. Kristen Howell practically steals the show with her comic turn as Pauline, the grouchy maid perpetually locked in battle with her enemy: the vacuum cleaner.

Director/choreography Anne Allan keeps the pace crisp and lively – even during the first part of Act One when a great deal of exposition tries our patience, but soon the dancers are back and all is right again.

NO NO NANETTE plays at Theatre Sheridan until Saturday February 25. For tickets contact the Box Office at 905-815-4049.


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Mark Andrew Lawrence began his broadcasting career as music director for St. Catharines radio station CHRE. After six years there and eight years at classical (read more...)