Regional Reviews: Seattle
Two For The Show
For the past two seasons subscribers at Seattle's historic Fifth Avenue Theatre have been promised a stage adaptation of Easter Parade, starring Tommy Tune and Sandy Duncan. Unfortunately, Easter Parade has yet to materialize. In a recent interview with Tommy Tune, he mentions that Irving Berlin's daughters, who currently control the rights to their father's songs, are not happy with the workshops Easter Parade has received in New York and Australia and want Peter Stone to rework the book. As Mr. Stone is currently reworking another Irving Berlin musical, Annie Get Your Gun, it may be a while before the Fifth Avenue Theatre or Broadway sees Easter Parade.
Luckily, Tommy Tune and Sandy Duncan have joined forces and, in keeping with the plot of Easter Parade, have put together a throwback to the days of Vaudeville by presenting a double bill of their acts entitled Two for the Show, which runs in Seattle until December 20th. As each of them had an act with which they had been touring, they decided to combine them into a single evening; Tommy Tune taking the first act, Sandy Duncan taking the first part of the second act, and the two joining forces for the big finale of the show, a sneak peak at some of the numbers of Easter Parade.
At first glance, the two make an odd couple; at a self-professed 5-foot 18-inch height, Tune towers over the 5-foot 4-1/2-inch Duncan. But the two are highly suited together; she spent years as the boy who never grew up in Peter Pan and he's a youthful sprite who only grew up in terms of height. The two have worked together before, co-starring on Broadway in the 1980's in My One and Only and before that, a 19-year-old Tune was the dance partner for the 12 year old Duncan in Texas.
Their shows, both of which have been performed at various nightclubs and symphony halls across the country, feature Tune and Duncan sharing the stage with other performers. Tune is joined by the Manhattan Rhythm Kings, who back him up instrumentally (in addition to the sixteen piece orchestra), vocally, and in dance. His show is mainly standards of yesteryear, the most contemporary song being Peter Allen's "Everything Old is New Again." After starting the evening with a medley of love songs, Tune proved that he has recovered from the injury incurred during Stage Door Charley/Busker's Alley, and was back to his 'twinkletoes' self (literally, thanks in no small part to the silver sequined tap shoes he wore). It was wonderful to see him back in prime tapping form, as few performers work a stage or a number with such ease as Tommy Tune.
The Rhythm Kings were used to great effect, the best being an imaginative number, "The After-Beat Beat," which had them joining Tune to perform as a single dancer, one in front of the other. Tune also proved himself to still be in good voice with his solo numbers, including a dramatic "They Can't Take That Away from Me," sung with a rarely performed verse. Overall, it was a polished act that displayed Tommy Tune at his dancing, singing, and personable best.
After a brief intermission, the stage belonged to Sandy Duncan, her husband, dancer/choreographer Don Correia, and Guy Stroman, who originated the role of Frankie in Forever Plaid. Unlike Tune's show, in which he was definitely the starring performer and used the other performers as backup, Duncan's show was more a show of three equals, which had its pluses and minuses. The most magical moments in the show were those that included all three performers doing numbers which were almost mini-playlets. Their version of "Two Ladies" (revised to "Two Fellows") was incredibly funny and well choreographed. An extended number which featured Duncan singing "Ten Cents a Dance" as a dance hall hostess while the two men took turns savagely dancing with her, was in turns touching, hysterical, and heart rending. It ended with an incredibly sensual dream ballet with her husband, and showcased all three performers at their best. Duncan also scored with a passionate "How Long has This Been Going On" and a "Neverland" which proved she still could fly back to Broadway as Peter Pan. Unfortunately, solo numbers by her cohorts, while good, were not as magical as Duncan's and left one wishing to see more of her. At 53, she is still in great dancing form, with incredible high kicks, and remains a highly personable performer.
The highlight of the evening was the brief glimpse of Easter Parade. Joined by seventeen singers and dancers, Tune and Duncan, looking stunning in fiery red bowlers and tuxes, performed several numbers from the show, and if they are any indication, the two of them would be absolutely perfect in the roles played by Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. Their natural ease and chemistry together, combined with their strong voices and dancing abilities, makes one hope that they will still be available when Easter Parade reemerges in a year or more's time. With Sandy Duncan set to enter Chicago as Roxie, and Tommy Tune about to start EFX in Las Vegas, it does not look to promising, but hopefully, fate will take its cue from musical comedies and provide us with a happy ending.