My One And Only
Perfectly cast, excellent in its visual conception, and charming beyond all reason, My One And Only will make you forget all about political attack ads, and probably everything else, for over two hours. That ought to be well worth it, right there.
But I kind of think a few people snuck out at intermission, as two ladies of my acquaintance, separated in the audience in act one, were reunited in act two. Just like David Elder and Tari Kelly, up there on stage! And I think I understand why ...
The play, as calculated and concocted by Peter Stone and Timothy S. Mayer, has a fairly serious problem in its structure: it "back-loads" nearly all of its biggest, most beautiful Gershwin songs into the second half, so if you ducked out around nine-twenty-five, I can't totally blame you. (And who knew that you had to buy big Gershwin hits by the ounce, anyway? Otherwise, there'd probably be a lot more of them here.) But if you did stick it out, you were amply rewarded with a very delightful second act.
Call it a "dancing show," thanks to choreographer Dana Lewis and director Michael Hamilton: Harlem style dance, harem style, Havana style, hermit-crab style, you name it. And, possibly, a "costume show" too, as those are pretty amazing, grandly fulfilling each different whim of the "writers." There's also a very nice section in one of the longer numbers, where the men's spats, gloves and canes glow hypnotically as they tap like mad in the dark, under UV lighting. The whole thing is kind of trippy. In fact, given all the optics, feel like your old college friend who's turned into a tragic, desperate junkie: describing some awful new drug that will probably destroy me. But, in spite of the intellectual horror of it all, My One And Only sure does make me feel good (in act two). It's probably unfair of me to expect individualized introspection up there on stage, but somehow they get away without it.
I blame it on Mr. Elder and Ms. Kelly, who still manage to cram their whole hearts into this Stanislavskian thimble, along with some good comical second bananas, and the wondrous comic/dancing support of Dexter Jones (as Mr. Magix, a sort of Fairy Godfather to Mr. Elder). Without them, and that understandably self-assured chorus, there is no show. Zoe Vonder Haar: what a delight. She's the foul-mouthed airplane mechanic who saves the pilot, or something. Steve Isomhis first musical, he claimsbut he's so good as the Boris Badenov-type who's blackmailing the prettiest girl to swim the English Channel. Yes, the English Channel. And stop looking at me like that. Plus Larry Mabrey, smooth as can be, as a crooked preacher.
You have to remember that the show came out in 1983, not without ironic appeal, near the end of a fairly sizable recession (remember Reagan's "morning in America" campaign, a year later?). It was an extravagant, reassuring piece of fluff. It's hard to say if things are precisely as bad this time aroundthat recession was notable because the prime lending rate shot up past 20% just before this show premiered in New York, and the interest rate crisis left bankers staggering along the halls of commerce, as if they'd just given too much blood (I know, I was there).
It's almost scary to think the same show is being revived now, ironically or not. Maybe I need to see it again. My first time was freeI wonder how much they'll charge me when I come back, jonesing for more. All I need is that second act. Really, man.
Through October 7, 2012, at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, in the Kirkwood Recreational Center, 111 South Geyer Road. For more information, www.stagesstlouis.org or (314)821-2407.
* Denotes member, Actors Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers