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Sensational Musical “The Andrews Brothers” At Annenberg

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Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic
Jack Lyons Theatre & Film Critic

When it came toe-tapping music and rhythm, one couldn’t beat the swing-time music of the 1940’s. It had tons of energy and action on the bandstand from the likes of Gene Krupa’s drum solos, to the clarinet riffs of Benny Goodman, to the golden trumpet sounds of Harry James.  In the dance department it was the era of swing dancing and the jitterbug.  To all Americans it was known as the “war years”.

As the radio announcer used to say at the beginning of every 1940’s Lone Ranger broadcast  “…we now return to those thrilling days of yesteryear” – but not out west.  Instead Coyote StageWorks, of Palm Springs is taking everyone to a small island in the Pacific where three “4F” USO stagehands prepare for the arrival of the Andrews sisters, who are scheduled to perform their USO show for the troops that night.

In “The Andrews Brothers”, created and written by Roger Bean, it seems the famous Andrews Sisters are a no-show for the troops tonight.  Patty Andrews has come down with the chicken pox and everyone is temporarily quarantined even the backup singers.  Peggy Jones (a vivacious, beautiful, Bets Malone), a professional entertainer and pin-up girl who was scheduled to open the show, now prepares to rehearse with the three stagehands:  Larry Raben as stuttering Patrick; Michael Paternostro as eyeglasses-challenged Lawrence; and Jamie Torcellini as older brother Max.

What’s a girl to do?  Why convince the three brothers that they can go on for the Andrews sisters instead – with her of course!  Its a big stage and the GI’s are seated a long way from the “girls” … humm …It just might work with no one the wiser… yeah sure, and that’s when all the fun begins.

But can “The Andrews Brothers” pull it off you ask?  When one watches the boys in Act One, do their comedy and dance stuff, one begins to think that maybe they just might be able pull off the gig.  Raben, as boyish, expressive-faced, stuttering Patrick (but only when he’s nervous) is a comic delight who dances up a storm.  Owlish Paternostro, who can’t see beyond two feet without his horn-rimed glasses, has energy, comedy timing, and dance moves to burn.  Torcellini, the somewhat height-challenged oldest brother Max, makes up for his shorter stature in energy, timing, nifty tap routines and wise cracks.  Choreographer Roger Castellano dreams up clever moves and routines that make the entire cast just shine in the song and dance sequences.

As ACT Two begins, the boys morph into “girls” as the Andrews sisters, and then it’s off to the zany, hilarious, comedy races.  Not only are several of the iconic Andrews Sisters songs like “Rum & Coca Cola”,  “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B”, and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” hilariously performed; there are twenty-six additional  songs of the 1940’s, that take the audience down memory lane thanks to Ms. Malone’s terrific singing voice and her comedy skills. It also helps to have a live seven-piece band on stage to provide accompaniment led by Music Director Colin Freeman.

Producer Chuck Yates and the entire creative team led by the inspired direction of
Nicholas Degruccio; Scenic Designer Josh Clabaugh; Lighting Designer Phil Murphy; Costume Designer Carlotta Malone; Wardrobe Mistress Chaneen McCurdy; and Stage Manager Jill Gold provide a feast for the eyes and ears, and the memories of those old enough to remember WW II.  And if you’re not old enough, then just sit back, relax, and enjoy this musical production for what it is – a fabulous show!

“The Andrews Brothers” runs at the Annenberg Theatre, in Palm Springs, through February 16, 2014.  For tickets call the box office at760-325-4490.


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