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Theater review: ’40s-style show a cockamamie idea but it’s a joy

Theater review: ’40s-style show a cockamamie idea but it’s a joy

The Theater Barn does everything it can with “The Andrews Brothers” by Roger Bean; for the most part

Hey, haven’t I seen “The Andrews Brothers” before, you’ll be asking youself?

Probably not, but you’ve seen something like it: “Forever Plaid,” “The Marvelous Wonderettes” and “Altar Boyz” come quickly to mind. They’re all part of a cottage industry of nostalgia, musical revues of songs from a particular era with scripts providing just enough tension and humor to get the trio or quartet to the next song.

The Theater Barn does everything it can with this cute show by Roger Bean; for the most part, the evening sails along on the strength of the performers more than the originality of the material.

Of course, the Andrews Brothers are really doppelgangers for the Andrews Sisters, the pop singing group of the ’40s. How so? Well, when the famous trio can’t make it to a South Pacific island military base for a USO show, three talented male stagehands who know all of their routines don heels and frocks and locks to give the departing soldiers one last bit of entertainment. Aided by Peggy Thompson (Lara Hayhurst), a pinup girl with show biz aspirations of her own, the guys give Uncle Sam’s finest a performance RuPaul would be proud of.

Solid performers

A cockamamie conceit, to be sure, and one that’s merely an excuse to hear some good ol’ ’40s tunes — many associated with Patty, Maxene and LaVerne — and to have a yuk. The production shines in both departments. Director/choreographer Bert Bernardi has a cast and an off-stage pit band, led by Adam Jones, that can pull off the ballad, the pop song and the novelty numbers with panache, and he works them hard.

‘The Andrews Brothers’

WHERE: The Theater Barn, 654 Route 20, New Lebanon

WHEN: Through Aug. 21

HOW MUCH: $24, $22

MORE INFO: 794-8989, theaterbarn.com

Ryan Halsaver, Tom Garruto and Trey Compton play the backstage hopefuls, and their ensemble work on numbers like “Rosie the Riveter,” “Shoo-Shoo Baby” and the “Hula Wana-Hini Medley” is pitch-perfect and funny. How they cavort so easily (hah, to the naked eye!) while dishing out those harmonies is a question only a young performer can answer.

As with the characters in the aforementioned shows, each “brother” has a particular quality: Compton’s Lawrence is so near-sighted he needs thick glasses; Garruto’s Max is the earnest, slightly dim fellow; and Halsaver’s shy Patrick, afflicted with a stutter, quickly becomes Peggy’s romantic prey.

Broad playing is what’s called for, and these three can play broad — so to speak — with a special nod to the triple-threat work of Halsaver.

Hayhurst, too, has her moments, in “On a Slow Boat to China,” with Halsaver (neat dance break) and Act 2’s “Stuff Like That.”

One number brought the house down at Thursday’s show, an audience participation treatment of “Six Jerks in a Jeep” and “I Want to Linger.” Unsuspecting audience members Patrick and Brian were pulled into the action, and Brian turned out to be every production’s dream amateur. He rolled with the punches and pulled a few himself, and Hayhurst, especially, treated him sweetly.

Visually pleasing

The onstage excellence is matched by fine tech support. Jimmy Johansmeyer’s costumes look great and withstand some rough treatment. Katie Kavett’s stage management is the way it should be: imperceptible. The set and the lighting design, by Abe and Allen Phelps, respectively, provide a suitable environment.

One reservation: balance. Sometimes the band overpowers the singers.

All in all, then, lite fun!

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