International City Theatre had a hit last year with Roger Bean jukebox musical, Life Could Be a Dream, so why not have another go, this time with The Andrews Brothers, that showcases the tight harmonies of The Andrews Sisters—Patty, Laverne and Maxine—their snappy, close harmonies still bringing joy to the listener. This music is iconic, and the trio kept at it for decades, despite the internal rancor that eventually developed. But let that pass, the music speaks for itself.
The title gives away the premise. The time is March, 1945, the war is grinding on in Europe, and the American forces on land, sea, and air are moving inexorably toward the Japanese mainland. A team pf USO stagehands are preparing for a visit by the Andrews Sisters. These boys, Patrick (Max DeLoach), Lawrence (Michael D’Elia), and Max (Grant Hodges), are stagestruck wannabe performers. When svelte young singer, Peggy (Kelley Dorney), shows up in advance of the Andrews Sister, she recruits the boys to help her prepare for the arrival of the stars. She goes through a lot of songs, using them as backup singers and coaching them as their own talent starts to emerge. As they perform one song after another, their awkwardness dissolves like sugar in tea. But wait! Patty Andrews has come down with a contagious disease and all three sisters are quarantined and the major in charge has cancelled the concert! So guess what. The troops are leaving in the morning for their rendezvous with destiny, and Patrick, Lawrence, Max, and Peggy just can’t send the boys off to battle without bolstering their emotions with one last performance of song and dance. They defy the officer in charge, and in the second act, the performance goes on with Patrick, Lawrence, and Max showing up in drag as Patty, Laverne, and Maxine, and boy, do they look hot! The attached photos do not do them justice. Their masculine awkwardness keeps showing up for comic effect, but they nail the songs, with Peggy shining big and bright along the way.
As Max Andrews, Mr. Hodges, is the leader, smooth and sure of himself. Lawrence, Mr. D’Elia, is awkward and has a hard time remembering his lyrics. Patrick, Mr. DeLoach, is a shy, emotional sweetheart who dissolves into stutters whenever he is near the incandescence of the glowing, delightful Ms. Dorney. These performers are absolute aces, and under the skillful direction of director/choreographer Jamie Torcellini, and music direction by Brent Crayon, they are a hand that no trump can beat!
Among the twenty-nine songs that are performed, are “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Mairzy Doats,” “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive.” and many more songs I am sure I have never heard before, like “Any Bonds Today,” “Cockeyed Mayor of Kuanakakai,” “I’m Doin’ It For Defense,” “Rosie the Riveter,” and “Six Jerks in a Jeep.” My personal favorite—“Bei Mir Bist Du Shön.”
The four-piece band played their hearts out. They are Brent Crayon at the keyboard; Emiliano Almeida on drums; Dana Decker on bass; and the sensational trumpeter, Tate Herrmann, who gave the music the authentic sound of the 1940s throughout. Man, that is a lot of lip work!
The excellent ICT creative staff are set designer, Todd Faux, lighting designer, Crystal R. Shomph; costume designer, Kim DeShazo, sound designer, Dave Mickey; prop designer Patty Briles; and hair and wigs designer, Anthony Gagliardi. Casting is by Michael Donovan and the production stage manager is Donna Parsons.
The Andrews Brothers, produced by caryn desai and presented by International City Theatre, continues through March 8 at Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 330 East Seaside Way in Long Beach.