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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at City Center Stage


  PH: Joan Marcus

The hit 1971 revival of Vincent Youmans, Otto Harbach, Frank Mandel and Irving Caesar's No,No, Nanette ran 861 performances and won four Tony Awards. The 1925 original lasted 321, and was the most popular musical of the 1920s. The current version at City Center, the last Encores! production of the season has five. That seems more than enough.

Don't get me wrong. the new Nanette has fine performances, fun dancing and a happy score, featuring standards like I Want to Be Happy and Tea for Two. But the basic question is Why? Does Nanette really deserve another encore?

Didn't Encores! originally set out on a mission of rediscovery-finding and dusting off, forgotten, or almost forgotten musicals, giving them new lives, helping us to appreciate neglected, or undervalued gems? Go back to 1996 and consider, for instance, the Encores! Chicago-directed like this Nanette, by Walter Bobbie. The Kander-Ebb-Bob Fosse musical may not have been forgotten, but buried as it was at the 1976 Tony Awards by A Chorus Line, it was certainly underappreciated, and perhaps even misunderstood. Resurrecting, and revising opinions on a show like Chicago is in essence what Encores! is supposed to be all about.

But No,No, Nanette? What is there to rediscover? Even a lovely production that gets it just about right- a production like this one-is just that. Sure, let's enjoy. Let's smile. And not even an hour later-pretty much in the middle of the show-let's be hungry for something more substantial. Back in 1971, a prime reason for that revival's success was the return of many beloved stars from the past- Ruby Keeler, Patsy Kelly, Helen Gallagher, Booby Van, Busby Berkeley as production supervisor. No such rationale exists this version.

The best I can say about Nanette at City Center is that it was pleasant. The cast- Sandy Duncan, Charles Kimbrough, Rosie O'Donnell (in a comic turn as the maid), Beth Leavel, Michael Berresse, Shonn Wiley, Mara Davi as Nanette, and everyone else on stage- are perfectly nice. Rob Fisher conducts masterfully, -as almost always. Randy Skinner's choreography, complete with the requisite tap dancing, is-pleasant. Gregg Barnes's costumes are- nice. Bobbie's direction is just what it should be. ( I won't bother with a full summary, since you probably know the show. If you don't, just think 1920s flappers, silly comedy, romance, a philandering husband who isn't really philandering, and of course boy gets girl. Anyway, the story is slight and unimportant.)

Only once- in Leavel's Where-Has-My-Hubby- Gone Blues -is there even a hint of real emotion. And, of course, her hubby hasn't really gone anywhere. In the end, what you've got is a bunch of talented performers lending their efforts to dated material unworthy of their abilities. What should Encores! be trying? Well, this season's earlier production of Marc Blitzstein's and Joseph Stein's Juno, even though it was ultimately unsuccessful, is more in keeping with the original goals. ( No I'm not asking Encores! to fail. I'm just hoping that it will be willing to take more chances.)

Sadly, the result of its Nanette was three acts of tea for two, accompanied by white bread with crusts carefully trimmed. Let's hope in the future for heartier fare.


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