Go For the Dance, Forget the Romance

By Geary Danihy

“My One and Only,” currently running at Goodspeed Opera House under the direction of Ray Roderick, tries very hard to please, and if you’re into watching talented dancing feet, then you should be satisfied. If, however, you thirst for something more, perhaps a plot that’s more than skeletal or emotions that rise above the tepid, then you will come away wanting.

Originally cobbled together in the early 80s as a vehicle for Tommy Tune and Twiggy, “My One and Only” features a host of songs by George and Ira Gershwin, many of which originally appeared in the brothers’ 1927 “Funny Face,” the second of their shows that starred Fred and Adele Astaire. As such, “My One and Only” was never meant to be more than Broadway-lite, cotton candy for the eyes, especially since the connection between book and songs is often tenuous, no more so than at the end of the first act when Captain Billy Buck Chandler (Tony Yazbeck), having lost the love of his life, turns back to flying for solace and breaks out into “Strike Up The Band.” The song has little to do with the moment.

The problem with the current production is that, though just about everyone dances his or her heart out, there’s a certain deadness to the proceedings, and this can be laid at the doorstep of the show’s two stars, Yazbeck and Gabrielle Ruiz, who plays the world-class swimmer Edythe Herbert. Whatever their individual talents, and they are manifest, the two simply don’t click together on any level. They sing their songs of love, dance their wooing dances and embrace at appropriate moments, but the electricity between the two isn’t enough to light a 20-watt bulb.

Whatever life this production has is provided by the supporting cast, specifically Trent Armand Kendall as the Rev. J. D. Montgomery, a man who caters to more than his flock’s spiritual needs, and Kirsten Wyatt as Mickey, Captain Billy’s sassy mechanic. Both seem to be having a good time up on the stage, hamming it up when necessary. Khris Lewin as Prince Nicolai, Edythe’s manager, perhaps takes the hamming-up a bit too far (he does everything he can to elicit “hisses” from the audience as he goes about his villainous business), but there’s ‘life’ there, so he is forgiven.

For those who are Astaire aficionados, there’s a lot in the staging of this production to engender fond memories, especially a delightfully staged shadow dance, and projection designer Michael Clark gives the audience some wonderful visual moments, the best of which is the use of white umbrellas as “screens” so that Captain Billy’s plane can soar.

Then there’s the choreography by Kelli Barclay, which is stylish and period-perfect. There are perhaps one too many ensemble numbers – mass-tapping can become a bit numbing if overdone – but the dancing drives the show, so one shouldn’t complain.   

If you go for the dance numbers, then “My One and Only” should definitely please. If you’re searching for a little heart and sophisticated give-and-take, you can stay home and screen “Top Hat” or “Follow the Fleet” and revel in the Astaire-Rogers formula.

“My One and Only” runs through Saturday, June 25. For tickets or more information call 860-873-8668 or go to www.goodpseed.org.

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