WINTER PARK — It’s pretty apparent right away why those Andrews Brothers didn’t get into the military during World War II. Lawrence is clumsy and has poor eyesight (he’s blind without his glasses), Patrick has asthma and a rough stutter (especially when he’s around women), and Max is flat footed and not likely to make it on “Dancing With The Stars” anytime soon.
But the three brothers do get a lucky break: they’re hired as the technical crew for a USO concert featuring their favorite performers, the Andrews Sisters, who are on their way to deliver a performance for the soldiers before they head out to fight the Axis powers. So imagine their supreme disappointment when they learn one of the Andrews Sisters has gotten the chicken pox and their concert has been cancelled….
Of course, you know that’s never the end of the story.
One of the sheer pleasures of The Winter Park Playhouse’s production of the musical comedy The Andrews Brothers, which opened on Friday night, is that you know exactly what’s coming in the second act, but the show vastly exceeds your best expectations. While the initial set-up for the concert itself is cute and clever, the high-speed antics in the second half are side-splitting from start to finish. If you need a bout of escapism from the daily headlines, this is the show for you.
What Is The Musical The Andrews Brothers?
The Andrews Brothers, which runs through April 11, was created by Roger Bean, who also created the long-running hit The Marvelous Wonderettes. Bean uses this show to revive the music of the Andrews Sisters, but in a story that feels a lot more like the Jack Lemmon-Tony Curtis classic movie Some Like It Hot than a light 1940s comedy.
Set in the early 1940s, the three stagehands are preparing for the show when they get to meet singer Peggy Jones, who takes a liking to Patrick, and he does to her as well — although his non-stop stuttering doesn’t help his chances with her, and neither does his natural shyness. But Peggy is quite impressed to learn that the three brothers are not only devoted Andrews SIsters fans, but also know all their songs by heart and can sing each one beautifully. So when the cable comes in that the Andrews Sisters will have to cancel the show, Peggy comes up with an ingenious solution. The concert stage is set back a bit from where the Army boys will be seated, and …. they probably wouldn’t really notice if those classic songs were performed by … you know who …
That set-up ends the first act, but it’s the ideal lead in for Act 2, when our three boys take the plunge and do their best drag performances. Well, okay, there are some stumbles along the way: Lawrence can’t see without his glasses, Max is anything but a graceful dancer, and Patrick continues stuttering whenever Peggy joins them for a number. But even more hilarious is just how fast-paced the action becomes, and the boys and Peggy rush to expertly gloss over any fumble, stumble or bumble that happens. And they do it with the most superb comedic timing you could image.
Why Is The Andrews Brothers So Funny?
The four-member cast is pretty outstanding in this one. Both Bert Rodriguez as the clutzy but good-natured Lawrence and Brance Cornelius as the rather bossy Max turn moments that could have been merely silly into comedic highlights, and Tay Anderson matches them as Peggy; she truly does her superhuman best to keep disaster at bay. And it’s impossible not to marvel at Kevin Kelly riotous portrayal of the stuttering Patrick; his graceful gift for slapstick adds enormously to the show’s appeal.
And there’s hardly a funnier moment than when Peggy and the boys — err, girls — bring two men from the audience onto the stage for two numbers. The two gentlemen those chose on Friday night instantly got into the spirit of the fun, and the two numbers were absolute knockouts.
You’ll also be surprised at just how good those old Andrews Sisters songs still are all these decades later, and how much fun it is to listen to numbers like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree,” “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive.”
And if you’re so inclined, check out the Winter Park Playhouse’s special G.I. Jive drink, made from three types of rum mixed with fruit juice. It’s pretty delightful as well.
Where Can I See The Andrews Brothers?
The Andrews Brothers s being performed at The Winter Park Playhouse at 711 Orange Ave. Suite C in Winter Park. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. with 2 p.m. matiness.
Ticket prices are $45 for evening shows, $42 for seniors during evenings, $36 for matinees, and $20 for student and theatrical industry professionals. Student rush “$10@10” allows students to take advantage of $10 tickets (for students 25 years and younger) 10 minutes prior to a performance when seats are available. The Winter Park Playhouse is also offering military discounts for this show. Retired members of the military get $5 off the regular rate for themselves and a guest. Active military and guest always pay $20 for all tickets.
For more tickets and information call the box office at 407-645-0145 or visit WPP online.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright, and author of the book When I Woke Up, You Were All Dead. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.