Reviewed by Claudia Perry
Bowing this weekend at the Act II Playhouse is the very funny two person musical comedy, "Pete 'n' Keely" with a Book by James Hindman, Original Music by Patrick Brady and Original Lyrics by Mark Waldrop.
This send-up of a fictional 1968 live network TV reunion of "America's Swinging Sweethearts" made me laugh from beginning to end. But it will only seem funny to those who know the acts that Mr. Hindman is spoofing, i.e., Steve & Edie, Sonny & Cher and Lucy & Desi. There aren't husband and wife acts like this around anymore, so a young crowd probably won't "get it". And that's a shame because both Denise Whelan and Todd Waddingon are dead on in their takes on Keely and Pete, respectively. Ms. Whelan exudes the over confidence of the egotistical superstar, while Mr. Waddington catches just the right amount of smarmy "I'm so handsome can you stand it?" charm. Both actors deliver these characterizations without ever going over the line into total camp - which makes it a delicious balancing act.
The score is a m_lange of old chestnuts and original book tunes. But it's so well mixed together that it was hard to pick out the originals. It is also an evening of mostly music making it a lot of material for two singers to perform and kudos to this cast for their vocal prowess and wonderfully stylized performances. Particularly hysterical was "The Cross Country Tour" where just about every city in America is sung about with its own song. Again, I couldn't tell if all of the songs contained in this medley were already in existence or whether some were created expressly for this piece. (A credit to the writing skills of Brady & Waldrop if indeed some of these were original!)
The only disconcerting factor of the evening was the sound quality. When Pete and Keely were on hand held microphones we gratefully heard every word they uttered. However, when they were being picked up by the ambient mics in the house, we had to strain to hear some things. And the piano, which was an extremely small instrument (it didn't look big enough to even be labeled a "Spinet") sounded as if it were being played under water. These two strong singers would have been better served by being more supported with a cushion of sound from the only instrument accompanying them. This is not a reflection on what the Musical Director Frank de Monaco was playing, but rather the degree, level and volume that he was playing at.
I do not know if the original show has the accompanist, Del (Frank de Monaco) and the sound person, Marty, as actual characters or if they were added to this particular production. The sound man (William Horton) looked great in his headphones and long hair in his well lit sound booth - but he seemed to be sorely underused. However, the piece directed by Ken Marini does move along at a good fast clip and never seems to let you down. Showing her versatility, Denise Whelan also did the choreography for the evening, and the dance moves she created which were both clever and playful, added a lot of zing to the overall production.
If the sound problem can be addressed, perhaps this show will "have legs" and be reprised at a later date or picked up and moved to another location as the terrific, "Big Bang" did not so long ago. Anyway, here's hoping.