Center Stage with Pat Launer on KSDS JAZZ88
February 1, 2013
If Lounge Lizard is your reptile of choice, you’ll slither on down to Lamb’s Players Theatre for a sleazy, cheesy walk down Memory Lane.
“Pete ‘n’ Keely ” is a sendup of all those tacky ‘60s TV specials, with singers on stools who trade stale or cynical one-liners as intros to what were Old Standards even in those days. Think Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé with the marital sass of Sonny & Cher and the smiling smarm of Donny & Marie.
The tissue-paper-thin 2000 cabaret act is by James Hindman , with arrangements and additional music by Patrick Brady.
Pete and Keely used to be famous and successful – and married. To kickstart their flagging careers, they’re staging a reunion concert on TV, complete with Swell shampoo commercials, and us as the studio audience. All we learn about the couple over the course of two hours is that he’s a womanizer and she’s a lush (though neither is emphasized in this squeaky-clean production). And oh yes, he wanted kids; she was hellbent on her career.
They cheerfully demean each other before they miraculously rediscover their love and come together at the end. No surprises here; this is pure, predictable nostalgia, if you’re old enough to remember what’s it’s spoofing.
Lamb’s associate artistic director Kerry Meads has cast two of San Diego’s highest-profile comic/singers. Phil Johnson and Eileen Bowman are in excellent voice, displaying impressive comic chops and wide vocal range. But the show just isn’t funny enough to be a satire or deep enough to be a play, though the four-piece band, under the direction of multi-talented Brent Schindele , is outstanding.
Perhaps the real star of the show is costumer Jeanne Barnes Reith, who gives glitz and glam galore to Bowman and an array of kitschy tuxes to Johnson, with eye-popping sartorial splendor saved for the goofy ‘Tony and Cleo’ bit, a riff on Shakespeare’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ set in Cairo, which offers an excuse for the amusing “Hello, Egypt” number. The other clever musical creation is “The Cross Country Tour,” a coast-to-coast medley that includes every town, city and state song imaginable. The two most serious solos — Johnson’s finger- snappin ’ “Fever” and Bowman’s bluesy “Black Coffee” — are highlights.
One act of this frippery goes a long way. But excess is what that bygone genre was all about. So go ahead, indulge — if you don’t mind the bloat.
Now, if you want to sample something a whole lot meatier, in the comfort of your own home, don’t miss the new 6-part PBS series, “Shakespeare Uncovered.” Every week, in insightful, personal, well-made mini-documentaries, an acclaimed actor takes you behind the scenes and the story of a comedy or tragedy.
Some stage productions may strike you as a “Tempest” in a teapot. But there’s so much on offer, you can find theater exactly “As You Like It.”
The PBS series, “Shakespeare Uncovered,” runs on Friday nights at 9, through March 1.
“Pete ‘n’ Keely ” continues through March 3 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado.
©2013 PAT LAUNER