KPBS AIRDATE: December 23, 2005
Before the snarky sarcasm of musical mates Sonny and Cher or The Captain and Tenille, there was the snappy, mid-song dialogue, full of quips, jibes and banter, coupled with the rangy voices of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme. Now, the torch — and torch song — are being passed to Pete ‘n’ Keely. Of course, they’re a fictional couple – but their story and singing have all the right trademarks – the impossibly wide vocal range, the intricate arrangements of pop classics, and the dirt – including a very public breakup. And now, as both their careers are sagging, a reunion concert – on national TV – with all the sniping and backbiting of a schoolyard brawl.
“Pete ‘n’ Keely,” created by James Hindman, with musical arrangements by Patrick Brady, is a terrific showcase for two megawatt talents. And the production at the Ramona Mainstage Theatre, under the direction and choreography of Starlight’s Brian Wells and David Brannen, definitely delivers the goods.
Randall Dodge has spent most of his last year playing outsized, swaggering windbags, chock-full of braggadocio; first it was the brawny but brainless Gaston in “Beauty and the Beast,” and then, also at Moonlight Stage Productions, he became the swashbuckling Pirate King in the “Pirates of Penzance.” In all three shows, he’s quite the smarmy womanizer, winking at audience cuties all the while. His pitch-perfect humor is effortless and his voice impeccable, here ranging from a marvelously rich baritone to a surprisingly strong falsetto.
As his sidekick, as willing to kill him as kiss him, is Kristen Mengelkoch, an alum of the SDSU musical theater MFA program, fast becoming one of our local musical comedy treasures. She also displays a huge vocal range and versatility, from an alto growl to a stratospheric soprano. She’s definitely got the comic chops, as she proved last summer – and will reprise next summer – in the ever-clever “Tomfoolery,” a co-production of Renaissance Theatre and North Coast Rep. She completes the comical look with bulging eyes and pouty lips and wifely whine.
This dynamic duo will be together again in Moonlight’s upcoming production of “The Most Happy Fella.” Even though their current show is a little silly and predictable, they get to sing some great songs, like “Besame Mucho,” “Fever,” the “Battle Hymn of the Republic, and “This Could Be the Start of Something Big.” And they get very funny stage business and backup from two assistants – silently but amusingly played by Aaron Marcotte and Nikki McCabe. The effective, if pre-recorded, music is by Don LeMaster, one of our finest pianist/musical directors.
So take a ride into the country – and get yourself a good laugh – and a welcome release from pre-, peri- and post-holiday stress.
Make it a dramatic New Year – give the gift of theater this season. Happy Holidays!
©2005 Patté Productions Inc.