Chicago Theatre Review
Accentuate the Positive
A Musical Tribute to the Andrews Sisters
As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of D-Day Fred Anzevino’s jewel box of a cabaret theatre, intimately tucked inside Rogers Park’s No Exit Cafe, is commemorating that event and the music of the 30’s and 40’s with this sparkling gem. Director/choreographer David Heimann keeps his show simple and elegant. He’s assembled a talented trio of lovely songstresses to portray the Andrews Sisters, to whose company he’s added an equally gifted young man, providing a contrasting masculine sound and helping transition between musical numbers with surprisingly timely War Years comedy. The result is a show that, thanks to Adam Veness and Bill Morey’s set and costume designs, transports audiences to both a USO and a supper club, offering dinner and liquid refreshments, in addition to the best entertainment Chicago has to offer.
The talented threesome from Minnesota developed a close harmonic sound that became synonymous with the Andrews Sisters’ name. Their music, composed by the best songwriters of their time (think Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer and George & Ira Gershwin), sold over 90 million records, with 46 of their songs reaching Billboard’s top 10. Some of their hits featured in this revue include “In the Mood,” “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree.” The cast is directed musically and accompanied by Alex Newkirk, so incomparable on the piano, playing Aaron Benham’s superb arrangements of these classic hits. Newkirk’s musical combo also features the gifted Anthony Scandora on drums and two extraordinary trumpet players who alternate performances, Derek Fitting and Jared Montgomery. This talented band of brothers are as much the stars of this revue as its singers.
And those singers…wow! Gorgeous brunette Jordan Yentz stands out as middle sister Maxine. Like her character, this singer’s vocal range is impressive and solid. Perky Casi Maggio, as feisty redhead LaVerne, sings beautifully with a twinkle in her eye that signifies a sense of humor. Lovely blond Sarah Larson portrays youngest sister Patty, whose smooth stylings and harmonies take the music to new heights. William Lucas plays the comic emcee, providing some welcome spoken interludes of humor and also sings solo and/or joins the ladies in several of the numbers. His strong, controlled baritone is like smooth velvet to the ear.
Featuring many songs that younger theatregoers will recognize and will take Baby Boomers on a nostalgic trip down Memory Lane, this show is a pure treat. The jitterbug bounce of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B,” the Latin rhythm of ”Rum and Coca Cola,” the military accent of “Anchors Aweigh” and the bright beat of “The Beer Barrel Polka” recall a more innocent time of radio and record players. From the lively “Accentuate the Positive” to the bittersweet ballad “I’ll Be Seeing You,” guaranteed to bring a wistful tear to the eye, this gorgeous revue is the perfect light summertime entertainment for every generation.
Reviewed by Colin Douglas
Presented May 29-July 27 by Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre at the No Exit Cafe, 6970 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago.
Tickets are available by calling 800-595-4849 or by going to www.theo-u.com.
Additional information about this and other area productions can be found by visiting www.theatreinchicago.com.