The Coyote Stageworks production of “The Andrews Brothers: A Madcap Musical Salute to the Swinging ’40s” is a tale of two tales.
The first act is the story of three stagehands named Andrews who long for a shot at entertaining the troops during World War II with pinup star Peggy Jones and the Andrews Sisters. The exposition reveals that the brothers were classified 4F, but they still want to do their part for the war effort. So they rehearse with Peggy as her backup singers until the Andrews Sisters arrive.
The second act is their show. The Andrews Sisters’ flight is canceled, so the Andrews brothers don female army attire and do the Andrews Sisters’ act – high harmonies, dance moves and all.
If it sounds hokey, well, the first act is. But the second act is a lot of fun.
The difference? The first act is performed with a fourth wall. It’s supposed to be real. So the schtick comes off as threadbare. But the fourth wall is torn down for the second act, so it’s OK to be presentational. We accept the schtick as part of show biz from the 1940s. Now we just can’t get enough of guys in women’s clothing showing us their boxer shorts, or in some cases, their briefs.
We can even believe that the bald brother who keeps stepping on Peggy’s toes in rehearsals is suddenly an expert dancer in high heels in the second act.
What’s most important is that Michael Paternostro, Larry Raben and Jamie Torcellini as the Andrews brothers really are good singers, actors and dancers and the have the tight harmonies of the ’40s, even if their voices are a little deeper than Patty, Maxine and LaVerne’s. Paternostro and Torcellini have multiple Broadway credits and Raben is a founding member of Coyote Stageworks who played Leo Bloom on Broadway and in Las Vegas.
Bets Malone, as Peggy, has that fast-talking nasal patter of the ‘40s down beautifully to make her the highlight of the first act. She created the role of Suzy in the off-Broadway production of “The Marvelous Wonderettes” and has done many shows throughout Southern California.
Nicholas Degruccio directs this combination musical/musical revue by Roger Bean, who also created “The Marvelous Wonderettes.” It’s also elevated above the average local jukebox musical because the great Andrews Sisters repertoire is performed by a good seven-piece band directed by Colin Freeman, who happens to be Lorna Luft’s husband.
Coyote Stageworks perpetuates its reputation as a local professional theater company doing accessible works with “The Andrews Brothers.” It resumes Wednesday at the Annenberg Theater and continues through Feb. 16. Ticket information: (760) 322-4800