There's something so utterly intoxicating about a skilled tap dancer decked out in a spiffy tuxedo - top hat, tails, and all - commanding the audience's attention for a brilliantly exhausting routine. There's something even more so invigorating when a cast-full of local performers nail their respective, and original, routines. Many kudos are in order for Tammy Mader and her cast for their ability to bring such energy and skill to a dangerously saccharine show like My One and Only, currently running at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.
Full disclosure: I worked in the Marriott Theatre's box office for several years. Stowed away in the innards of the theatre, passing out tickets and taking calls, so no artistic input was given. The Marriott's in-the-round setting has often been the crux and highlight of what makes it such a special theatrical space. I saw shows come and go during my tenure - big brassy Broadway spectacles and smaller chamber pieces - but I can say, without a doubt, Thomas M. Ryan's truly innovative set for the Gershwins' jukebox My One and Only is an utter delight. I don't want to give away Act 1's big reveal, but anyone familiar with Tommy Tune and Twiggy's original 1980's television spots won't be disappointed. Or dry.
Tammy Mader, playing double duty as director and choreographer, lets the always charismatic Andrew Lupp (Billy) huff it around Marriott's stage, allowing his phenomenal tap dancing skills to shine. With a shining singing voice, his Act 1 closure, "Strike Up the Band," truly showcases this dancing actor's strengths. His counterpart, the effortless Summer Naomi Smart (Edythe), looks wonderful in Nancy Missimi's Prohibition-era costumes, the best of which appear in Act 1's Cuban-themed club scene. The ever-reliable Patti Garwood has assembled a top-notch orchestra, allowing for some stellar Gershwin licks to flow across the 88's, especially during Act 1's "'S Wonderful." Quinn M. Bass, Jarran Muse, and Clinton Roane nail their tight harmonies and precise group movements as the show's New Rhythm Boys. And it's nearly impossible to not want to give a mid-show ovation when Ted Louis Levy (Mr. Magix) and Lupp tap royale in Act 2.
This a logistical gripe, but I wish Ms. Smart and Roger Mueller (Nikki) didn't have to don such heavy European accents to help serve the story, but that's not their fault. The toughest part of My One and Only to stomach is, unfortunately, the story itself. Peter Stone and Timothy Mayer concocted a old-school Broadway musicale reminiscent of schmaltzy 1930's crowd-pleasers as a vehicle for Tune and Twiggy in the midst of the 1980's, but any current resonance was lost on me. Too many cutesie moments, winked eyes, and chewed scenery detached the cast and crew's otherwise pristine work.
Yet, forgiving My One and Only's predictable "will they or won't they?" storyline and odd plot devices (yup, Lupp and Smart get marooned on a desert island because ... it's fun?) is easy when the best dance numbers currently running in Chicagoland are a quick ride up the Edens.
My One and Only runs now through Jan. 6 at the Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Drive, Lincolnshire. Tickets can be purchased by calling 847-634-0200 or visiting marriotttheater.com.