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A CurtainUp Review
No, No Nanette
review continues below
Today, No, No Nanette's bright, clever libretto, thin at best, seems hopelessly outdated. But composer Vincent Youmans' and lyricists Irving Caesar and Otto Harbach's magnificent score, which produced two national and international hits, "I Want to Be Happy" and "Tea for Two," is as entertaining as ever. Its awesome tap and ballroom dances are equally unforgettable.
The Encores! revival featuring the likes of Sandy Duncan, Rosie O'Donnell and Beth Leavel, and directed by Walter Bobbie is a crown jewel among gems. The cast is exceptionally polished. Gregg Barnes' costumes — from O'Donnell's prim maid's uniform, to the shimmering sheaths of the three gold diggers — Flora (Angel Reda), Betty (Jennifer Cody) and Winnie (Nancy Anderson) — to the snazzy 1020s swimsuits and the elegant tuxedos for the men were not only evocative of the times but quite possibly the envy of many a man and woman in the audience.
Harbach and Mandel based No, No Nanette on the comedy My Lady Friends by Mandel and Emily Nyitray. The lady friends are three women whom millionaire Jimmy Smith (Charles Kimbrough) has helped in various ways but never met. When they all write that they are coming to New York City at the same time, Smith's lawyer and good friend Billy Early (Michael Berresse) diverts them to Atlantic City where, with the help of his young assistant, Tom Trainor (Shonn Wiley) he proposes to buy them off.
Unfortunately, this is precisely the place where Tom's girlfriend (and Smith's niece) Nanette, tired of being over-supervised and constantly told "no, no" is planning to escape for the weekend. It is also where Jimmy's unsuspecting wife, Sue (Sandy Duncan) is planning on spending the weekend with Billy's wife (and her good friend) Lucille (Beth Leavel), as both of them believe their husbands are on business in other parts.
The resulting misunderstandings, confusions and eventual reconciliations, which take place under the disapproving eye of Pauline (O'Donnell), the loud-mouthed Smart Alek maid, are the basis for much singing and dancing only tangentially related to the plot, especially when the entire chorus miraculously appears. (Sometimes the actors give a wink and a nod to the audience as when Leavel asks, "then why did I just sing the blues", on finding out that her husband has been faithful after all. But in the freewheeling 1920s no one seemed to mind, nor should we today.
Jimmy explains his philosophy of life in "I Want to Be Happy." In "Tea for Two" Tom describes for Nanette the kind of life they will lead together if she at last says yes. In "You Can Dance with Any Girl" Lucille declares her freedom, gives Billy his own, and provides an opportunity for an excellent dance number.
Duncan is always effervescent but especially fabulous in the dance numbers. Leavel's opening "Two Many Rings Around Rosie" is a show-stopper. And Wiley and Davi are on winsome young couple that can also tap up a storm. Best of all, the ensemble is positively thrilling.
The only complaint one can make about No, No Nanette is that its run is so short. Keep your eye out for Encores! Damn Yankees, which will have a longer run this summer.
Try onlineseats.com for great seats to
The Little Mermaid
Shrek The Musical
Leonard Maltin's 2008 Movie Guide
Playbill 2007-08 Yearbook