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|A CurtainUp Review
Pete 'N' Keely
Add almost two dozen of yesteryear's top hit songs.
Wrap it all up in the format of a live, televised reunion of a couple who could be Sonny and Cher, Steve and Eydie and assorted other Mr. & Mrs. Show Biz types.
Cast a dynamic duo with flash and pizzazz as the fictional couple.
Leave it to a pro like Ray Klausen to accessorize each routine with aptly amusing, deliberately cheesy set pieces.
Put Mark Waldrop, who seems to have an affinity for mock TV broadcast settings, at the helm.
This is exactly the formula that drives this entertaining camp confection. Like the downtown hit, Game Show, (Our Review) also directed by Mark Waldrop, Pete 'N' Keely is set during a live TV broadcast and has a light as air, snugly familiar plot, this time about the inevitable reunion of the long separated couple who are its stars. Instead of a present day TV game show, the clock is turned back to 1968 for a variety special. Actually the pendelum swings all the way back to the 1950s as "America's Singin' Sweethearts" Pete Bartel and Keely Stevens, ably accompanied by musical director and arranger, Patrick S. Brady and his little band, relive their illustrious career on TV, in Las Vegas, and at the top of the hit parade. Also duly recorded is their fall from glory and marital bliss. And, yes, for authenticity, there's an applause prompter and a sponsor, Swell shampoo ("If Swell can get Pete and Keely, think what it can do for your split hair!").
Bob Mackie's outfits look great on Sally Mayes and George Dvorsky. While Mayes gets more changes than Dvorsky, Mackie is an equal opportunity designer. (Watch Dvorsky's period perfect flared pants, how the lining of one of his jackets is color coordinated with the sequins in one of Mayes' outfits). Both performers have the voices to belt out this feast of old-time favorites, as well as some catchy new songs by Brady (who also acts as the TV show MC) and Waldrop. They'd be even better if their voices were not quite so pumped up with amplification. But then this is essentially a pumped up nightclub act which, thanks to a few cleverly doctored blowups of Pete and Keely with the likes of Ed Sullivan and Frank Sinatra, seems populated by a whole world of people from another era.
The flashback to Keely and Pete's story take us back to little Keely from Kansas singing "Daddy" on the Ted Mack amateur hour. A few years later, she's stalking Uncle Milty (that's Milton Berle for those of you not up on your TV history) in an Italian restaurant where Pete is a waiter warbling "Besame Mucho". The rest is history and duly recorded in song and dance -- a terrific take on "The Battle Hymn of the Republic", Pete's proposal on the Steve Allen show, their wedding on the Jack Paar show. The pair's musical range includes some fine scat duets. The end of Act One medley of fourteen songs zipping through every state in the union is a particular credit to their timing as well as Keith Cromwell's choreography.
Speaking of timing, the producers have timed their opening right since this is the kind of light holiday fare natives and visitors look for at this time of the year. So what if they're paying Broadway show prices for a two person variety act? If it's lively and fun, why quibble about cost. After all, it's the season to be jolly.