'The Andrew Brothers'

Ben Miles
ANDREW BROTHERS STARS (from left) Michael D'Elia, Max DeLoach and Grant Hodges.

Roger Bean has carved a unique theatrical niche for himself as a conceptual dramatist. His hugely successful show, “The Marvelous Wonderettes” – which after an extended run in Los Angeles continues as a regional theater perennial and has had more than 600 stagings from coast to coast – is exemplary of the type of musical play that Bean excels in creating. That is, he uses era-appropriate hit songs to deliver an ephemeral tale, all dressed up in period-perfect nostalgia. In “The Marvelous Wonderettes,” Bean transports us, via Doo Woop and light comedy, to a 1950s high school reunion. It’s a zany and joyful journey.

 Now Bean is offering us a glimpse of the 1940s in “The Andrew Brothers.” Staged by Long Beach’s International City Theatre, through March 8, Bean employs the “Marvelous” formula to bring rhythm and vitality to a comical improbability: Three brothers, who happen to have the same surname as the famous singing sisters, end up dressing up as, and standing in for, the sweet singing siblings who’ve been sidelined by the chicken pox.

 The Andrews brothers also carry first names that parallel those of the more renowned trio. While the latter group is well-known as Maxene, LaVerne and Patty, the male threesome single out as Max, Lawrence and Patrick. The brothers earn their keep as stagehands for the USO, and though the bros share the sister’s A-list last name, they are not of the same Andrews family. It’s an unlikely same-name coincidence that only adds to the madcap comedy set-up.

 Joyfully directed and cleverly choreographed by Jaime Torcellni, with period perfect musical direction (of a four piece band) by Brent Crayon, “The Andrew Brothers” ultimately depends on the prowess and charm of the four-member cast. No performer disappoints here.

 Michael D’Elia, Grant Hodges and Max DeLoach, as Lawrence, Max and Patrick, respectively, combine energy and vulnerability in creating their winning characterizations. When they team up on tunes such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and the hilarious “Hula Ba Luau” number, the entertainment becomes effervescent.

 Further, Kelley Dorney as Peggy Jones, the Pin-Up-Girl, becomes indispensable to the proceedings. Jones’s melodic rendering of “I Wanna Be Loved” gives sound to sensuality; and the moves Dorney makes in “Stuff Like That There” appear combustible.

As an added treat, two game audience members are enlisted to play along with the foursome, in a ditty titled “Six Jerks in a Jeep.” This bit is a tasty treat in this sweet Twinkie of a show.

With a South Pacific scenic design that evokes the south seas by Todd Faux, the marmalade motif of Crystal R. Shomph’s lighting design and the fabulous 1940s wardrobes of costume-maker Kim DeShazo, “The Andrew Brothers” has something to which we can all relate and enjoy: toe-tapping music, scenic eye-candy and big-belly laughs.

 “The Andrew Brothers” continues through March 8. Evening performances are Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. The International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Performing Arts Center at 330 East Seaside Way, Long Beach. For reservations call (562) 436-4610. For online ticketing and further information visit www.ictlongbeach.org .



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