Gershwin musical opens in Bradenton

Show features classic songs, lots of tap dancing

mclear@bradenton.comMay 1, 2014 

It's a popular musical that ran for two years on Broadway and won three Tony Awards. It features some of the best songs in the history of musical theater, by two of the most beloved songwriters.

Still, Bradenton audiences may have never before been treated to a production of "My One and Only."

"No one seems to think that it's ever been done before in this area," said Rick Kerby. "So if it has been done, it was a long time ago."

Kerby is the producing artistic director of Manatee Players, and he's directing and choreographing a new production of "My One and Only" at the Manatee Performing Arts Center. It opens today for a three-week run.

The show premiered on Broadway in 1983. It used classic songs by the Gershswin Brothers ("S'Wonderful," "Strike Up the Band," "Nice Work If You Can Get It") and set them to a new story, about an aviator who longed to be the first to fly across the Atlantic. Tommy Tune starred, and Twiggy played the girl who distracted him from his trans-Atlantic goals.

It was the first of several musicals that would use Gershwin songs in new stories. "Crazy for You" came nine years later and "Nice Work If You Can Get It" hit Broadway in 2012.

It's a difficult show to stage, Kerby said, and that's probably why it's not produced more often by local and regional theater companies.

One of the challenges of the show, he said, is its emphasis on dance.

"If you like tap dancing, then you will kill yourself if you miss this show," said Michael DeMocko, who plays the Tommy Tune role. ""A lot of shows have one or two tap numbers. The only time I take off my tap shows in this show is to tap in three inches of water."

DeMocko, who spent 10 years as a full-time professional actor, has appeared in several other Manatee Players show, including "Crazy for You."

"I would characterize myself as a song-and-dance man," he said. "This is a show I've been wanting to do for a long time."

Manatee Players audiences will get their first chance to experience the enhanced lighting system in Stone Hall. The company has been making a push to raise money for new LED stage lights, and has recently installed 18 new lights. They'll expand the artistic possibilities for lighting designer Joseph P. Oshry.

"I'll have one light that does 22 things instead of 22 lights that do one thing," he said.

DeMocko said there's another benefit to the LED lights.

"I sweat a lot less," he said.

Details: May 1-18 Stone Hall at the Manatee Performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. Show times: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets: $27-$37. Information: 941-748-5875, www.manateeplayers.com.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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