Dancing sparks Gershwin musical in Bradenton

Tons of tap numbers highlight the Gershwin show from Manatee Players

mclear@bradenton.comMay 9, 2014 

A musical packed with songs by George and Ira Gershwin is almost sure to be a treat for the ears.

But it's largely the visuals in the current manatee Players production of "My One and Only" that leave an impression.

The songs -- which include such classics as "S'Wonderful," "Strike Up the Band" and "Nice Work if You Can Get It" -- are of course delightful, and all get adequate treatment by the 23-members of the Manatee Players cast.

But the production's energy comes from its barrage of tap numbers, choreographed by director Rick Kerby; the luscious and uncountable costumes by Ken Mooney; and Mooney's wonderfully evocative old-fashioned sets.

And, if you're a Manatee Players regular and you're the type of theater-goer who pays attention to such things, you might notice the debut of the company's newly-acquired LED lights in the great lighting design by Joseph P. Oshry. (Manatee Players recently raised thousands of dollars in a very short time to purchase the first phase of new lights that will increase design possibilities.)

The show premiered on Broadway in 1983, in a now-famous production that starred Tommy Tune and Twiggy. It set classic songs by the Gershwin brothers to a new story about a pioneering aviator who wants to be the first to fly across the Atlantic.

He falls in love with famous woman swimmer and tries to impress her by flying her to Havana, but they crash and end up stranded on an island.

That leads to the show's most famous scene, in which the two leads tap dance in a few inches of water.

That scene actually ends up being fairly unimpressive here; the rest of the dancing by Michael DeMocko, who plays the aviator, and Kathryn Parks, who plays the swimmer, is a lot more fun to watch.

Even better are the ensemble numbers, which are many, and often totally extraneous to the story. Kerby obviously prioritized dancing skills in his auditions, and he ended up with a large cast full of very able tappers.

DeMocko and Parks do good work throughout, but Manatee Players regular Brittney Klepper really sparkles in a large supporting role, and Beatrice Fletcher-Miller is wonderfully entertaining in her small role as Ms. Magix, who gives the aviator lessons in culture and romance. (It's a role written for a man, but Fletcher-Miller is so much fun she makes it impossible to picture a man in the part.)

There are some weak spots in the script and the production -- a silly story, a few too many flat notes and the inconsistent sound that has often been a problem at the Manatee Performing Arts Center -- but they don't do any real damage. "My One and Only" aims to be entertaining, and that's exactly what it is.

It runs through May 18 at the Manatee performing Arts Center, 502 Third Ave, W., Bradenton. Tickets are $27. Call 941-748-5875 or go to manateeplayers.com.

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

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