No, No, Nanette (Encores!)
8 May 2008 (Fri), Encores!
No, No, Nanette was a riot. It had a perfect cast, including a spry Sandy Duncan (who danced up a storm). The dances were plentiful and awesome, with more variations on tap than I could possibly imagine. Randy Skinner outdid himself: plenty of humor, variety, displays of awesome technique (“You Can Dance With Anyone At All” was amazing), simplicity when it counted and vast spectacle as appropriate. Even Rosie O’Donnell did a brief tap number, and not badly either. As for performances, Rosie was pretty much playing herself as the maid, which was exactly right for the part. If I had to pick one performer above all, it would be Beth Leavel as Sue, who wrung every bit out of her two solo numbers and other songs. She was great in Drowsy Chaperone, but this showed what she could do with real material. I would love to see her again in a musical. Michael Berresse was his usual super self as a dancer, and their dance together was a highlight. A dancer friend insists that he’s not as good as the choreographer makes him look, but I can only take her word for that. It’s true that his acting and comic timing are more TV-inspired and not in the same category as Sue, but he’s a very appealing performer in any case, definitely an asset to the show. Sandy Duncan was charming and bouncy and delightful all around. While she wasn’t quite as on the ball as usual, she made up for it in sheer verve. (I understand that they had an unusual second week of rehearsal for her and other older performers.) Nanette was also a performer I’d love to see again, Tom was fine, the three girls were all hilarious and nicely differentiated, and the Billy was a lot of fun. All around, the casting couldn’t have been improved (although they should really look for more attractive dancers).
The set was pretty minimal even by Encores! standards, with just a double staircase emerging on either side of the orchestra and a lone desk with a phone. But that turned out to be the right idea given the scale of the dancing. The costumes were terrific as well, especially those fantastic male swimsuits. (It was funny that the dancers shaved their chests for that. There was a big unintended laugh when Nanette sang, “What a day to be gay…”)
I had no idea how they were going to put this show in the confines of a small stage, but it was terrific, just the sort of thing they should be doing at Encores!. There’s talk of transferring it to Broadway, which I don’t believe will happen – unlike Chicago, this one needs a huge stage and gorgeous sets. But it’s still one of the best Encores! ever. I actually went back with a friend to see it again on Sunday. It was just as good the second time around.