Vincent Youmans’ “No, No, Nanette” made theatergoers happy when it swept the world back in the mid-1920s, and again when it was revived on Broadway and beyond in the early 1970s. Primarily on the strength of its bubbly score, the musical for the most part succeeds again in this Goodspeed Opera House revival of Burt Shevelove’s revised 1971 version, making both Goodspeed audiences and its B.O. happy.
It was with happy-go-lucky period pieces like “Nanette” that the Goodspeed built its audience after the Victorian building was rescued from demolition 36 years ago. Surprisingly, this is the first time the Goodspeed has produced “Nanette.”
The production’s strongest attributes: the orchestra and the dance numbers, of which there are many. The singing is less happy, some of the casting is odd, and some of the performances are heavy-handed. But as directed and choreographed by Stephen Terrell, strengths outweigh weaknesses as orphaned Nanette escapes the kindly attentions of her guardians, aunt and uncle Sue and Jimmy Smith, to raise a little flapper hell before she settles down to “Tea for Two” through marriage to Tom Trainor.
The book is good-naturedly corny, and Terrell and his cast deal with it affectionately, though the production lacks the insouciant charm and deftness the Goodspeed used to shower on its revivals of ’20s and ’30s musical comedies.
Andrea Chamberlain’s Nanette is a baby-faced tomboy; she’s fun, though her singing is a bit shrill. As her love interest, Tom, Joel Carlton is too bland and his singing is questionable.
Ellen Harvey is one tough Lucille. She certainly makes an impact and has the slinkiest wardrobe, but she’s often too aggressive and down in the mouth with facial grimaces in her “Where Has My Hubby Gone Blues.” As her hubby, Billy, Mark Martino is closely related to James Naughton’s lawyer in the Broadway revival of “Chicago.” And boy, how he can dance, kicking even higher than the chorus girls. When he and Harvey step out together in “You Can Dance With Any Girl,” they’re terrific.
Indeed, the dancing is exhilarating throughout, whether it’s soft shoe, tap, Charlestonesque, or a riot of towels, beach balls and umbrellas in an Atlantic City number performed in period bathing suits.
The Smiths are cast older than necessary, and though likable, Gerry Vichi’s cuddly, bald Uncle Jimmy pushes too hard and Margery Beddow’s matronly Aunt Sue is unable to keep up with the chorus boys as either a singer or a dancer in “Take a Little One-Step.” She’s also not flattered by her costumes.
Elsewhere, costume designer Suzy Benzinger has done some stylish work. She risks tricky colors such as mustard and green and gaudy rolled-down stockings in act one, switching to summery pastels for the second act.
In the role of the aged maid Pauline, a droll Marilyn Cooper doesn’t milk her laughs too outrageously, and Uncle Jimmy’s three proteges — Tanya Kay Perkins, Donna Lynne Champlin and Jessica Wright — strut their stuff and jiggle their flesh with juicy enjoyment. The pert, sprightly ensemble dances and sings with tireless verve from start to finish.
Set designer Howard Jones opens the production with a front drop across which women advance through the ages from Eve to a flapper. And for each act, he has provided sets with considerable architectural detailing, from overstuffed New York Victoriana to Atlantic City beach cottage. He’s particularly good at designing bits and pieces that can be slid out of view to clear the Goodspeed’s tiny stage for action whenever dancing takes over.
In the pit, the small brassy band sounds much bigger than it actually is, with the considerable help of orchestrator Andrew Wilder, musical supervisor Michael O’Flaherty, musical director F. Wade Russo and the adept musicians themselves.