IF YOU GO
What: Musical about a London commoner who is the unlikely heir to the Earl of Hareford
When: Tuesday through Sunday evenings with selected matinees through Feb 11.
Where: 1380 Colonial Boulevard, Fort Myers (in Royal Palm Square)
Cost: $27 to $51. Show only $27.
Information: 239-278-4422 or broadwaypalm.com
Something Else: Ticket prices include meal & show; show-only tickets available
On the Web: Sign up to receive more theater news from the Stage Door blog via email.
FORT MYERS — Broadway Palm danced merrily into 2012 Friday as a revival of the theatre's very first show, British charmer "Me and My Girl," dazzled a sold-out crowd. All of Fort Myers may soon be doing "The Lambeth Walk" as the easy, breezy, feel-good musical sings, dances and delights.
"Me and My Girl" takes place in the 1930s; it tells the story of a London commoner, Bill Snipson, who's actually the son of a great lord. In order to inherit the house, the fortune and the title, he must impress some snooty aristocrats in charge of his father's will.
The original (successful) 1937 West End production had book and lyrics by Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose and music by Noel Gay. A 1984 revival featured revisions by comedian Stephen Fry and director Mike Okrent; that production ran for (yet another) eight years.
The current Broadway Palm production is in its third go-round, after the show ran in March 2011 at Broadway Palm West in Mesa, Az., and October 2011 at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre in Lancaster, Pa. The cast has long since settled into the roles - and local audiences benefit from seeing a crew intimately familiar with their characters.
Your reward is a genial treat filled with candy-coated delights - and served by a willing, willing ensemble. While it might not be "Shakespeare," neither does it aspire to be.
Consider the origins. The world was mired in the depths of the Great Depression - and Europe was staring down the barrels of war. The light, escapist entertainment - mouthy Cockney street rat disrupts a great house and fights for "his girl," complete with tap dancing, songs and sassy servants - was just what weary England wanted. Rather perfect for a depressed 2012 too!
While "Me and My Girl" has a message, it isn't exactly deep. And you definitely shouldn't look (or listen) too closely at the assorted range of "English" accents or the plot machinations, but you'll love every second. Delightful dance numbers (with tennis rackets, croquet mallets and dancing ghosts), big, bouncy company treats ("A Weekend at Hareford," "The Sun Has Got His Hat On") and soaring ballads ("Leaning on a Lampost") there' something for everyone.
The show's signature number - "The Lambeth Walk," named for a working-class street in London - doesn't disappoint. The first-act curtain number, the tune comes as Bill Snibson turns a stuffy, uptight party upside down by showing the nobility how the poor folks partied. Loud costumes, huge hats and flouncy, bouncy, break-it-down choreography entrances both the characters and the crowd. If you're feet aren't tapping - check the oxygen cannister.
Vince Wingerter, playing the role since March, knows his Bill Snibson by heart. Whether rolling on the floor with a bearskin rug (one of the show's funniest scenes) or mis-pronouncing any number of upper-class terms ("vermin" for "ermine"), he makes his fish-out-of-water seem charming and not a kooky joke.
Jennifer Weingarten brings heart and sass to her Sally Smith - the girl Bill might leave behind for his fortune. Her "Once You Lose Your Heart" is one of the show's heart-stopping ballads - and their dance-on-the-table duet "Me and My Girl" is a delightful love song; they even steal the silver at the end!
Look for Jeff Duncan as lawyer Parchester (the show makes a running joke of his ditty "The Family Solicitor") and the superb John Keating as a snobby English cousin. Whether in a topcoat, dinner jacket or swinging a croquet mallet, Keating (in a perfectly irritating whine) defines the snobbery of the English gentry and brings some great comedy to the piece.
While "Me and My Girl" rarely explodes off the stage - it doesn't drag; it just bumps along happily, merrily, with a song in its heart and a smile on its face ("White Christmas," for all that it could wring a tear, moved like a glacier). Settle in for a pleasant, two-and-a-half-hour romp filled with solid tunes and a delightful story.
Do as you darn well pleasey, email firstname.lastname@example.org! Doin' the Lambeth walk! Or find me on Twitter at @napleschris or read my Stage Door theater blog. You can also sign up to receive the Stage Door blog via email.