The show is initially set backstage at Zangler's Follies, where would-be hoofer Bobby Child (Matt Loehr) -- a reluctant lawyer-in-training by day -- is trying to wow impresario Zangler (Michael Brian Dunn) with his fancy footwork. (A hint to auditioners past and present: It really doesn't help your cause to use the producer as a coat rack.)
From the moment he enters, Loehr is astounding as Bobby, fully inhabiting the role. He is a triple threat, definitely, but a quadruple one if you factor in charisma. He's a goofball one moment, a smoothie the next (sometimes both at once), and always, always in motion, even when only mentally.
As Bobby's romantic counterpart, sassy postmistress Polly Baker -- whom he meets while traveling to Nevada to foreclose on a long-shuttered theater -- Vanessa Sonon is every bit Loehr's match. The role could be really annoying in the wrong hands, but Sonon lends a keen intelligence to Polly's every move: she may be a hick, but she's not a cliché. Plus, Sonon's lovely if ever-so-slightly raspy voice (there's a touch of topaz in her low register) aid her exquisite interpretation of two nonpareil Gershwin standards, "Someone to Watch over Me" and "But Not for Me."
Among the other standouts in the cast are tap-whiz Ephie Aardema as an adorably gung-ho if dimwitted chorine, and Anna McNeely, who plays both Bobby's frosty grande dame of a mother and Mrs. Fodor, a game if hyper-demanding guidebook pioneer.
Unfortunately, Natalie Joy Johnson disappoints as the socialite Irene Roth, Bobby's self-appointed fiancée; one waits in vain for Irene's S&M-tinged turnabout song "Naughty Baby" to ignite. Nor is she well partnered by Michael Halling as the scheming saloonkeeper Lank Hawkins, who wants to take over the theater and Polly in the bargain. Halling's penchant for milking his scenes creates the only real longueurs in what is admittedly a rather lengthy show (running close to three hours).
The rest of the show seems to whiz by only too quickly, thanks to Mark Martino's sprightly direction, Shea Sullivan's snappy choreography, and a peppy orchestra under music director William Johnson's baton. Dan Kuchar's sketchily allusive sets get the job done with a minimum of fuss, and Jose Rivera's costumes -- especially for a lineup of pink-clad, pink-wigged high-kickers -- summon a lost world worth retrieving.
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