Come here that bugle blowing as Patty, LaVerne, and Maxene sashay their way into your hearts at the Infinity Theatre Company’s production of Sisters of Swing: The Story of The Andrews Sisters. Directed by Jay D. Brock with musical direction by David Libby, this jazzy snazzy upbeat swinging good time is the feel good musical of the summer. It revitalizes all those swinging classics that made the Andrews Sisters famous and gives a quirky fun insight to the lives of these three talented ladies.
Set Designer Jake Ewonus transports the audience to a simpler time with the old-fashioned American drape banners hanging over the stage and all the old black and white photographs mounted in frames upon the wall. Ewonus lets the simplicity of the set speak for itself, allowing the actors to take the audience the rest of the way on this upbeat journey back into time to the start of The Andrews Sisters’ career.
The show has a few flaws that left me just a little disappointed – the main one being that the three ladies playing the Andrews Sisters do a lot of tap-dance moves but they never have tap shoes on their feet. You can’t help but want to hear the sharp snapping clack of a tap-shoe when you see that much tap dancing, and this little detail would have easily enhanced the magic of the show ten-fold.
Julia Burrows as Patty Andrews carries the show for the three sisters. Her constant level of high energy makes her a pure delight to watch on stage and her beautiful voice is heaven sent. Her starry-eyed bright hopes and brilliant smile give a warm and homey feeling to the audience and she keeps this attitude rolling throughout the show. Burrows gets to showcase her talent as the lead singer throughout the production but has a really jazzy and emotive sound during “Well Alright” and then really belts it out with patriotic flare in “Corn For My Country.” Burrows pours her heart and soul into each song she sings, having a great solo in “Hold Tight.”
The other two sisters LaVerne Andrews (Lynsey Buckelew) and Maxene Andrews (Jackie Washam) harmonize beautifully, but don’t have the level of energy Burrows does. There is a great engaging moment between Washam and Burrows early in Act I when the two sisters are fighting over clothes during “Near You.” Their childlike bickering is very believable making their sisterhood bonds that much stronger. Buckelew, as the oldest Andrews sister, makes a great mothering character. She nettles and needles at the other two, especially Patty, creating a bossy in-charge character that fits the trio’s dynamic.
Their music is superb. Buckelew and Washam have beautiful voices and they blend well in harmony as Burrows takes the lead. There’s a sensational moment where these three voices strongly sound like one during the opening of “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree.” And Washam has a brief shining moment of vocal sensationalism during “Lille Postbud.”
The show is made perfect with a live orchestra. Pianist Jonathan D. Cable has a lively sound when he starts hammering the keys and he easily gets the joint jumping as he jumps up and down in and out of songs never missing a note. But the real gem in this sisterly story is The Man (Steve Gagliastro). Playing over three major characters, including Bing Crosby, and other assorted males and females, Gagliastro is a complete show stealer. When he bursts in for “Beer Barrel Polka” donned as a fourth Andrews Sister its truly hysterical. Gagliastro has a deep commitment to each of his characters; as Bing he’s the suave charming crooner, as Danny Kaye – he’s zany and fun. Each role a little different and when he takes to high-heels and a fruit hat to sing and dance alongside the girls in “Rum and Coca-Cola” the audience thunders with applause for his moxie. He even plays the bugle live for “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” Gagliastro makes this show an amazing feat, so hats off to the “fourth” Andrews Sister.
Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes, with one intermission.
Sisters of Swing: The Story of The Andrews Sisters plays through July 1, 2012 at Infinity Theatre Company, presented at the Children’s Theatre of Annapolis Theatre Complex – 1661 Bay Head Road, in Annapolis, MD. For tickets, call the box office at (877) 501-8499, or purchase them online.
The Andrews Sisters website.