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Review: Gerswhin Revival

Tabard Theatre brings back the 1924 hit 'Lady, Be Good' with timeless songs by George and Ira Gerswhin

THE THEATRE ON SAN PEDRO SQUARE is a hidden treasure. It’s an intimate yet spacious cabaret theater with a long, beautiful wooden bar lining the back of the house where I could imagine watching a Jason Robert Brown musical or an Edward Albee play. But I had come to watch Tabard Theatre’s production of Gershwin’s Lady, Be Good, a romp about a down-on-their-luck pair of siblings, Dick and Susie (played, famously, by Fred and Adele Astaire in the 1924 version), attempting to help each other while wistfully looking for love. The play’s plot is pretty useless; the real attraction is, of course, the toe-tapping, innocent music of George and Ira Gershwin. While Tabard Theatre’s production of this rarely seen musical had some special moments, it didn’t quite display the kind of talent to match up with such well-known numbers as “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” and the title song.

The cast had a ton of energy; it was very easy to see that they were having the time of their lives onstage. But sometimes, it’s not enough for the performer to have fun, the audience has to enjoy it as well. The women did a great job on the tap numbers, but their vocals were pitchy, and the acting verged into “schmacting.” Susie (Mary Kalita), the female lead, had a Minnie Mouse–like, wobbly speck of a voice that was also regularly sharp, although she was the most charming and beautiful performer and definitely a good dancer. Hats off to Keith Pennings, who played Watty Watkins, though. He was a scrunched-up, Nathan Detroit–style cartoon character with excellent comedic timing. Gary Stanford Jr. showed no fear in playing an over-the-top Bertie Bassett. The award for best vocal, hands down, goes to James Creer (as Jeff) though, whose smooth jazz voice I could have listened to all night. If you’re looking for a family-friendly night of fluff, laughs and “aw shucks,” Lady, Be Good fills the bill.

LADY, BE GOOD, a Tabard Theatre production, plays Wednesday (March 24 only) at 8pm, Thursday–Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3 and 8pm and Sunday at 2pm through March 27 at Theatre on San Pedro Square, 29 N. San Pedro St., San Jose. Tickets are $10–$24. (800.838.3006)