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Stage Reviews : Saddleback's Revue Has The Flavor Of The '40s

July 18, 1986|CATHY DE MAYO

"Jumpin', Jive and Jitterbug" at Saddleback College seems special-ordered for summer--a refreshing musical retrospective of the 1930s and '40s that asks no more of its audience than to sit back and be immersed in its gentle humor and great harmony.

The revue is a collaboration of Diane King and Sheryl Donchey, who conceived, wrote and directed this collection of musical Americana. They have assembled a good-natured tribute to the pop tunes and often corny comedy of the golden days of radio that spotlights the work of the Andrews Sisters, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.

King and Donchey have chosen their material wisely and their cast well. King, Beth Hansen and Dana McClary are especially appealing as the Andrews Sisters; their rich voices produce some blissful harmonies capped by a silken version of "I'll Be With You in Apple Blossom Time." They also have fun dusting off old favorites like "Goodnight Sweetheart," "It Don't Mean a Thing" and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" in uncluttered, spirited renditions.

The real surprise is Jim Rule and Richard D. Rodgers as Hope and Crosby. They offer clever suggestions rather than awkward impersonations, largely accomplished by copying the comedy team's conversational rhythms. Rule is so engaging as Hope--and makes it look so effortless--that he overshadows the more subdued but also effective Rodgers. They pay special attention to the art of the throwaway, tossing back and forth the silly punch lines with a skill that makes it look deceptively easy.

A running narrative sketches in a bit of entertainment history, at the same time providing a welcome context for the loosely knit collection of songs and gags. But the focus gets fuzzy when the revue missteps from the 1940s into the 1980s by introducing a salute to the Manhattan Transfer's distinctive harmonies. Closing the show with a contemporary twist greatly detracts from the period charm that carries the rest of the revue. As it turns out, Manhattan Transfer harmonies are best left to the Manhattan Transfer.

The excellent band, composed of Jimmy Vann, Jim Honeyman and Irving Davis, contributes much of the jive, particularly in a neat instrumental turn preceding Act II. Donchey's period choreography provides the jumpin' and the jitterbug, producing plenty of action on the very limited stage space of the Studio Theatre, which has been fashioned into a cabaret for the run of the summer show. Paul Marek's fine lighting design nicely enhances Bradley Elsberry's atmospheric scenic and costume designs.

"Jumpin', Jive and Jitterbug" will play through Aug. 17 at Saddleback College, 28000 Marguerite Parkway, Mission Viejo. For information, call (714) 582-4656.

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