Anyone who has ever uttered, "They just don't make musicals the way they used to," hasn't seen No, No, Nanette, the sweet and innocent musical comedy that kicks up its tapping heels and toes weekends through March 13 at Richey Suncoast Theatre.
Director Marie Skelton's delightful cast and crew capture all the madcap fun of the 1920s flapper days with none of the violence or mayhem shown in, say, HBO's Boardwalk, a tale told of the same era. The only suggestion of misbehavior turns out to be a big misunderstanding, keeping it all nice and light and filled with hummable tunes and finger-snapping dancing to I Want to Be Happy, Tea for Two, Take a Little One-Step and more.
Based on a 1919 play, No, No, Nanette was created in 1924, and the Richey Suncoast production has all the rhythms and speech patterns of musicals from that time, including the snappy, syncopated, rhyming couplets used in some of the dialogue.
Good casting and several outstanding performances make this show a happy-go-lucky pleasure from start to finish, thanks also to music director Stella Gaukhshteyn's four-member combo that keeps up the tempo and the pace, bringing in the show at just about two really fast hours.
Caitlin Ramirez is a doll as the spunky Nanette, whose excessively frugal Aunt Sue Smith (Tracie Callahan) and excessively generous Uncle Jimmy Smith (David Cruz) want her to stay close to their Manhattan apartment, where they can keep an eye on her until she's safety married.
Problem is, Nanette is determined to see something of the world before she settles down and grabs her chance when her Uncle Jimmy volunteers to take her to his Atlantic City bungalow, Chickadee Cottage, as his attorney Billy Early (Drew Lundquist) is dashing from here to there to extricate generous Jimmy from innocent entanglements with three young women to whom he has given money (and nothing else).
Billy's assistant is Tom Trainor (Chris Cavalier), who happens to be in love with Nanette and eager to marry her. Billy thinks his client is at laying low at the Philadelphia YMCA and comes up with a scheme to meet the young women at Chickadee Cottage and "buy them off" with the help of young Tom.
Because of the mixed messages, everyone — including Aunt Sue, Uncle Jimmy, Billy, Billy's spendthrift wife Lucille (Elizabeth Phillips), the three young women, Tom, Nanette, the maid Pauline (Vicki Knapp) and all of Nanette's flapper friends — wind up at the cottage, with what looks to be dire results, that, of course, all work out in the end.
Ms. Ramirez's Nanette is the linchpin of the show, but her cherubic face and flying feet find good foils in Cavalier, who plays Tom as a double-taking, mugging comic with an endearing romantic streak; Cruz, as a gruff pushover Uncle Jimmy, a wealthy publisher of Bibles; Ms. Callahan, as her soft-spoken, wide-eyed auntie Sue; and Lundquist, whose comic moves are classic and singing voice steady.
Two real treats are Vicki Knapp as Pauline, the Smiths' wise-cracking maid who gets off some of the best lines and never gets flustered, and Ms. Phillips, whose lovely voice is showcased in the 1920s style Too Many Rings Around Rosie, You Can Dance with Any Girl and Where-Has-My-Hubby-Gone Blues.
Also memorable is Taylor Elliott as the generously proportioned Flora Latham, one of Uncle Jimmy's dearies. Ms. Elliott seems to revel in her size, playing it up with a lovely smile and spot-on physical humor.
The show's frequent big production numbers are a challenge for any community theater, where male dancers are usually scarce. Ms. Skelton and her assistant director/choreographer Linda Hougland solve this problem by letting the accomplished female dancers, all decked out in glitter and shimmy fringe (thanks to Show Palace Dinner Theatre), tap up a storm on the front row, while the fellows do their own energetic gyrations to music behind them. It's not slick (and could only happen in community theater), but it's not static and is somehow so charming that it works.
The construction crew and scenic artist outdid themselves on the elaborate interior of a palatial Manhattan penthouse overlooking Central Park and two others, a beach just outside Chickadee Cottage and inside the cottage itself.
It's a cute show with good bones, and because the cast seems so compatible and eager to please, Richey Suncoast's version of No, No, Nanette is warm, friendly, happy, fast-paced, and fun.