Theatre review: The Andrews Brothers at International City Theatre

Michael+D%27Elia%2C+Max+DeLoach%2C+and+Grant+Hodges+might+be+in+over+their+head+attempting+to+fill+the+shoes+of+The+Andrews+Sisters+at+a+USO+performance.

Photo courtesy ICT

Michael D'Elia, Max DeLoach, and Grant Hodges might be in over their head attempting to fill the shoes of The Andrews Sisters at a USO performance.

The songs of The Andrews Sisters have become timeless since the trio’s ascendance into popularity in the late 1930s. If you’re not familiar, you might have heard their efforts throughout moments in pop culture history such as “Mele Kalikimaka” in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree” sung by impersonators at a World War II-themed fundraiser in Gilmore Girls.

Many of today’s artists are still influenced by The Andrews Sisters—Christina Aguilera, for example, used the sisters’ hit “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” to inspire her 2007 hit “Candyman.”

Trust in the fact that there are more than enough songs in The Andrews Sisters’ repertoire to necessitate an entire musical. Cleverly written and created by Roger Bean, this musical marries 1940s tradition with wonderfully modern camp to bring a moving and believable narrative to life in a hilarious love letter to the World War II era.

It’s 1945 in the South Pacific and Peggy Jones (Kelley Dorney) is a pin-up starlet excited to perform her first USO show with doo-wop sensations The Andrews Sisters. When the sisters are quarantined by a flu outbreak (and the timeliness of this to today’s current events does not escape me), Peggy prepares for her debut with F-grade soldiers and stage hands, Patrick (Max DeLoach), Lawrence (Michael D’Elia), and Max Andrews (Grant Hodges). The three brothers are tasked with filling the legendary high-heeled shoes of The Andrews Sisters by pushing the envelope beyond where USO shows have ever ventured before.

Director and choreographer Jamie Torcellini understands the stage’s space and keeps it relatively simple to focus on the rehearsal/performance concept of the show as well as to have minimal obstacles for the ever-moving ensemble, shifting props, and even a moment of audience participation.

I’m typically mixed on the opinion about audience involvement in shows (it’s done best in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and done worst in too many productions to count).

However, I did not have time to objectively weigh the pros and cons of its use in this show as I was interrupted in my fourth row seat by the lovely Michael D’Elia, completely done up in The Andrews Sisters drag. “You look like you’re up for anything,” he said. He didn’t say it in the hooker-like fashion you read that as just now, I promise. It was more of an in-character suggestion that I be completely open to be escorted onstage for a comedic bit along with another gentleman.

As this is my review, I am fortunate enough to be in the position to let you all know that I was a marvelous vision of grace and poise who took direction well from the tiny dynamo that is Kelley Dorney—take my word for it, please. Objectively, the audience did laugh and the other willing participant, an elderly gentleman from Australia, looked like he was having the time of his life.

We’ll call it a success. Above all, the four cast members were incredible at handling such variables as impromptu actors very well. And why wouldn’t they? Last-minute improvisation is the very nature of the story!​

While we’re on the subject of applauding the acting performances, all four actors were phenomenal. Dorney’s chipper and enthusiastic exterior makes her a perfect pin-up with a few sultry moments to spice up the proceedings. Superior to all of that—the girl’s got a voice that’s a force to be reckoned with. Max DeLoach displays hyperventilating nervousness with tremendous comedic chops, D’Elia anchors many scenes with sardonic wit that is expressed with expert precision and timing, and Grant Hodges enchants the audience with his winning smile and impressively charming delivery. Well done, all.

The Andrews Brothers is a genius decision by International City Theatre’s creative minds to bring to Long Beach. If I had to imagine a show that would appeal both to the city’s deep LGBTQ audience as well as even the most conservative of senior citizens, I’d have been stumped—until now.

The Andrews Brothers runs until March 8 at International City Theatre, 330 East Seaside Way in Long Beach, 90802. Tickets are on sale starting at $49. Online ticketing is available at internationalcitytheatre.org. The theater’s box office can be reached at (562) 436-4610.