No, No, Nanette
Book by Otto Harbach and Frank Mandel
Music by Vincent Youmans
Lyrics by Irving Caesar and Otto Harbach
Adapted by Burt Shevelove
Directed by Albert Walsh
"Life's really worth living," Nanette sings, wide-eyed and dull, to her uncle Jimmy. "When you are mirth giving, why can't I give some to you?" It is quite clear, even in this first act number "I Want to Be Happy," that The Heights Players
' production of No, No, Nanette
will deliver classic musical comedy with all of its campiness and predictability, resulting in a charming and amusing, but hardly effectual show.
The production, which ran for the last three weekends of October, tells the farcical story of a young Manhattan heiress, Nanette (Ashley Brown), who runs off to Atlantic City for the weekend leaving her fiancé Tom (Patrick Hill) behind. Meanwhile, her wealthy uncle Jimmy (Tom Levy) is married to the miserly Sue (Deborah Elliot). With so much disposable income, he becomes the benefactor of three young women in need of financial support. Despite the purity of his intentions and the fear of his wife becoming aware of their arrangement, the women decide to blackmail him for more money.
The Heights Players' black box theater brings the 1920s musical comedy down to an intimate size. The production has a simple set and very few technical elements, making the humanity of the story its focus. Nevertheless, the production lacks any sort of new interpretation to the 86-year-old musical. Of course the lyrics, music and context of the book are non-negotiable; but one gets the sense that, in terms of direction, little imaginative effort was made to bring a new angle to the work.
However, the cast's performances were still strong. A standout performance came from Debbi Burdett, playing Sue's compassionate and funny friend, Lucille Early. A veteran performer, Burdett, belts the number "Where Has My Hubby Gone Blues," with a touching honesty and sensitivity that makes it the production's most endearing performance.
This staging of No, No, Nanette had a few moving moments and more than a few that seemed contrived. It possessed all of the standard musical comedy trappings that make for an entertaining show without being truly interesting.