One of the strong points of the production, and a crucial one, is the singing. The voices, especially those of the primary players (O'Kane, Flaa, and Mascoretto), are quite appealing. Tunes like "Who's the Lucky Girl to Be?" "Love Is Sweeping the Country," and "Of Thee I Sing" are engaging songs, and although the cast doesn't project anything sensational, they sing them capably and with enthusiasm. Mascoretto as Devereaux brings a little more character to her role. As the cunning belle turned victim, she displays a wider range of emotions than the rest of the cast, who for the most part come across as simply gleeful.
On a quirkier note, Don McArt (Jan's brother) has an idiosyncratic presence. As Vice President Throttlebottom, he slumps about, overlooked and trampled by the crowds, preserving the age-old image of the invisible VP. Oddly enough, McArt looks like a cross between Alfred E. Neuman and George Burns. When he's quiet he has the devious but dorky presence of the MAD magazine character, but on occasions when he holds a cigar and delivers a one-liner, you think, Did he just say "Good night, Gracie"? Albeit strange, it's a welcome and comic addition to the otherwise not-so-memorable show.
Alfred E. Neuman for Vice President? Don McArt (left) is Steven Flaa's right-hand man.
Book by George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. Music and lyrics by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. Through September 24, 561-392-3755 or 800-841-6765.
Royal Palm Festival Dinner Theatre, 30 SE Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton
There is no energy between Mascoretto and Flaa as Devereaux and Wintergreen. Considering Devereaux is Wintergreen's archenemy, this is bad news. Whether she pouts, raves, pleads, or recoils, Wintergreen stands there, looking on as if he were off stage waiting for his cue. There is, on the other hand, amiable warmth between Flaa and O'Kane: nothing particularly romantic but the sort of solid friendship that probably inspired sayings like "Behind every successful man is a good woman." O'Kane is a believable girl next door, fresh-faced and wholesome. The steady character portrayals and singing make one wonder just how much the lack of stage space affects the overall quality of the performance.
By Of Thee I Sing's finale, one might ask, "Where's Isaac the bartender? I need a drink." The dinner-theater format at the Royal Palm is fading on the horizon and threatening to reemerge as cruise-ship entertainment. It has all the right components -- chicken in cream sauce, a battalion of yawning waiters, a herd of retirees, and a musical performance. But the Royal Palm Festival Dinner Theatre is an institution in its own right, having provided South Florida with 23 years of musical theater. The house is full. The people seem to be happy. For now it has its audience, but for the sake of keeping musical theater relevant and interesting to younger audiences, serious changes need to be made. This is entertainment at its lowest common denominator -- a few laughs, good friends, and good food. Like the smattering of cabarets that cater to older Cuban exiles on Calle Ocho, it serves its purpose and has its place on the continuum of entertainment. But who will fill those seats in another 23 years?