George Dvorsky & Sally Mayes: Return of Pete ‘n’ Keely in Concert

| May 11, 2017

George Dvorsky & Sally Mayes

Return of Pete ‘n’ Keely in Concert

Birdland, NYC, May 1, 2017

Reviewed by Randolph B. Eigenbrode for Cabaret Scenes

Sally Mayes & George Dvorsky

Off-Broadway from 1985 to 2000 experienced a renaissance of sorts, producing a slew of popular shows with cabaret appeal—Nunsense, Forever Plaid, Smoke on the Mountain, et. al. While many of these live on in theaters around the country, one in particular hasn’t seemed to find the same fervent fan base—James Hindman’s Pete ‘n’ Keely, a send up of a Steve and Eydie-type duo. It was often dismissed as a lightweight schlock-fest with strong talent and great costumes (by Bob Mackie). But in their “return,” the piece seems to settle into its charm and, indeed, deems itself worthy of another look.

The scenario is Pete Bartel (George Dvorsky) and Keely Stevens (Sally Mayes)—once “America’s swingin’ sweethearts”—are now divorced and playing dinner theaters solo. Swell Shampoo decides to reunite the pair for a live 1968 TV special and, understandably, hilarity ensues. Dvorsky and Mayes deftly recreate that sappy Lawrence/Gormé appeal, lampooning both Vegas and variety shows of the ’50s and ’60s, yet balancing the style with an honesty that didn’t seem to play nearly as strongly the first go around.

Both in fabulous voice, Dvorsky delivers with an Elvis-meets-Goulet “Fever” (Eddie Cooley/John Davenport/Peggy Lee), milking the comedy at every turn. Mayes, more vocally showcased, finds a sophistication in her phrasing and interpretation, especially in “Black Coffee” (Sonny Burke/Paul Francis Webster), dazzling in its nuance and build. Together the pair more than complement each other, aided by Patrick S. Brady’s spot-on arrangements, particularly with “It’s Us Again” (Richard Gene/Jay Billy) and an outrageous, see-it-to-believe-it “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (William Steffe/Julia Ward Howe).

Yes, it’s lightweight material, but perhaps because of its stripped-down presentation, it’s also lighthearted. And in these current times, Pete ‘n’ Keely is innocent fun that we could all use a return to.             

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Category: Cabaret Reviews, New York City, New York City Cabaret Reviews, Regional

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