Regular Maltz Jupiter theatergoers will probably not be surprised to hear that Matt Loehr again gives an astonishing star turn in the Jupiter company’s production of 1937’s Me and My Girl. After all, by now they should be used to his stage antics, both comic and romantic.
Whether the material is sturdy (Crazy for You, The Music Man) or weak (The Will Rogers Follies), the unusually talented song-and-dance man has been a standout in whatever he attempts, winning three Carbonell Awards as proof, as if any were needed. In fact, his ability to levitate the weaker shows is evidence of Loehr’s true star quality.
Me and My Girl is not top-drawer material, but it is a terrific vehicle for a performer like Loehr. Its puns are wince-inducing, its book scenes will probably test your patience and chances are you’ll wonder what the motivation is for the several ensemble dance numbers. But those liabilities are easy to overlook whenever Loehr is onstage, cavorting with the manic energy of a Robin Williams or moving about with the grace of a Gene Kelly.
He plays footloose Cockney bloke Bill Snibson, startled to learn that he is actually highborn and the heir to the title of Earl of Hareford. The catch is – shades of Pygmalion – he must be groomed to act and speak like a gentleman and he must agree to jettison his similarly unpolished girlfriend, Sally (Julie Kleiner).
Along its way to a happy ending – hey, what did you expect? – Loehr has many opportunities to show off his skill at physical comedy. Watch him be enveloped by a billowy regal robe. Or wrestle a tiger skin rug that has a mind of its own. Or take a succession of pratfalls onto a stately couch. That he manages it all once is amazing enough. Doing so eight times a week is mind-boggling.
Director James Brennan played Snibson in the Broadway revival 30 years ago, when the original book by Douglas Furber and L. Arthur Rose was revised and made snappier by Mike Ockrent and Stephen Fry. So Brennan knows all of the comic business bits first-hand and he passes them on to Loehr with affection and precision.
Loehr commands and controls our attention throughout, but the supporting cast at the Maltz is also first-rate. Kleiner handles a few pining love solos capably and matches Loehr step for step on the dance breaks of the title song. James Beaman amuses as a flighty family solicitor, leggy Lauren Blackman vamps seductively as a golddigger who has set her sights on Snibson and Mary Stout earns her share of the laughs as imperious Duchess Maria.
The score by Noel Gay is steeped in British music hall traditions, which is to say that moving along the plot is rarely a priority for the songs. Still, the title tune is infectious, the first act finale (“The Lambeth Walk”) – complete with hand jive choreography by Dan Knechtges – is rousing and the 11 o’clock love ballad, “Leaning on the Lamppost,” is eminently hummable. And as usual, they all sound great, thanks to the musical direction by Helen Gregory.
The narrative takes us upstairs, downstairs and all throughout Hareford Hall, sumptuously realized by the ingenuity of designer Paul Tate Depoo III and lit with skill by Cory Pattak. The gap between the haves and have-nots is evident in Gail Baldoni’s costumes, from rich gowns for the swells to pearl button-laden duds for the Cockneys.
The Maltz does not stint on the physical production, but it could have succeeded with a bare stage as long as it kept the spotlight trained on the remarkable Loehr.
ME AND MY GIRL, Maltz Jupiter Theatre, 1001 E. Indiantown Road, Jupiter. Through Sunday, Dec. 18. Tickets: $56 and up. Call: 561-575-2223.