Growing is a part of life, and with growth comes new dreams, desires, and the yearning for independence. In “No, No, Nanette”, a sprightly, youthful girl (Nanette) struggles to show her guardians and fiance-to-be that she is becoming a woman, and needs to enjoy herself once in a while. Her guardians and their friends, however, suffer the consequences of enjoying themselves a bit too much, or staving off their hunger for the exciting for too long. Of course, as a 1920’s nostalgic musical, the plot unfolds through the help of jazzy numbers, colorful, and somehow oddly refreshing flapper costumes, and mildly pleasant middle-brow humor that reminds one of a “Great Gatsby”-themed party — but everyone dances in sync.
James Madison High School’s production of “No, No, Nanette” was an ambitious goal, from costuming their enormous cast with period clothing, teaching them to sing and dance in harmony/sync, and delicately balancing singing and acting and dancing — sometimes all at the same time. Still, despite all that could have gone wrong, the cast and crew pushed through those fears and worries to create a memorable, wholesomely entertaining, and above all, successful show.
Alex Skaltsounis (playing Sue Smith) portrayed the high-class, self-controlled wife very finely. Her reedy, sure voice (and her particular word-pronunciation) tied with her gestures communicated her character’s emotions very well, and wonderfully clearly. She used every instrument she had to its full use, but what was most impressive was her dancing. Her tap-dance number surged the show into life and gave her character depth and vivacity.
Through humor Sid Raskind (playing Jimmy Smith) caught the spotlight. From his voice to his frantically shaking hands the character’s New York yuppie persona was believable. His voice sounded similar to that of Beaver’s father in “Leave it to Beaver” — a sort of good-natured fatherly type — but with an insecure quiver tinted at the edges.
The other couples were successful as well; Julia Addis-Lieser as Nanette and Jake Beckhard as Tom were sweet and endearing as the young lovebirds, as they danced holding hands to the soft perky music. Jacqueline Giroir as Lucille and Trey Ervine as Billy made for a satisfying duet as well, for two distinctly different reasons. The actress playing Lucille had a soft yet beautiful voice, fit perfectly for the bluesy songs that came her way. The actor playing Billy played off of his partner-in-crime Jimmy, bouncing jokes back and forth and still maintaining a solid performance of his own. From his slick hair to slick voice he painted his shady character’s picture clearly and fully.
The emotion and energy sputtered and was inconsistent, but this wasn’t surprising nor devastating to the show, because a large-scale musical such as this definitely takes a toll on the performers (and musicians), and the energy usually picked up when the dancing numbers came up around the corner. Some of the performers seemed to behave like wind-up dolls; when provoked directly (in other words, when it was their turn to speak or dance) they would light up and act, but when the spotlight focused elsewhere they “shut off” and stopped reacting. This too was only a small flub.
The costume designers must have had a difficult time with dressing the millions of cast members. They faced this Herculean task head-on and were overall successful in their efforts. Like catching fossils in amber they did indeed catch the essence of those glamorous and dizzyingly jazzy times.
With their vibrant costumes, light-hearted dances and songs, and their swarming cast amazingly in sync, James Madison High School’s cast and crew recreated this bubbly, jazzy show that was undoubtedly a great success.
(Cappies is a high school critics and awards program involving 50 schools in the Virginia, Maryland and D.C. areas.)