I wish my grandmothers could have been with me Friday night at Winter Park Playhouse's "Let's Face the Music -- A Tribute to Fred Astaire." How they would have enjoyed themselves.
That's not to say I didn't enjoy myself -- because I certainly did. Roy Alan's homage to the American song-and-dance man extraordinaire is part history lesson, part hoofing spectacle, and all entertainment.
The show was conceived and choreographed by Alan, who also plays Astaire, and was first staged in 2005 to great acclaim. It was revived in 2007, and now this production is billed as its final engagement.
It's an old-fashioned show that embodies all the best things of being called "old-fashioned" -- an abundance of elegance, precision, grace and class.
As Fred's sister/dance partner Adele (the charming Laura Hodos) tells their life story directly to the audience, famous dance numbers from Astaire's career are re-created.
Those old enough to remember Astaire' s routines get a nostalgic thrill; the uninitiated get a chance to see what the magic was all about: the top hat and tails, the gentle gliding and spinning with a beautiful woman, the energetic tap dancing.
The dance routines don't match the narration literally -- otherwise we'd see little of Astaire's most famous film partner, Ginger Rogers, as most of the show takes place in the earlier Vaudeville/Broadway days. But the music and dances fit the mood of the narration that has gone before.
And that's what this production summons so well -- the mood of a simpler, more innocent time.
Alan is perfectly dapper, both twinkle-eyed and twinkle-toed as Astaire. Alexandra Schudde plays his adult dance partners, including Rogers, Eleanor Powell and Rita Hayworth with the slightly vacuous expression of starlets of the era -- and some fabulous dresses and wigs, courtesy of costume designer Todd Mummert and wig stylist Chris Schoendorf.
Younger versions of Fred and Adele are played by Cameron Jordan and Aubrey Peeples, who both seem a little gawky in speech and manner until they come alive in song and dance.
Hodos gets to work the room, crooning with the tight three-piece band led by Chris Leavy, relishing a corny quip ("They ran into each other in the street but luckily no one was hurt"), or sighing over a reference to "Jersey Shore" that sailed over the heads of those oblivious to trashy reality TV.
Hodos' direct addresses to the audience are so chummy, in fact, that some patrons might think they, themselves, are in the show. The senior lady next to me was inclined to sing along as she heard a familiar tune. Funnily enough, it didn't bother me -- my grandmothers would probably have done the same.See for yourself
* What: 'Let's Face the Music -- A Tribute to Fred Astaire,' by Roy Alan.
* Where: Winter Park Playhouse, 711-C Orange Ave., Winter Park.
* When: 2 p.m. Thursdays and Sundays, 7:30 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays (through Aug. 29, then Sept. 9-19).
* How much: Evenings general, $35; evenings seniors, $33; matinees, $26; students and entertainment-industry professionals, $20.
* Call: 407-645-0145
* Online: www.winterparkplayhouse.orgCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun