Jamestown Gals, a playful revue of the careers of Lucille Ball and Peggy Lee is the latest creative effort from veteran choreographer Michael Walline. The show is now playing at MusicalFare at Daemen College in Amherst.
Kathy Weese and Kelly Jakiel played Lucille Ball in her various incarnations while Terrie George and Arin Lee Dandes appeared as Peggy Lee. John Fredo and Marc Sacco played Desi Arnaz and most any other male roles called for.
Walline cast the actors as the “essence” of Ball and Lee, his goal being to capture the spirit of the performers without impersonating them exactly.
“By the Waters of the Minnetonka” will delight fans of “I Love Lucy”. It’s the familiar shtick of Lucy trying to weasel her way into Ricky’s act at the club. Fredo, as Ricky, manages to capture Ricky Ricardo’s accent and attitude without being campy.
Those only familiar with Lucille Ball’s comedy may be surprised by her musical background. Jamestown Gals features songs from her starring role in the movie version of Mame and her Broadway performance in Wildcat.
Peggy Lee received an Oscar nomination for “Bye Bye Blackbird” from Pete Kelly’s Blues and won a Grammy for “Is That All There Is?”
Walline’s father, who served as the catalyst for this musical once mused to Michael that these two talents were both from Jamestown- Lee was from Jamestown, ND and Ball from Jamestown, NY.
With his father’s inspiration, Walline studied the musical histories of the two legends and put together this revue.
Walline said that he “tried to be true to the original choreography” which runs the gamut from samba to cha-cha to waltz.
The performers were accompanied by a five-piece band led by saxophonist Jim Runfola under the musical direction of Allan Paglia.
The costuming was a collaborative effort, according to Walline, with Loraine O’Donnell and Olivia Ebsary. “I tried to give them a silhouette and a color (red for Ball, yellow for Lee) and trust Loraine creatively”. Each female character had five dresses; each male had two tuxes and six vests, Walline said.
“It was really hard to let go after living with it for a year,” Walline said. His biggest challenge was “staying true to my dad’s vision while still making original entertainment.”
The closing of act one is priceless. It seems that it can’t get any funnier that the duets “Friendship,” “Sisters,” and “Bosom Buddies,” but “I’m a Woman” is worth the price of admission on its own.
The show continues through December 7. Performances are staged Wednesday through Sunday with “meet the cast” talkbacks after Wednesday performances. Tickets are available at www.musicalfare.com or a by calling the box office at 716-839-8540
Originally appeared in buffalo.com