Decades back, Lee Kalcheim had a hit with Breakfast With Les and Bess, a comedy about a married couple who act all lovey-dovey on their hit morning radio show but, in fact, can't stand each other. Now a new musical, Pete `n' Keely, looks at a different couple and takes the hate one step further.
Conceived and written by James Hindman with arrangements and musical direction by Patrick Brady, Pete `n' Keely tells of "America's Swingin' Sweethearts," who reunite in 1968 for a TV special -- five years after their acrimonious divorce.
Mark Waldrop is directing a workshop of the show, which uses hit songs of the 1950s and 60s to tell the stories of the protagonists' careers and relationship. Performances, Feb. 3-6, take place at NYC's CAP21 Theatre at 15 West 28th St.
"The songs are mostly old standards," author Hindman told Playbill On Line. "Sort of like Forever Plaid. This couple are like Steve and Eyde, and they sing all these old swing tunes. But their emotions start bubbling up through the songs; a lot of things that were never said start coming to the surface in a comic way."
Swing-era and Fifties tunes in the musical include "Fever," "But Beautiful," "Young at Heart," "Besame Mucho," "What Now My Love," Steve Allen's "This Could Be The Start of Something Big," "Black Coffee" and "Lover." There's also a "Cross-Country Medley" at the end of the first act, wherein Pete and Keely sing a song named for nearly every state in the union. Original songs, by Waldrop and Patrick Brady, include "Wasn't It Fine" and "Tony `n' Cleo" (an intentionally terrible, musical update of Antony and Cleopatra). Playing the feuding warblers in Pete `n' Keely are Sally Mayes and George Dvorsky. Absent for several years from the New York stage, Mayes has to her credit such shows as the Maltby-Shire Off Broadway hit Closer Than Ever and the Broadway revival, She Loves Me. The latter performance won her a Tony nomination. Dvorsky was in Marilyn and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and served as a standby for Douglas Sills in The Scarlet Pimpernel.
The New York City workshop of Pete `n' Keely will be a bit more than bare-bones, promised author Hindman. The actors will be off-book, and there'll be "some costumes and technical stuff." The public is invited to the workshop stagings. Tickets are free but must be reserved by calling (212) 807-0202.
The show is already booking regional venues for further development, including a three-week stint in Springfield, MA (April-May) and a June 6 11 stay in Naples, FL.
-- By David Lefkowitz