Pete 'n' Keely, the comic musical about a divorced "singing sweethearts" couple reuniting for a TV special, begins previews Dec. 2 at Off-Broadway's John Houseman Theatre, where Sally Mayes and George Dvorsky co-star — and co-spar.
Conceived by James Hindman, Mark Waldrop and Patrick Brady, and written by Hindman, the musical comedy opens Dec. 14 with cabaret star and actress Mayes (Closer Than Ever, She Loves Me) sparring with Dvorsky (The Scarlet Pimpernel).
The show takes place in 1968, five years after the acrimonious divorce of a Steve-and-Eydie-Gorme-like singing couple, Pete and Keely. Song hits from the 1950s and 1960s punctuate the production, to be directed by Waldrop (When Pigs Fly, Bette Midler's recent concert tour) and choreographed by Keith Cromwell.
The score of Pete 'n' Keely includes new material and hit songs of the 1950s and 60s to tell the stories of the protagonists' careers and relationship. "The songs are mostly old standards," author Hindman told Playbill On-Line in February. "Sort of like Forever Plaid. This couple are like Steve and Eydie, 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." Audiences can expect an eyeful from costume designer Bob Mackie ("The Carol Burnett Show," The Best Little Whorehouse Goes Public).
Steven Asher, David W. Unger and Avalon Entertainment present the staging. Mayes and Dvorsky appeared in Pete 'n' Keely when it played its first full staging (after workshop readings) in Springfield, MA, in May 2000. Ray Klausen (Waiting in the Wings) is scenic designer. Lighting design is by F. Mitchell Dana, sound design is by Jon Weston.
Waldrop previously directed a workshop of the show at CAP 21 in New York City in February 2000 and helmed the debut full staging April 25-May 14 at Springfield, MA's City Stage.
Among the musical numbers in preview performances are "Besame Mucho," Burke and Van Heusen's "But Beautiful," "Fever," Rodgers and Hart's "Lover," Steve Allen's "This Could Be the Start of Something Big," and new tunes by Brady and Waldrop, including "Kid Stuff," "Tony & Cleo" (a sendup of Antony and Cleopatra), "Too Fat to Fit," "Wasn't It Fine," "Have You Got a Lot to Learn," "Hello, Egypt!," and more.
Mayes is Keely Stevens and Dvorsky is Pete Bartel. On a TV variety special that reunites them and chronicles their lives together, they relive their showbiz career. The catch is, they haven't spoken since their big breakup at Caesar's Palace five years earlier.
Mayes was nominated for a Tony Award for playing Ilona in the most recent Broadway revival of She Loves Me, and is remembered for introducing "Miss Byrd" in the Maltby and Shire revue, Closer Than Ever (the song pops up in her cabaret act still). She won a Theatre World Award for Cy Coleman's Welcome to the Club. Among her albums are "Our Private World: The Comden and Green Songbook," "The Dorothy Fields Songbook," "The Story Hour" and (her latest) "Boys and Girls Like You and Me."
His Broadway credits include Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Passion, Marilyn: An American Fable and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. His solo disc, "In the Still of the Night," is in stores.
Patrick Brady is Mayes' longtime cabaret collaborator, and contributes original music and serves as arranger and musical director. He recently served as musical director and conductor for Fosse.
Tickets are $35-$55. The John Houseman Theatre is at 450 W. 42nd Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues. For tickets, call (212) 239-6200. Visit the Pete 'n' Keely website at www.petenkeely.com.
— By Kenneth Jones