Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Nuttin' But Hutton is Nothin' But Fun

Nathan Holland and Diane Vincent star in Nuttin' But Hutton.
Photo by Chris Murry
 

1940's stage and film star Betty Hutton was a crazy combination of tomboy & bombshell; a boisterous broad with boundless energy, sex appeal, and a wacky comedic style that made her unique among her glamour girl peers. Annie Get Your Gun, The Perils of Pauline, The Greatest Show on Earth, and Incendiary Blonde are just a few of the many films that boast her undeniable charms, and yet no one has ever turned her life, or her catalogue of hits, into a stage show. Until now.

It takes an exceptional actress to pull off a tribute to Betty Hutton that truly captures Betty’s gusto but Diane Vincent does it with panache in Nuttin’ But Hutton, the joyous new musical comedy she wrote with her husband and bandleader Sam Kriger.

Vincent stars in the exhilarating two-hour songfest, but not as an impersonator. She plays Dee Dee, Hutton’s number one fan and a girl on a mission to convince pessimistic producer Buster Heymeister (the always wonderful Nathan Holland) to put up the money for her tribute to her idol. She’s been turned down by every other producer in town and this may be her last chance, so she pitches it the best way she knows how, by singing and dancing her way through a rapid-fire succession of specialty numbers complete with a trio of minty-fresh backup boys (Chad Borden, Daniel Guzman, and Justin Jones).

L-R: Daniel Guzman, Diane Vincent, Chad Borden, and Justin Jones.
Photo by Tris Beezley

In addition to being Dee Dee’s comical singing & hoofing Greek chorus, each of the boys gets his own feature. Borden is the razzle dazzle dancer and gives a laugh-out-loud performance as Hedda Hopper. Jones is the crooner with a lovely lyric tenor voice, who still knows how to throw it in his ventriloquist act, and Guzman is the tried-and-true character man, always ready with the perfect look. When they sing the close vocal harmonies so beautifully arranged by Kriger behind Vincent’s lead lines, it is as satisfying a big band sound as you could hope for, especially when you add Kriger and his outstanding 6-piece band to the mix.

Director Larry Raben and choreographer Lee Martino highlight every comic moment in the dialogue and dance numbers with creative touches that are unexpected, smart, silly, and sweet, never losing the innocent fun of an earlier time. And Vincent is like the Energizer Bunny, barely finishing one bit before moving into the next one seamlessly. She may not be playing Betty but the energy and commitment she displays in these songs will give you a perfect feel for what a Hutton performance would have been like. Vincent also has a way of coloring words and changing her sound from song to song that every singer could take a page from. 

“Murder, He Says,” “Rumble, Rumble, Rumble,” “I Wish I Didn’t Love You So,” and “Poppa, Don’t Preach To Me” are a few of the songs she brings to life in her own completely surprising way. It will also be the first time you’ve ever seen the “Hamlet” scene from Red, Hot, and Blue staged and this Ophelia is a doozy. 

The second act “show” portion of Nuttin’ But Hutton uses previously recorded fan videos between musical numbers to give more details about Hutton’s life offstage. While the characters are funny, they could do with a little editing to keep the show moving along. The Annie Get Your Gun medley of “They Say It’s Wonderful,” “Anything You Can Do,” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and a final clip of Hutton singing “Somebody Loves Me” bring it all home.

A multipurpose quirky set design by Jeff McLaughlin meets all the needs of its actors with ease and is clearly ready to travel, and A. Jeffrey Schoenberg’s costumes are a breezy addition to a thoroughly delightful show.

Betty Hutton has a big fan in Diane Vincent, and thanks to Vincents fixation on the movie musical comedy star, Nuttin’ But Hutton, is a terrific tribute to a firecracker of a performer and a perfect vehicle for Vincents own comedy genius to shine through. Go see this show and let it put a smile on your face for a couple of hours. You’ll leave happier than when you came in, and that’s always a good thing.

NUTTIN' BUT HUTTON
Now through April 28, 2013
NoHo Arts Center
11136 Magnolia Blvd. (at Lankershim) in North Hollywood.

Tickets: Call (800) 595-4849 or visit www.nuttinbuthutton.com

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Comedy Faceposted by Ellen Dostal, MusicalsInLA @
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