Pete 'n' Keely
Jan 18th, 2013 - Mar 3rd, 2013
Choreographer by Colleen Kollar Smith
Musical Director/Assistant Director by Jon Lorenz
Directed by Kerry Meads
Written by James Hindman
Musical Arrangements by Patrick Brady
Pete Phil Johnson
Meryl Courtney Fero
Carol/Asst. Choreographer Kyrsten Hafso-Koppman
Del Brent Schindele
Marty Patrick J. Duffy
US - Pete Jon Lorenz
Keely Eileen Bowman
Bass Harley Magsino
Percussion Tom Versen
Reeds, Flute Leonard Sundelson
Set Designer Mike Buckley
Lighting Designer/Director of Production Nathan Peirson
Scenic Art and Lobby Design Michael McKeon
Costume Designer Jeanne Reith
Sound Designer/Audio Master Patrick J. Duffy
Production Stage Manager Maria Mangiavellano
Assistant Choreographer Kyrsten Hafso-Koppman
Audio Master George Wheeler
Assistant Stage Manager Brenna Peirson
Assistant Costume Designer Jemima Dutra
"A perfect pair, this Pete ‘n’ Keely. Like cheese ‘n’ crackers (extra cheese, please). Or maybe gasoline ‘n’ a match.

The couple with the nosediving show-biz careers and the combative marital history have gritted their pearly whites and reunited for a 1968 TV special that looks a little like “Laugh-In” and smells a lot like desperation.

Do the two deliver a happily fatuous version of “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” complete with lounge-y lyrical embellishments like “Darlin’, his truth goes marchin’ on”? They do.

Do they perform excerpts from their long-ago Broadway musical “Tony and Cleo,” an Egyptian affliction (based flimsily on Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra”) whose reviews apparently earned such headlines as “Mideast Crisis”? They do.

Do “Pete ‘n’ Keely” stars Phil Johnson and Eileen Bowman and the people at Lamb’s Players Theatre roll out this kitschy little revue with style, wit and just the right note of cluelessly goofy exuberance?

Darlin’, you know they do. "
- Jim Hebert ( UT San Diego )
"NBC bounced Bonanza to bring you an event so big it rivals the birth of Little Rickey. Pete Bartel and Keely Stevens - that's right, America's sweethearts - are reuniting live!

Okay, they've gone their separate ways since the divorce, and their solo albums wallowed in the mire (Keely A-Go-Go anyone?). But those rumors about his womanizing and her thirst for firewater? Tabloid palaver. They're getting along just fine.

The premise is familiar. Legendary entertainers, their names forever linked (like Steve and Eydie, Martin and Lewis), rejoin after a break-up. On the surface they gleam; not far beneath, they seethe, the old wounds still divide them - until the end.

James Hindman's two-character musical sticks to the formula. You know where it's headed before it starts. Sparks will fly at predictable points. Love will salve.

What also becomes predictable at Lamb's Players: Phil Johnson and Eileen Bowman will nail every number and entertain in spite of the creaky vehicle.

And they walk an amazing tightrope throughout: a dead cross between genuine talent and glitter gulchy cheese. Call it "sincere parody"? Johnson must have majored in Lounge as a Second Language. He's got all the mannerisms from kitsch gestures to wistful whisperings. You half expect him to say "I'm sure you recognize my signature song." And I mean it.

And when he has a big solo, as the audience snaps its fingers in unison, Johnson does "Fever" full justice.

Bowman shines throughout as well. Donning a bizarre assortment of wigs, and enough sequence to illumine a small country, Bowman croons, belts, and delivers. Her renditions of "Black Coffee" and especially "Wasn't It Fine" dive beneath the showbiz veneer and resonate.

One of their best numbers comes early: an over-the-top, spangly-syrupy rendition of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" to die for. Hey, Elvis did it. Why not Pete and Keely? Though Elvis never sang "His truth...darling, it just goes marching onnnnnnnnn."

Under Kerry Meads' direction, and Colleen Kollar Smyth's inventive choreography, Bowman and Johnson brilliantly convey the need - it's way beyond an addiction - this couple has for approval.

What the production could use a bit more, however, are the sparks (which often feel more rehearsed than spontaneous) and the lingering threat that the live show may implode.

The musical takes place in 1968. Mike Buckley's set, the interior of an NBC studio, reeks of peacocks and creamy sherbert colors and provides ample room for a tight backup band. Jeanne Barnes Reith's costumes, as usual, define period and character to a T.

Lamb's Players Theatre, 1142 Orange Avenue, Coronado, playing through March 3. "
- Jeff Smith ( The Reader )
"...Phil Johnson and Eileen Bowman are in excellent voice, displaying impressive comic chops and wide vocal range.

...the four-piece band, under the direction of multi-talented Brent Schindele, is outstanding.

.....Jeanne Barnes Reith, glitz and glam galore to Bowman and an array of kitschy tuxes to Johnson, with eye-popping sartorial splendor saved for the goofy ‘Tony and Cleo’ bit, a riff on Shakespeare’s ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ set in Cairo, which offers an excuse for the amusing “Hello, Egypt” number. The other clever musical creation is “The Cross Country Tour,” a coast-to-coast medley that includes every town, city and state song imaginable. The two most serious solos -- Johnson’s finger-snappin’ “Fever” and Bowman’s bluesy “Black Coffee” -- are highlights."
- Pat Launer ( KSDS, CenterStage )
"...a feast for musical theater and comedy lovers"
- Charlene Baldridge ( San Diego Downtown News )
"If chanteuse Peggy Lee is looking down from that big cabaret in the sky, I bet she’s getting a giggle at the thought that her competition these days is – wait for it – Phil Johnson.

The funnyman/actor/singer does a terrific job on the Lee standard “Fever” in “Pete ’n’ Keely,” playing through March 3 at Lamb’s Players Theatre in Coronado.

We’re in an NBC studio in 1968, where former singing duo Pete (Johnson) and ex-wife Keely (Eileen Bowman) are on air live for a “reunion concert.” Their divorce a few years ago not only broke up the act, but effectively ended both careers; this is an attempt to get back on track. And we are assured by stage manager Marty (Patrick Duffy) that, despite what we may have read in the tabloids, Pete and Keely “are getting along just fine.”

Not so much, actually, and part of the fun is in the on-air sniping while the show is in progress.

Kerry Meads directs the familiar story tracing the careers of this volatile duo.

Let’s stipulate that this is a thin and shopworn idea, but Johnson and Bowman are such consummate performers that it doesn’t matter. Both can act, dance and put across a song, and they are helped immensely by a terrific four-man combo (led by pianist Brent Schindele) and fine arrangements by Patrick Brady.

It’s a varied musical program, with standards like “Lover” and “This Could Be The Start Of Something Big” giving way to a hoot of a musical tour of the U.S., reflecting the 63 cities in 14 weeks the pair hit on tour all those years ago. And let me not forget a scene from the pair’s lone foray onto the Broadway stage – “Tony and Cleo,” a musical version of Shakespeare, complete with shiny costumes and headpieces. Jeanne Barnes Reith’s costumes, by the way, are spot-on and fun, especially Keely’s first gig as a kid singing “Daddy.” Kudos to the band (Tom Versen, Harley Magsino and Leonard Sundelson, in addition to Schindele) that really swings those terrific arrangements, and to dancers Meryl (Courtney Fero) and Carol (Kyrsten Hafso), who add pizzazz with Colleen Kollar Smith’s peppy choreography. There are plays that make you think and shows that let you relax and have a few laughs. “Pete ‘n’ Keely” is in the latter category, and does it very well indeed. "
- Jean Lowerison ( SDGLN )