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Pete 'n' Keely

by By James Hindman with Addtional Music by Patrick Brady & Mark Waldrop

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 948

SHOWING : May 21, 2004 - June 20, 2004



Pete Bartel and Keely Steven’s story is a life after divorce saga. Both have attempted a solo career with disappointing results until NBC (and Swell Shampoo) sponsors their reunion special. Complete with standards like “Black Coffee” “Daddy” and “Fever,” their variety show takes a turn when Keely reveals that Pete had a wandering eye during their marriage. Full of audience participation, this show is every bit the variety show of the 60’s that kept audiences glued to their TV sets. Duos like Sonny & Cher, Steve and Edie, Keely Smith and Louie Prima, and Donny & Marie perfected the variety show. And although fun, Pete’n’Keely is a show about the intricacies of the duet, a pair of singers that are bigger together than they are apart.

Cast Jessica Phelps West
Production Manager Patrick Campbell
Scenic Designer Kathryn Conley
Lighting Designer Rob Dillard
Sound Designer Mimi Epstein
Costume Designer Emily Gill
Stage Manager Mark LaCoursiere
Wigmaster J. Montgomery Schuth
Stitcher Amanda Sutt
Stitcher Jane C Uterhardt
Music Director Ann-Carol Pence
Pete Bartel Alan Kilpatrick
Keely Stevens Kathleen McManus
Marty Winslow Thomas
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


The Cheese Factor Was Rarely Cheap
by Dedalus
Thursday, July 8, 2004
The Musical "PETE ‘N’ KEELY" (recently closed at the Aurora Theatre in Duluth) was a funny and tuneful send-up of those cheesy ‘60’s pop music reunion variety shows we all remember with a mixture of fondness, nostalgia, and, well, queasiness.

When I was in High School, Ed Sullivan and the Smothers Bothers was a Sunday Night Ritual. Monday Night belonged to Carol Burnett. These shows were the start of my lifelong fondness of Musicals and “Show Music.” When Sally Mayes appeared at Libby’s a few years ago, she blew me away with “Black Coffee,” Keely’s big “Torch Song” from Act II of this show. All this is a preamble to my admitting my hopes for this show were quite high.

The set dashed most of those hopes right away. Yes, it was suitably cheesy, but it was also very cheap looking – streaky paint and flimsy walls like you’d see in a church basement somewhere. Now, I hate being picky, but a big reunion show on a big network with a big corporate sponsor would in no way be “cheap.” Millions would go into making the show as flashy and tasteless as possible. This is a “Look” that is not difficult to reproduce on a small theatre’s budget, but it seemed apparent that the Aurora designers equated cheap and cheesy, a choice that is, IMHO, quite wrong.

That being said, the opening act of the show worked spectacularly well. Alan Kilpatrick and Kathleen McManus attacked the roles with energy, talent, and affection. The off-camera bickering and on-camera tackiness was letter-perfect. But, as Act II progressed, I began to realize that the surface view of these characters was all we were going to get. This is a fault of the script, not the production. Pete and Keely, are, in the final analysis, wafer-thin and cliched characters, summed up with a word or two, who exist solely to serve the writer’s parodies. Yes, that’s the sort of performers we saw on these shows, but they came with a history – a “baggage” we in the audience supplied, so their words and songs and actions resonated and made an affection in the audience that helped us … no, FORCED us to forgive and even enjoy the Tackiness. Here, we have none of that history (the characters’ Back Story was every bit as shallow as the parody songs). This one-note approach, while giving us a lot of easy laughs, robbed us of the more emotionally satisfying responses we should have to a song like “Black Coffee.” When it came, it was just another number, just another song to add to the “Greatest Hits” cavalcade we had been witnessing so far. It should have been Keely’s cry of desperation, the ultimate expression of her pains and ambitions. The paradox is, depth of character can make parody more pointed and funnier, because it gives it contrast and a basis in real human feelings.

What we got in “Pete ‘n’ Keely” was an amusing evening that poked fun at a ‘60’s convention without really understanding it. Too bad …

--- Brad Rudy (



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