March 30, 2002
The Wichita Eagle
Anyone old enough to recall the era of Donald O'Connor dancing up walls, Bob Hope cracking wise and Jimmy Durante singing something with a "hot-cha-cha" has no doubt lamented that they just don't make such energetic, innocent and unabashedly corny entertainment anymore.
Such old fogies and former late-show addicts will be heartened to hear that Jim and Bob Walton still do things that old-fashioned way. The brothers' "Double Trouble," staged at Century II's Mary Jane Teall Theater by the local Stage One Productions, is an amusing and uplifting slice of '40s-style musical comedy.
Appropriately set in the Hollywood of the early '40s, "Double Trouble" concerns a pair of brothers - coincidentally named Jim and Bob - who have been summoned to a movie studio's rehearsal space to write a hit song in a hurry. Their efforts are frequently interrupted, of course, by such wacky characters as a stone-deaf sound engineer, a booming boss, a buffoonish intern, a sleazy theatrical agent and a sultry scheming screen siren with something extra.
The ensuing complicated and largely inconsequential plot serves simply as a framework for "Double Trouble's" all-important gimmick: All of the characters are played by Jim and Bob Walton, who also wrote the script to showcase their numerous and varied talents. With help from body doubles, dummies, tape recordings and some shrewd stage prestidigitation, the actors somehow manage to never cross paths with themselves.
Fortunately for all concerned, the Waltons are well up to the challenges posed by their ploy. Both have enjoyed busy careers on their own, as well as together in a revue called "My Brother's Keeper." Their current effort provides them ample opportunity to show off their fancy hoofing, fine singing, plunky piano-playing, a wide range of comic characters, and a truly astounding capacity for quick costume changes.
Perhaps even more important, the pair possess pleasing, regular-guy personalities that render all the characters likable and imbue the entire production with the kind of golly-gee enthusiasm that defined musical comedy of the '40s.
The good feeling keeps the laughs coming right through the occasional flat jokes, and allows the audience in on the bigger jokes that result from the frequently obvious tricks employed in the quick changes.
While "Double Trouble" doesn't contain any tunes that the audience is likely to be humming on the way to the parking lot, all of the songs are pleasant and true to their old-time roots. There's no substitute for seeing live musicians in a pit, but musical director John Glaudini does a nice job on his taped accompaniment.
Director Greg Ganakas' light touch has contributed to an efficiently staged production, with considerable help from Casey Nicholaw's refreshing old-fashioned choreography, J. Branson's good-looking set and Martha Bromelmeier's evocative costumes. Sean Roberson's lighting design shows a fine sense of comic timing, and Larry Jones' and Tony Meola's sound design meets most if not all of the show's myriad challenges.