The kitsch-loving creators of “Pete ‘n’ Keely” invite the audience back to the 1960s and the artistically dreary world of Las Vegas lounge acts and television variety specials that may have left psychic scars on TV viewers of a certain age.
There’s no shortage of laughs in James Hindman’s script, which takes the form of a live-television reunion of a once popular singing team whose marriage collapsed under the weight of sexual indiscretions and heavy drinking. Pete Bartell and Keely Stevens manage to be more-or-less civil on camera but let the knives come out during the commercial breaks. All of this catty discord, not surprisingly, turns out to be a smokescreen that lifts in the final minutes of the show, when Pete and Keely realized they really do care about each other.
The production at Quality Hill Playhouse, directed by Rick Truman, is just a bit too technically limited to really do the show justice, but the two principal performers – Tim Scott as Pete and Molly Hammer as Keely – have all the resources the roles require: Sharp comic timing, imposing stage presence and great singing voices. A good deal of the humor is supplied by Tim Noland as Marty, the unseen studio announcer, whose svelte tones can’t really hide the panic in his voice when the special threatens to self-destruct.
Music director J. Kent Barnhart is at the piano as the fictional broadcast’s bandleader, Del DaCosta. Barnhart, his hair twisted into an absurd topknot, doesn’t really have lines beyond a few introductory remarks but he’s an amusing presence and is particularly effective as the panicky music director copes with the unprofessional antics of the two stars.
Providing backup are bassist Brian Wilson and drummer Ken Remmert, who also seem to be “in character” as jaded professional musicians who can’t wait until the next commercial break, when they get to smoke and take nips from a bottle.
The creators mix real standards with fake ones written for the show by composer Patrick Brady and lyricist Mark Waldrop, and one of the funniest segments has Pete and Keely recreating numbers from their failed Broadway musical, “Tony and Cleo,” based on Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra.”
The thinness of the material becomes more apparent as the show progresses, but Hammer and Scott are always a pleasure to watch and hear. Their singing is as impressive as ever and they find ways to flesh out their satirical characters through sheer acting ability.