Variety is the Spice of Pete 'n' Keely

Peter Filichia

December 2000

Had such a good time at Pete ‘n’ Keely a few weeks ago that when a friend called with an extra ticket for last night's performance, I went again, and had another good time.

Sally Mayes and George Dvorsky are delightful as a couple of ‘50s entertainers who were formerly married, then divorced, but now are doing a 1968 TV reunion special for the money. But true love prevails, and the two reunite personally as well as professionally before all is said and done.

But what I really loved is that author James Hindman really knows his ol’ time TV variety shows. He’s created a new one with the requisite set: curtains galore -- gold curtains, sheer curtains, tinseled curtains too.

Variety shows were also famous for their resplendent costumes, and Pete ‘n’ Keely has ‘em, too, courtesy of the marvelous Bob Mackie. The season is still four months from completion, but as of now, he’s got my Drama Desk vote for Best Costumes.

At one point, Pete ‘n’ Keely sing soft songs while sitting on stools, just the way that guys named Andy Williams and Perry Como did. (The latter, by the way, once devoted much of a 1962 show to that new Irving Berlin musical opening on Broadway called Mr. President. He even wound up making an RCA Victor studio cast album of it, where he played the title character.)

Pete ‘n’ Keely have a marvelous medley where they sing a bevy of city and state songs that take us from sea to shining sea. It rather reminded me of a sequence called "The History of Musical Comedy" in Julie (Andrews) and Carol (Burnett) at Carnegie Hall, first broadcast on June 11, 1962, then again on June 13, 1963 -- but never again seen on network TV.

Andrews and Burnett did 19 selections from shows, from "Every Little Movement" to "A Boy Like That / I Have a Love." The two highlights were Andrews singing "I Cain’t Say No" by concluding that she "cahn’t say ‘cain’t," immediately followed by Burnett’s sharp parody of Andrews’ Eliza Doolittle doing "Wouldn’t It Be Loverly."

Burnett had already made her reputation on another variety show, The Garry Moore Show. Moore was one of TV’s less gifted hosts, for though he could carry a tune and do a few dance steps, he had no real talent himself, except for (as Ronald Reagan once said in the movie version of The Voice of the Turtle) "a talent for appreciation." Which is why he hired Burnett and, once she left, Dorothy Loudon.

The Garry Moore Show ran opposite the wildly successful The Fugitive on Tuesdays at 10. I, unlike all my schoolchums, never saw a single episode of the latter, for I was always tuning in a program where I could see the title song from Here’s Love performed on TV the week the musical opened on Broadway. Moore also had on Gwen Verdon dancing, vamping, and singing a song that began, "49 percent of my heart is gold, 51 percent is not. 49 percent of my heart is pure; 51 percent is rot. 49 percent of my intentions are the noblest and best. But the very best of my intentions are outvoted by the rest."

I remember the lyrics verbatim because I taped the song on my ol’ reel-to-reel tape recorder, and repeatedly listened to it. For years, I endlessly searched the few musical theater books then available that listed show songs, wondering if I could find the show from which the song came. I never did, so over the years, came to believe it was a piece of special material written for Verdon. More than 30 years later, when I met Verdon, I mentioned the song to her, in hopes that she’d be able to identify it. Alas, she could not. But the memory remains -- though the reel-to-reel tape does not.

Pete ‘n’ Keely also do a musical parody of Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra -- called, of course, Tony ‘n’ Cleo -- causing me to remember the sequence on The Danny Kaye Show where our host did a musical version of Hamlet, where the ol’ chestnut "Cecilia" was transformed into "Ophelia."

And by the way -- isn’t it interesting that while Pete ‘n’ Keely’s Tony ‘n’ Cleo was "being broadcast" in 1968, that same year Broadway saw a musical version of Caesar and Cleopatra called Her First Roman. That show, though, brings back far less fond memories than the late, lamented TV variety shows of yore.

Photo Gallery Acclaim
Creative Team Original Cast

©2000 Avalon Entertainment, Inc.
Site management by Avalon Entertainment, Inc.

Legal Information

Contact Us