Below: Luke Chapman as Timothy Harper strikes up the band with the help of Sharon Rietkerk as Anne Draper in 42nd Street Moon’s production of Strike Up the Band by George and Ira Gershwin. Right: Stephanie Rhoads as the widowed Mrs. Draper with "an hour glass figure with the sands running out" is wooed by American cheese mogul Horace Fletcher (Gabriel Grilli) singing the Gershwin classic “I’ve Got a Crush on You.” Photos by

STRIKE UP THE BAND (1927 Version): Music by George Gershwin, Lyrics by Ira Gershwin, Book by George S. Kaufman, Directed by Zack Thomas Wilde: 42ND Street Moon at The Eureka Theatre, 215 Jackson Street, San Francisco, CA 94111. 415-788-SHOW (7469) or April 6 - 24, 2011


Strike up the band for 42nd Street Moon’s latest production at the Eureka Theatre that surely will play to full houses for the remainder of its run. They have come a long way baby in the 18 (?) years since they began mounting with script-in-hands musicals from yester year. This is the best 42nd Street production I have seen and a great 15 member professional cast (including 6 Equity members) of this 1927 mad-cap musical, Strike Up the Band, has enough exuberance for the entire season. The gorgeous women are dressed in 1920’s costumes to die for (Scarlett Kellum), the singing is excellent and Nick Di Scala on reeds almost steals the show from musical director Dave Dobrusky on the piano as they strike up a two man band that sounds like more.

Strike Up The Band has had three reincarnations after it officially flopped in its 1927 Broadway debut and the movie version with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland should be avoided. Artistic director Greg MacKellan, a stickler for authenticity, has resurrected the original satirical version. As with most musicals of the flapper era, the plot is as silly as it can be but the lines are as cogent today as they were then. You could say it is kind of “cheesy” and you would be right.

Wealthy, but not too bright, cheese manufacturer Horace J. Fletcher (Gabriel Grilli) has conned the good old U.S. of A. to place and embargo on Swiss cheese. When the Swiss retaliate and send a letter with six cents due, “Patriotic” Fletcher encourages waging a war for which he will pay and make more money selling seats to the battles, while the Swiss make money renting hotel rooms to the tourists. Believe me the lines could be appearing in today’s papers: “We’re in a bigger, better war/For your patriotic pastime./We don’t know what we’re fighting for –/But we didn’t know the last time!”

Into this muddle, we meet three potential love couples who take the edge off the war and, wage their own private love “wars” while dancing and singing up a storm. Goody-goody two shoes reporter (a former dairy farmer) Jim (Michael Scott Wells) is smitten with Fletcher’s daughter Joan (Samantha Bruce). Factory supervisor Timothy (Luke Chapman) is the object of Anne Draper’s (Sharon Rietkerk) lascivious desires. Then there are the older couple (actually almost a ménage a trios), a widowed down to her last dollar Mrs. Draper (Stephanie Rhoads) who attracts Fletcher and Colonel Holmes (Eric Wenburg) because they think she is wealthy.

The fun starts immediately with the full cast singing and dancing the opening number to “Fletcher’s American Cheese Choral Society.” Everyone of the handsome/beautiful young cast fill the stage with exuberance showing off their talent. Rietkerk and Chapman generate much of the humor with their comic duets of “17 and 21””Hanging Around with You” and “Military Dance Drill.” Rietkerk’s timing , facial body movements and belting voice is going to take her far in the musical comedy world.

Never fear that you do not recognize the songs mentioned above. George and Ira Gershwin have thrown in the lovely “The Man I Love”, “Meadow Serenade”, “Soon” and “I’ve Got a Crush on You.” Michael Scott Wells’ clear tenor voice matches perfectly the lyrical soprano of Samantha Bruce.

Gabriel Grilli, a mainstay in 42nd Moon productions, has a booming baritone voice and is a hoot and a holler as he drops his hilarious bloopers: “I’ll pay for the war and give the USA 25% of the profit.” He holds his own when he shares the stage with true professionals Stephanie Rhoads and Eric Wenburg who have often stolen the spotlight.

Alex Hsu’s choreography includes soft shoe routines and clever tap dancing that the participants bring off garnering resounding applause.

This Strike Up the Band is an ensemble gem and will surely be a sell out. Advice: Order your tickets now.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of