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By Martin F. Kohn
The runt of the Andrew Lloyd Webber litter, “By Jeeves” has no falling chandelier, no levitating rubber tire, no choo-choos on roller skates, no soaring anthems about the angel of music, the political history of Argentina or anyone you may have read about in either the Old or New Testament.
But Lloyd Webber’s musical, with book and lyrics by Alan Ayckbourn, is a cute little puppy and there are those who are fond of it. Based on P.G. Wodehouse’s stories about amiable upper class twit Bertie Wooster and his unflappable and resourceful valet, Jeeves, “By Jeeves” was successful in its native England, less so on Broadway: just 73 performances in 2001.
If news of its failure in New York has reached Meadow Brook Theatre, the actors never let on, performing as if this nice little show with a mere dozen tunes (all catchy, though) and dollops of prop and physical comedy were a highlight of the theatrical canon and they lucky enough to be in on it.
Joey Bybee as Bertie, Paul Hopper as Jeeves, and every other actor makes a distinct impression and all appear to have been cast not only for their individual talents but for how they look and sound together. Somebody really likes this show and wishes it to flourish. That would be director David Edwards, who understudied several roles in the Broadway production.
Besides Bybee and Hopper, the estimable cast comprises Caitlin Burke, Janet Caine, Allison Hunt, Jamie Kolacki, Mitchell Koory, B J Love, Rusty Mewha and Jason Richards.
The plot is a story within a story concerning Bertie and Jeeves’ visit to stately Totleigh Towers. There they help eccentric friends get into and out of romantic entanglements, complicated by assumed and mistaken identities, a maze, a pig mask and a charity walkathon called Hiking for Hedgehogs. Clear? No matter. For a good time, call Meadow Brook.
Meadow Brook Theatre, 2200 N. Squirrel Rd., Rochester. Wednesday-Sunday through May 17. $30-$39. 248-377-3300. http://www.mbtheatre.com