Certain fathers, upon discovering that their sons have an interest in musical theater, will either throw up their hands in defeat or gently suggest a career in law or medicine instead.
But for James Walline, whose son Michael is the writer, choreographer and director of the new musical "Jamestown Gals: The Music of Lucille Ball and Peggy Lee," it was quite the opposite. So much so, in fact, that the father's enthusiasm for the medium almost threatened to outshine the son's.
"He's been all interested in theater ever since I got into it," the younger Walline said. "And one day last year, he said to me, 'I have a show for you.' "
James, a former principal at Grand Island High School, now retired, wanted his son to mount a show about Peggy Lee, who was born in Jamestown, N.D., not far from his own boyhood home in Fargo. But the idea seemed underdeveloped.
"I said, 'Keep doing your research,' because that's what he always says to me," Michael said. "So he came back to me, and he said, 'I have your show. It's Peggy Lee and Lucille Ball. Call it Jamestown.' " The hook, James said, would be the somewhat random fact that both entertainers were born in places called Jamestown -- Ball in New York and Lee in North Dakota.
So off Walline went, delving into the histories of these two contemporary but disparate idols of American entertainment to find a common musical string that would sustain a two-act show. He found it in Ball's pre-"I Love Lucy" days, during which she starred in several movie musicals and in Lee's extensive and complementary music career. The resulting show draws from the music of Faron Young, Jerry Herman, Desi Arnaz, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Cy Coleman and plenty of others.
With "Jamestown Gals," Walline is returning to the tried and true formula of the rollicking jukebox musical that earned him plaudits for the 2005 show "Zooma Zooma," which he co-conceived with local saxophonist Jim Runfola. It's a concept that dispenses with overly challenging concepts in favor of good old-fashioned, high-energy song-and-dance nostalgia.
The two main characters are loosely portrayed by four separate actors: Kathy Weese and Kelly Jakiel for Ball, Terrie George and Arin Lee Dandes for Lee. Marc Sacco and John Fredo play a number of other characters
"With this show, what we're trying to do is to capture the essence of Lucille Ball and Peggy Lee without imitating," Walline said. "We're staying away from the curly hair and all the 'Vitameatavegamin' stuff." He's also dispensing with the tendency of some jukebox musicals to become "book report shows" filled with what he called distracting "Cliff Clavin facts."
Sacco, who has been in all three of Walline's original productions at MusicalFare, agrees with the music-driven, stripped-down approach Walline is taking with "Jamestown Gals."
"The philosophy is just to get out there and work your [butt] off and make people smile with this fantastic material that you have to plow through," he said.
WHAT: "Jamestown Gals: The Music of Lucille Ball and Peggy Lee"
WHEN: Opens at 7 p.m. Wednesday and runs through Dec. 7 (half-price preview at 7 p.m. Tuesday)
WHERE: MusicalFare Theatre, 4380 Main St., Amherst
TICKETS: $32 to $36
INFO: 839-8540 or www.musicalfare.com