MUST SEETheatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Nance

The Chicago Premiere.

By Douglas Carter Beane.

Director/Costume Designer John Nasca.

Choreographer Nathan Middleman.

Music Director Robert Ollis.

At the Pride Arts Center – The Broadway.

NANCE: slang, disparaging + offensive :  an effeminate male.

“Meet me round the corner/in about a half an hour.” – code for a male gay hookup.

“In the 1930s, burlesque impresarios welcomed the hilarious comics and musical parodies of vaudeville to their decidedly lowbrow niche. A headliner called “the nance” was a stereotypically camp homosexual and master of comic double entendre – usually played by a straight man.” – from the notes from  the Broadway production  of The Nance.

Most entertaining and historical significant theatre history show about burlesque and vaudeville in the 1930’s.

Kudos to Pride Films & Plays for mounting The Nance in Chicago. it is a fun, entertaining and historically significant play with music about both burlesque and the clandestine “gay lifestyle.” It tells the story of Chauncey Miles (the fabulous Vince Kracht) who was The Nance and the headliner at Irving Place Theatre in New Yoark circa 1937. Chauncey has a brazenly gay persona  reminiscent of later the effieminate nances  such as Richard Simmons, Liberace, or Paul Lynde. Together with his ‘straight’ stage partner Efram (Patrick Rybarczyk) they headlined the burlesque shows with as much suggestive double-meanings as possible. These show also features female strippers and here: Britt-Marlr Sivertsem (as Joan), Steph Vondell 9as Carmen), and Melissa Young (as Sylvle) were the raunchy dancers in the act.

Besides being an  authentic burlesque show with period perfect songs and raunchy humor, The Nance has a love story with NYC newcomer Ned (the winning Royen Kent) as the romantic lover of Chauncey. Anchored with several engeritic burlesque songs, dances and cornball humor, we experience the unique stage craft of the burlesque/vaudeville players who entertained a generation in the 20th century. Also woven into the show is the pursecution of gay men by the NYC cops at the behest of Republican, Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia. We witness how careful gays had to be when meeting others as well as how indirect the sexy shows had to be so as not to be closed by the mayor’s office.

But despite all the challenges, we cheer for Chauncy and Ned’s romance. The social and political dynamics of NYC in 1937 effects the lives of these entertainers. We also love the girls and Efram as each strugglesto survive the troubling times. Along the way, we witness fabulous classical burlesque humor, sexy dances and lively music.

The Nance is worthy entertainment as well as a significant cautionary tale of homophobic govenmental tactics. Once I realixed that young folks don’t know what burlesque is, I reakize that The Nance is far more than merely a play with music. It is important for this generation to know and experience the craft of burlesque and vaudeville especially if they want to be effective musical comedy actors.  The Pridc Center’s peoduction is spirited, funny and heartfelt. Technically difficult yet flawlessly performed, The Nance continues the terrific production values that we saw in Priscilla:Queen of the Desert from the creatives at the Pride Center. Don’t miss this fine show.

Highly Recommended.

Tom Williams.

Jeff Recommended.

At the Pride Arts Center – The Broadway, 4139 N. broadway, Chicago, IL, call 1-800-737- 0984,, tickets $40 for reserved seats, $30 for general admission, Thursdays-Satirdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 5 pm, wednesdays July 19 & 26 at 7:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 30 minutes with intermission.