Size is everything. “Fingers & Toes” is a little musical that feels big.
The production at the Plaza Theatre in Manalapan seems more expansive than its one location and three-member cast. But mega-massive talent has a way of doing that, and this performing triumvirate has some serious gifts.
Told in that Depression-era Broadway lingo heard in the more lavish “42nd Street” or the brasher “Anything Goes,” this musical, set in 1939, focuses on a love triangle of sorts.
Tristan “Fingers” St. Claire (Aaron Berk) is holed up in the Rooftop of the Ziegfeld Theatre licking his emotional wounds after a separation from his wife and obsessing over a sonata that sounds more like a dirge. His pal Dustin “Toes” MacGrath (Rick Faugno), a fast-talking hoofer, pops up and tries to lift his spirits. A consummate idea man, Toes decides the two should create a musical. They audition for a leading lady, and find an ingenue with plenty of snap, crackle and pop in Molly Molloy (Nili Bassman).
That’s the framework for what could have been a Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney “let’s-put-on-a-show” backyard musical at MGM. And it’s a nice setup for some dazzling tap numbers and bangin’ piano refrains riffing on Broadway lore. At one point, Toes asks Fingers to “Gimme a bouncy C.”
Much of that showbizzy joking goes on in the production. Toes loses a job to some new kid named Gene Kelly. Themes for their musical — like something centered in “Oklahoma” or maybe in “South Pacific” — are thrown out for being unworkable. “Annie Get Your Gun” and “Singin’ in the Rain” are punch lines.
Of course, the songs are nowhere near as memorable as any of the ones in those iconic musicals, and “Fingers & Toes” has to float somewhere between campy and reverent. So what? In the balance, the cast erases the script’s deficiencies with well-versed stagecraft. Faugno’s tap dancing is nothing short of a revelation, and Berk reminds us that the piano is also a percussive instrument.
So when the second act in this two-hour show (including a 15-minute intermission) begins to droop, the cast has built up so much good will you just gotta let the little, bitty things go.
“Fingers & Toes” will run through Nov. 24 at the Plaza Theatre, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., in Manalapan. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. Tickets cost $45. Call 561-588-1820 or visit ThePlazaTheatre.net.