The Blonde Bombshell. Annie Oakley. Fred Astaire’s Let’s Dance Co-Star. The Incendiary Blonde. Texas Guinan. Paramount Pictures’ Biggest Star. The Perils Of Pauline’s Pauline. Blossom Dearie. Dean Martin’s “Hetty Button.”

Miss Betty Hutton was all of the above, either in real or onscreen life, and Diane Vincent pays tribute to her Greatest Hits in the terrific new World Premiere Musical/Musical Revue Nuttin’ But Hutton, now delighting audiences at North Hollywood’s NoHo Arts Center under the direction of the ever inventive Larry Raben.

The brainchild of Vincent and her musical director/band leader hubby Sam Kriger, Nuttin’ But Hutton stars Vincent as her fictitious namesake DeeDee, a redheaded firecracker who arrives at the office of producer Buster Heymeister (Nathan Holland) with an idea for a show she’s not about to let him say “No” to, a show that sounds an awful lot like Nuttin’ But Hutton.

NUTTIN' BUT HUTTON - 2 When Heymeister (as in “Heymeister producer, I’m talking to you, sir”) pooh-poohs the idea of yet another One-Woman-Show, DeeDee brings on the boys, Tom (Chad Borden), Dick (Daniel Guzman), and Harry (Justin Jones), to provide backup dancing and vocals to over two dozen songs introduced or performed onscreen by the Blonde Bombshell herself.

Though only a handful of these Hutton hits will be familiar to any but the most fanatical B.H. or TCM fans, there’s not a one that 2013 audiences won’t greet with cheers, particularly as sung and danced by triple-threat extraordinaire Vincent.

Act One has “Dee-Dee” plugging away at getting Heymeister to produce her Betty Hutton salute, too unstoppable not to wear down his resistance, and thereby allowing Act Two to give us a half-hour taste of Nuttin’ But Hutton itself.

Upbeat numbers abound, from the jitterbuggy “Stuff Like That There” and “Rumble, Rumble, Rumble,” to the wild-and-crazy “Murder, He Says,” to the syncopated showstopper “Poppa, Don’t Preach To Me,” to the zany “A Square In The Social Circle,” to the tongue-twister-iffic “Can’t Stop Talking,” each one of which keeps the indefatigable Vincent a-movin’ and a-shakin’ and a-singin’ for two sensational acts.

NUTTIN' BUT HUTTON - 3 Nuttin’ But Hutton’s dance numbers are choreographed by L.A.’s very own Lee Martino with her accustomed imagination and flair, and include the unapologetically politically incorrect “Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief” (featuring Vincent’s back-up trio in medical, professional, and feathered gear); “Igloo,” Vincent and company’s madcap salute to the Eskimo race; and “Hamlet,” quite possibly the wackiest Shakespeare spoof ever—with Vincent in Hutton mode as none other than Ophelia herself.

A medley of songs with “Nothing” in their titles become “There Is Nuttin’ Like A Dame,” “All Or Nuttin’ At All,” and “I Got Plenty Of Nuttin’”, while “I Wish I Didn’t Love You So,” “It Had To Be You,” and “Where Are You Now That I Need You” feature Vincent’s silky vocals in ballad mode, the better to salute Betty Hutton’s softer side.

L.A. musical theater fans may recall Vincent’s star turn in Too Old For The Chorus, her supporting roles in Stormy Weather, One Touch Of Venus, and The Wizard Of Oz, or her Scenie-winning performance as Aunt Eller in Oklahoma!, but not until Nuttin’ But Hutton has she had the bona fide star vehicle that is her due, and WOW! does Vincent give one dazzling humdinger of a performance (words that could just as easily apply to any of Betty Hutton’s).

NUTTIN' BUT HUTTON - 1 Holland is a delight himself as crusty but loveable Mr. Heymeister, and has some terrific pipes to boot. As for Tom, Dick, and Harry, they don’t get any more song-and-dance-tastic than Guzman (Debbie Gibson’s Scenie-winning King in The King And I), Borden (the Scenie-winning star of Kiss Of The Spider Woman and The Story Of My Life), and Jones (of The Drowsy Chaperone’s Scenie-winning Ensemble Of The Year), and if I make special mention of Borden, it’s that not only has the L.A. favorite not aged a day since his many Colony Theatre roles in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it’s that never before have I gotten to see what a sensational hoofer he is. (And he makes for a heavenly Hedda Hopper as well.)

Providing live instrumental backup for all of Nuttin’ But Hutton’s songs and production numbers is the NoHo Arts Center’s Biggest Big Band ever, six musicians in Glenn Miller mode who sound like twice that many: Kriger on piano, Albie Berk on drums/percussion, Tim Emmons on bass, Phil Feather on woodwinds, David Pittel on trumpet, and David Stout on trombone. (The multitalented Kriger is also responsible for the show’s orchestrations and arrangements.)

Video segments interspersed throughout Act Two fill us in on Betty Hutton’s post-Hollywood life, not the happiest as we find out, though Nuttin’ But Hutton makes sure to accentuate the positive. (Video credit is shared by John Yelvington, Lance Jones, and David Engel.)

Jeff McLaughlin’s ingenious scenic design morphs from nightclub set to producer’s office and back to nightclub set, with the aid of property designer Tris Beezley’s assembled showbiz memorabilia, and Luke Moyer’s expert lighting suiting both office and club to a T. Sound designer Cricket S. Myers is at her stellar best, with miked vocals and instrumentals mixed to perfection by Daniel Tator. A. Jeffrey Schoenberg’s splendid costumes have a fabulous ‘50s feel to them, whether Vincent’s shirtwaist gowns or the boys colorful character garb. Chris Warren Murry is production stage manager. Graphic design is by Ty Donaldson and casting by Michael Donovan, CSA. Alternates Erik McEwen and Jeffrey Scott Parsons may appear as Tom and Harry at certain performances.

Betty Hutton died in 2007 at the age of 85, over a half century after her last film hit, the Oscar-winning Best Picture of 1952, The Greatest Show On Earth. Nuttin’ But Hutton gives us a taste of what made Betty Hutton great in the decade of her Hollywood stardom. It’s a shame Betty didn’t make it to 92, if only to see her name back up in lights in a show she would surely be proud to have bear her name.

NoHo Arts Center, 11136 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood.

–Steven Stanley
March 21, 2013
Photos: Tris Beezley

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