Today, Vincent Youmans is probably best known as the composer of "No, No, Nanette," which ran longer when it was revived on Broadway in 1971 than the original version did back in 1925. But Youmans also wrote the scores of 12 other Broadway shows, as well as the songs for the first Astaire/Rogers film, "Flying Down to Rio," before tuberculosis forced him into an early retirement.
In "Oh Me, Oh My, Oh Youmans," the four-singer/one-pianist revue, which plays tonight through Sunday in the Museum of Natural History's Baird Auditorium, as part of the Smithsonian's American Musical Theater series, the good man's career gets the once-over-lightly. Very lightly.
Critics in the 1920s generally used such adjectives as "catchy," "fresh" and "pleasant" to describe Youmans' cheerful approach to a melody, and most of his songs retain those qualities even now. One could wish for a more imaginative showcase for them, however, than this revue which makes "cheerful" a first cousin of "bland."
Darwin Knight's staging is a veritable catalog of musicial comedy cliches, although Jo Ann Cunningham, a handsome blond soprano, who looks like a 1920s Breck shampoo ad, manages to rise above them. The other three performers -- Todd Taylor, Sally Woodson and Richard Casper -- come in decidedly under the material, which includes such greats as "Hallelujah," "Time on My Hands" and "Tea for Two," among the dozens we're all still humming.