A video of Gene Nelson dancing up the stairs in Tea for Two popped up in my Instagram feed the other day, and I was positively gobsmacked. What a talent! Once I started digging, I realized just how much he had going for him. I vaguely remember him as Will Parker in Oklahoma!, but I had no idea he had such an incredible career!
I decided I needed to see Tea for Two in its entirety, so I rented it on Amazon. While the music is brilliant and the plot is tolerably dippy, it had some of the most bizarre (if well-performed) dance numbers I’ve ever seen. Crazy Rhythm is especially nutty. I couldn’t even figure out which culture(s) they were trying to rip off. But while the choreography and taste-level were questionable, Gene Nelson’s epic talent shone through.
Nelson went on to direct many television shows, including episodes of The Donna Reed Show, Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of Jeannie, Starsky & Hutch, The Mod Squad, and The Andy Griffith Show, to name a few.