Opening text: "Back in 1919, Vaudeville was a very big part of Show Business. Our story is about the Donahues, a very little part of Vaudeville."
Yes, the trials and triumphs of the Donahues are examined from 1919 to World War II. They go from being the Two Donahues to The Five Donahues, with variances inbetween. There are the parents, Molly and Terrance, and their three offspring, Steven, Katy, and Tim, whose adult careers are also covered.
However, the real drama involves the two sons. Steven decides to become a priest, which upsets the father. However, his mother and Katy are supportive. It's all a matter of perspective. For Steve, it's a change in venue, only the church has had a pretty long run. Tim becomes romantically involved with aspiring blonde singer Vicky Parker, played by (guess who?) and runs into all sorts of ups and downs. However, he gets jealous when he suspects he's having an affair with the producer, Lew Harris.
The musical numbers vary from extravagant and splashy to simplistic, and it's the latter that play better, such as the "Lazy" number featuring Monroe, Gaynor, and O'Connor. However, the "Heat Wave" number, with Latin rhythms fused with the usual big band stuff and MM's hot costume, is a highlight. And the lengthy "Alexander's Ragtime Band" may offend those of German, French, and Scottish ancestry who don't like this glossy cariacaturing of their ethnicity, i.e. costumes and bogus accents. Still, the bright colours are praiseworthy.
The interractions between Ethel Merman and Dan Dailey work the best, as the parents who want the best for their children and struggle. At one point, they buy a house in Jersey, but what a time for a mortgage, especially during the Depression.