Venue: ARTS Theatre, 53 Angas Street, Adelaide
Season: 8pm Fri 3rd, Sat 4th and Tues 7th to Sat 11th June, 2pm Sat 4th and 11th June 2011
Duration: 2hrs 45min incl interval
Tickets: adult $28/conc $22/members $18
Bookings: 8296 3477 or Venuetix outlets or BASS 131 241 or http://www.bass.net.au
Billed as “the new Gershwin musical”, this is Ken Ludwig’s 1992 major rewrite of the Gershwins’ 1930 hit, Girl Crazy, retaining seven of the twenty one original songs and adding thirteen others. Composer, George Gershwin, and his older brother and lyricist, Ira, turned out one hit after another before George’s early death at the age of 37, and there are plenty of those hits in this production.
Musical Director, Mark DeLaine, has enlisted some great musicians and recreates the sound of a 1930s orchestra, helped by the use of keyboard percussion and effects. Shelley Walker also provides some fine solo violin work. DeLaine has also done a fine job of maintaining that 1930s style with the soloists and chorus numbers. The costumes, hairstyles and wigs, too, are all in keeping with the era and the showgirls costumes are terrific. Linda Williams has come up with some snappy choreography, including lots of tap routines and a first act production number finale that that had the audience cheering, and the lighting has also been weel designed to keep up with all of the complex sets.
Director, David Sinclair, Has done an excellent job of casting this production and has a huge hit on his hands. Every person on stage is playing a character. Each of the chorus and dancers has created a character, and they do not drop it when they are in the background but continue to act at all times.
The central character is Bobby Child, the only son of a wealthy family who have planned a future for him in the finance industry, but he has a love for singing and dancing. At the start of the production we find him auditioning for the vaudeville impresario, Bela Zangler, who is not impressed. He is then put under pressure by his mother, Mrs. Lottie Child, and his fiancé, Irene Roth, both of whom are overbearing, dominant women and, to escape them, he accepts the job of going to Deadrock, Nevada to foreclose on a mortgage on the disused Gaiety Theatre, which is now being used as the post office.
The owner of the theatre, Everett Baker, still fondly remembers the time when his late wife performed there in the heyday of the gold mining in the area. His daughter, Polly, the only female in town, runs the post office. She is pursued by the unpleasantly amorous owner of the saloon next door, Lank Hawkins, who wants to buy the theatre to extend his saloon.
Bobby arrives and immediately falls for Polly, who reciprocates, until she finds out who he is and why he is there. He proposes putting on a show with the help of the chorus girls from Zangler’s theatre in order to save the theatre, but she distrusts him. He disguises himself and Zangler, the girls arrive and the whole town gets involved.
On the day of the performance only two zany English people arrive on the train and, it transpires, they are not there for the show, but to review the saloon for the tourist guide that they are writing. A third person actually arrived on the train, but was delayed en route. It turns out to be Zangler, looking for Tess, the dance director of his Follies show and object of his extramarital amorous intentions.
With two Zanglers running around, confusion ensues, with a great drunk scene and lots of mistaken identities. Polly is furious that Bobby lied to her. He leaves to return to New York and to the life that his mother wanted for him, but he and Polly are still in love and miss one another. They cannot keep away from each other and he returns to Deadrock, with his mother and Irene in pursuit. There is no harm in telling you that there is a happy ending because, after all, this is a musical comedy and they always have a happy ending.
Brady Lloyd sings and dances up a storm in the role of Bobby and he knows, with a nod to John Cleese, how to use his height and long legs to good physical comic advantage. He is nicely balanced by Fiona DeLaine, as the feisty Polly, who has a superb voice that works well with his in duets and a good line in comedy, too.
John Rosen’s Bela Zangler is wonderfully flamboyant and, with Lloyd, a superb double act in the mirroring scene. Pam O’Grady, as Mrs. Lottie Child, is the archetypal rich and pushy mother. Her disbelief and reaction to Bobby’s defiance is very funny.
Michelle Nightingale, as Irene Roth, nicely portrays a woman who expects to always get what she wants, and does not know how to handle it when she does not. She gives us a carefully constructed performance that suggests that she is something close to a younger version of Bobby’s mother which he, as well as we, can see in her and so he, of course, wants to escape.
Tom Carney presents us with a loving, caring father as Everett Baker in a warm and gentle characterisation, but with good comic timing. His reminiscences of his late wife’s performances in the Gaiety Theatre are so repetitive that the whole town can, and do, repeat then along with him.
Rodney Hutton’s Lank Hawkins is very much the ‘ornery critter that the role demands and he is hilarious when confronted by Irene Roth. You’ll have to see the show to find out what that means. Hutton’s Lank shows hints of Arthur Daley, with a touch of Fagin, and gets his share of laughs for his shenanigans.
Sue Wylie and Chris Meegan, as the very British tourists, Patricia and Eugene Fodor, generate loads of laughs, a tribute to their talent and their extensive experience in musical theatre.
A trio of rather dim singing cowboys, Jamie Richards as Moose, Lindsay Prodea as Mingo and Chris Stansfield as Sam, set the tone of Deadrock in their first number. As the scene opens they are lazily singing I’m Bidin’ My Time, while the other townsmen sit around or lean against the buildings with nothing much else to do. Now close to being a ghost town, it would be upgraded to a one horse town, if they only had a horse. These three find plenty of chances to inject some comedy, as well as song, often with the assistance of the other cowboys. The chorus and dancers are all well drilled, and the tapping in particular is of high standard, with many of the more complex steps being used and great precision in the execution.
The set is a number of large sections that are wheeled in and out or turned around to create the many different scenes. A huge car drives onto the stage near the start of the piece, from which Bobby’s mother and Irene disembark, eventually followed by other passenger, and that will also remain a secret until you see the show.
It is a pity that all involved are amateurs, with day jobs, as this prevents Therry from touring the production around Australia as it deserves. It is a shame that only we in Adelaide are to be privileged with seeing it.
The performance closed to a well-earned standing ovation and tumultuous applause. This surely has to be the best musical that Therry have ever presented, so be sure to see it.
Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor, Glam Adelaide.