Fringe Review: Speakeasy: An Extravagangster

Deirdre Quinn and John Martin in Speakeasy: An Extravagangster

An early preview of this campy comedy reveals a light and fluffy show that has retained all the charm and ham acting of its original tour some 17 years ago.


Deirdre Quinn and John Martin in Speakeasy: An Extravagangster

Deirdre Quinn and John Martin in Speakeasy: An Extravagangster

Presented by Upstage Theatre
Reviewed 1 February 2014

Upstage Theatre company’s home-grown musical comedies and children’s pantomimes have been entertaining local audiences for about two decades. Pulling one from the vaults, the company has updated and reprised Speakeasy: An Extragangster for the 2014 Adelaide Fringe.

The show is light and fluffy, a far cry from the company’s popular Jack the Ripper offering in the last Fringe.

An early preview last weekend revealed Sue Monck’s original script for Speakeasy has retained all the charm and ham acting of its tour some 17 years ago. Original, catchy songs by Musical Director David D’Angelo seem to be the primary difference in this revival. His opening song sets the scene nicely.

Director John Martin reprises his role as Al Cabana, a 1920s gangster and speakeasy owner during the prohibition years of America. His Cabana Club is run by his shady brother Sal (Clint Mullins), with muscle from the two remaining siblings, dim-witted Hal and lunatic Mal (Chris Burrows and Paul Trueack respectively).

Al’s long suffering fiancée, Bubbles Galore (Deirdre Quinn), hires Private Eye Sam Shovel (Paul McLean) to go undercover in the club to locate some incriminating photographs of herself and “never mind who”. What ensues is a raft of mistaken identities, accidental murders and blossoming romances.

The ensemble plays well together, offering an even performance across the board, whether it be one of the main players or one of the supporting cast: Debbie Waller or the ever-talented Sue Oldknow.

Violet Rowe does, however, shine for both her stellar costuming and a priceless cameo as a bewildered Head Chef, which had the audience clapping in beat with the music each time she entered and exited the stage.

As a piece of light-hearted entertainment, they play’s meandering storytelling is far from detrimental to the one-liners, cross-dressing, bad puns and ongoing gags that keep resurfacing for another laugh.

D’Angelo on piano forms part of the effective three-piece band which includes Trueack on drums and Daniel Micklethwaite on violin and vocals. Choreography by Cher O’Brien is well executed by herself and Shelley Pontiac (both playing flapper girls), and most particularly in their dance to the gangster ditty, I’m a Really Tough Guy.

If there’s any complaint about this campy sendup of gangster movies and private eyes, it’s the positioning of the microphones, which sometimes obscure the faces of the performers, and the surprise ending which remains true to the original script but seems to come out of left-field. That said, Mark Hallam, on lights and sound, ensures everyone is well lit and heard clearly over the live band.

The BYO cabaret seating at the preview was complementary to the Speakeasy scenario and will hopefully carry over into the Fringe season.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis

Speakeasy: An Extravagangster
1, 8 & 15 March
Where: Prospect Town Hall, 126 Prospect Rd, Prospect
Tickets: $21 – $25.50
Bookings: Book through FringeTix online or phone 1300 621 255


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