Theatre Review: Can Can

Can-Can is a musical by Abe Burrows with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and tells the story of the showgirls of the Montmartre dance halls during the 1890s.

Presented by The Metropolitan Musical Theatre Company of South Australia (aka The Met)
Reviewed 11th October 2018

Can-Can is a musical by Abe Burrows with music and lyrics by Cole Porter and tells the story of the showgirls of the Montmartre dance halls during the 1890s. At the Bal Du Paradis Cafe, owned by La Momme Pistache, the naughty Can-Can dance is performed. After a police raid, the dancers are arrested and the ensuing court case results in Judge Aristide Forrestier personally investigating the charges of ‘lewd and lascivious dancing’. Aristide falls in love with Pistache and the story follows their developing relationship.  The plot also involves a second couple, a perky dancer Claudine and a Bulgarian sculptor Boris, who is trying to impress influential Art Critic, Hilaire Jussac.

The original Broadway production ran for over two years beginning in 1953, and the 1954 West End production was also a success.  However reviews were tepid and it is not a musical we often see revived either professionally or in amateur theatre, and I can see why.

The performers do a fabulous job. Selena Britz is the embodiment of the immaculate La Mome Pistache, running her café with pride and defiance but with an underlying vulnerability. Daniel Fleming captures perfectly the slightly uptight and self righteous Judge Aristide Forestier and I enjoyed his fine baritone vocals. Jed McDonald has some wonderful mannerisms as Boris and is the comic standout, but missed the mark on the accent. Rounding out the leads is Roberta Potamianos as laundry girl by day, dancer by night Claudine. Potamianos’ professional experience at the Moulin Rouge is clearly evident. The leads are well supported by the rest of the cast, most notably Jacinta Vistoli whose stage presence never falters. I heard several audience members singing her praises on my walk to the car!

My problem with this show is the material. It’s an old fashioned musical but the plot is stilted and thin and the opportunity to delve into the diverse and colourful characters is completely missed with most having the depth of a bird bath. This is no criticism of Director Leonie Osborn who has evidently done her best with what she was given but the two and half hours felt like an eternity as we eagerly awaited the extravagant and well executed finale. The songs are not Porter’s greatest but there are some relatively well known numbers such as I Love Paris and C’est Magnifique, not exactly catchy, but enjoyable and played well by the band who were first-rate under the direction of Stephanie Neale.

Having said all that, the opening night audience seemed to love the show, laughed freely, applauded loudly and there was a buzz of excited discussion post performance. Perhaps, as in the case of the original Broadway and West End seasons,  knowing that sooner or later the dancers will shriek, run wildly about, and do splits and cartwheels is just enough to make up for what it lacks dramatically.

Reviewed by Trish Francis

Venue:  Arts Theatre
Season: 11th -13th, 16th – 20th  October 2018,
Duration:  150 minutes with interval
Tickets:  $34/$24.50
Bookings: Online:
Phone: 0407 457 821
Email: [email protected]


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