The Production Company has unleashed vivacious Debra Byrne and capricious Mitchell Butel on the Cy Coleman musical gem "Little Me" and the result is hilarious pandemonium!
PC General manager Ken McKenzie-Forbes said recently, "Little Me is the least anticipated show we've ever mounted". It may well be one of the more obscure, but it is also up there with the best.
Director Roger Hodgman creates a crazy and fanciful world, making the hysterical script wonderfully spontaneous and allowing his actors to shine. Neil Simon wrote the script for this sublimely over the top romp, with wacky punch lines rolling thick and fast. Simon's style requires the lines to be delivered quickly, slickly and with perfect timing in order to have maximum impact. His script is safe in the hands of this cast. My cheeks were stained with tears of laughter at both the interval and end of show.
Our heroine Belle Poitrine (French for "Pretty Bosom") is launching her self-indulgent autobiography at a party. As the play unfolds, she narrates her life story as Belle Schlumpfert, a little girl from the wrong side of the tracks, who meets the high born Noble Eggleston. But he cannot marry her because she lacks 'wealth, culture and social position'. Dancing and singing, Belle sets out on a highly fantastical journey in pursuit of these shallow goals.
In the original Broadway production, two actors played young Belle and older Belle. Like her Australian predecessor Nancye Hayes, the weight of both roles in this incarnation rests on the shoulders of leading lady Debra Byrne.
Ms. Byrne confidently carries the show with ease, creating a pivotal character that reflects on her past with affection. Byrne exudes such playful charisma that she wins the audience by the end of the overture, without saying a word. She rarely leaves the stage and shines in both brassy numbers like Deep Down Inside and the touching Poor Little Hollywood Star. Byrne achieves a simple innocence as Young Belle that quickly disappears into relentless ambition. From the moment she tackles banking miser Amos Pinchley (Butel), Byrne impressively convinces as a strong and fierce character engineering her destiny.
Mitchell Butel gives a riotous performance, reveling in the fast pace of the character changes and the versatility required for his many roles (simply credited as "All the Men in Belle's Life"). He makes an incredibly eye-catching aerobic entrance - and hysterically exits just as quickly! It is a treat to watch Butel morph into seven individual and manic characters, from an egotistical romantic youth to a decrepit dirty old man. His daring physical comedy, lush accents, comic timing, and unflagging focus and energy are astounding. Not to mention his beautiful singing, particularly in Real Life Girl. A leading lady of Musical Theatre was heard after the show to comment that she could not think of another comic actor in Australia that could match this feat. Bravo, Mr. Butel!
Newcomers to the Production Company, Heather Bolton and Daniel Fletcher make their debut with flair. Heather Bolton is outstanding in the Momma roles for both lead characters. Her comic timing was spot on and Bolton imbues all her scenes with exciting verve. Daniel Fletcher is charming as Lucky Malone and beautifully croons the catchy "I've Got Your Number". Adam Murphy and Peter Lowrey are an accomplished comic pair, wheeling, dealing and finishing each other sentences as the dodgy Buchsbaum brothers.
Many members of the Ensemble are familiar Production Company faces. Always on their game, Deep Down Inside and particularly, Goodbye, are joyous with sleek and polished choreography and performed with a good sense of tomfoolery.
Richard Jeziorny has designed simple and playful settings and his costumes are both eye catching and befitting 1920's America. Belle's costumes as the socialite, are beautiful and suitably glamourous.
Musical Director Guy Simpson masterfully leads the Orchestra Victoria through the lush and cheerful score.
Little Me is a wonderful gem, highly polished and highly recommended.
The Production Company presents
Book by Neil Simon, Lyrics by Carolyn Leigh, Music by Cy Coleman
Venue: State Theatre, The Arts Centre
Dates: 22 - 26 August 2007
Times: Wednesday - Saturday 7.30pm, Saturday 2pm, Sunday 3pm
Tickets: $37.00 - $75.00
Bookings: Ticketmaster 1300 136 166 or www.ticketmaster.com.au