The Production Company has always strived to set a high standard for their shows, with their 2012 Season opener The Producers setting the bar at a great height.
Chess never hit the same mark, but sounded great. The third production for this season, Promises, Promises, has so much going for it, but ultimately fails to live up to the sum of individual parts.
Written in the 60s (and set in New York, 1962), it boasts the fantastic writing team of Burt Bacharach (music) and the late Hal David (lyrics), with a book by one of America's funniest writers, Neil Simon, and is based on the screenplay by the legendary Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond (The Apartment).
Matt Hetherington is Chuck Baxter, a single junior office clerk working for a large company. In order to futher his career, he starts to 'rent' out his single bedroom apartment to some senior married executives for after-hours liasons. Of course, things get out of hand as more and more requests are made to use the apartment and the woman of his dreams becomes part of the messy entanglements. Hetherington, a season performer, has a huge role which keeps him on stage for almost the entire show, and turns in another sensational performance, that is both funny and touching.
Tony Cogin, Anton Berezin, Mark Dickinson, Philip Gould and Barry Mitchell all give strong performances as the executives trying to book time in the prized apartment, while Robert Grubb is delightful as the doctor who lives next door.
Marina Prior is the girl of Chuck's dreams, Fran Kubelik. While she sings the role well, somehow, she doesn't seem right as this character.
Act Two, and a very drunk Marge MacDougall enters the proceedings. Thank heavens for Chelsea Plumley in this hilarious cameo. I cannot recall any performer in recent memory lifting a show so dazzlingly and to such great effect. Using every part of her torso, and with the added assistance of a great wig and delightful costume (owls beware), Plumley reigns supreme as the evening's comedy highlight.
The orchestra sounds great and looks a treat sitting on a higher level. Costumes are lovely. So what's missing?
Apart from the familiar Turkey Lurkey Time, the title song, and I Say A Little Prayer (which was added to the recent Broadway revival), the score is surprisingly unmemorable. There is only one company production number, and the story does seem to drag on for a little too long.
While Promises, Promises was a success way back when, it just does not seem to stand the test of time nearly as well as the brilliant film that it was based on. Still, be grateful that The Production Company has given us the opportunity to visit a musical that is unlikely to have a commercial season here. There's also the added bonus of Hetherington and Plumley.
And... if you want to compare it to the original, ABC2 will screen Billy Wilder's The Apartment this Saturday at 10.15pm.
The Production Company presents
By Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Neil Simon.
Dates: 3 - 7 October, 2012
Venue: The State Theatre