The Adelaide Repertory Theatre can be relied on at all times and when it promises “an evening of high drama and musical interludes” it means high jinks are on the way - and so it proved to be.
Director, Pam O’Grady, used her life-time skills to intersperse heart-stopping scenes of the melodrama “Virtue always triumphs” or “Life in the Wicked City” with a delightful triumph of thespis and terpsichore performed by a clutch of good performers. Mind you, the astonishing pianistic abilities of Sandi McMenamin who created the musical effects and percussionist Rowan Dennis and the excellent Mistress of Ceremonies, the indefatigable Penni Hamilton Smith made us realise we were in the presence of musical know-how-and-some and Adelaide’s answer to Ethel Merman.
It was fun from the start with a bevy of singers and dancers giving us a merry, toe-tapping, ride on the road to nostalgia with those old songs that, even if the young don’t know them, are so lively, bright, bright and catchy. A word here about costumes. They were extremely well devised and colourfully presented by Helen Snoswell and Oliver Lee both for the ensemble numbers and the melodrama.
What do you expect with a melodrama? (a) A maiden in distress? (b) A handsome fellow, a hero of derring-do, who will save her? (c) A pathetic old mum and dad? (d) A dastardly villain with a cloak who wants to baffle (c) so he can snaffle (a) for his own evil desires and do away with (d)? (e) A few other goodies and baddies thrown in? f) A highly unlikely story, good singing voices, beaut costumes, sets of “indelible” realism and very good lighting, entirely achieved by Electricity? You do? You got ‘em all with this production by Elizabeth Olsson.
Dear little Charity (Ashley Penny) has a sweet little voice and the whimsical actions of a sorely-tried young woman with a baby (oh, not hers, I hasten to add – how could you think it?). Dick Truhart (Buddy Dawson) bursts on to the scene on several occasions as the dashing and handsome hero with a beaut singing voice whose desperation over Charity leads him to the haunts of the devil drink - and out again. His loving Ma (Annie Hall) and lecherous Pa (Tim Blackshaw) uphold the classic melodramatic belief that farmers are dumb, and Warrington Chadbourne (David Sinclair) is one of the most deserving-to-be-hissed villains you could find on stage.
In between thrilling instalments of this cliff-hanger we were treated to the joys of fast paced singing and dancing, a very funny balloon dance (oh, I’d love to see that again) starring Lindy LeCornu and Christopher Evans, an Irish Medley that brought tears to the eyes (Christopher Meegan), a virtuoso solo by Sandi McManamin, the astonishing reading of Lindy LeCornu’s mind by Matthew Gohl plus his sawing Laura Antoniazzi in half and the song by gormless Aled Proeve called “A hole in the Elephant’s Bottom” - which could fall into the category of the worst job in the world.
Adelaide Repertory Theatre presents
Palace of Varieties
Director Pam O’Grady
Venue: Arts Theatre | 53 Angas Street, Adelaide SA
Dates: 16 – 25 November 2017