This is a rollicking show. Despite being a return season to Perth, the first show, a 1.00pm matinee, boasted a healthy and enthusiastic crowd.
I take my hat off to writers and producers Kevin Brumpton and Angus FitzSimons. They have produced a show that will run and run and run. The subject is a cornucopia of material. Of course some of the credit must go to their casting of Benita Collings, enabling them to make extraordinary mileage about that television icon Play School.
The whole cast is in excellent form. It was delightful to see Max Gillies onstage. John Wood is a familiar face from so much Australian television, Russell Newman, Kim Lewis, Emily Taylor and Christian Barratt Hill round out a fantastic team.
The songs are great fun. Often allowing individual cast members to step up to a solo verse before a rousing group chorus.
The format of skits worked brilliantly. There was a lovely interaction between John Wood and his much younger new partner played by Emily Taylor. Much of the humour is deprecatory in tone and the delivery works a treat. The audience is onside even before we get there and Australians are increasingly good at laughing at themselves.
Some of the hilarious comedy turns were Senior Mastermind, a wonderful pastiche of the Gilbert and Sullivan number I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General by Gillies and a marvellous recreation of a Seekers concert featuring The Finders. Kim Lewis gave a virtuoso cameo as the future grandmother decrying her daughter and son in law’s choice of possible names for the infant to come. There was a television interview with the head of the Alzheimer’s Association which had the audience in stitches.
The material was perfectly pitched to the market and mention must be made of the very amusing voice-overs promoting fictional products especially designed for the mature market.
A highlight was Old School, familiarly set in the ABC Play School with Benita Collings (Miss Jane) at the lectern directing proceedings. Here there were some remarkably clever wordplays on familiar nursery rhymes and loads of politically incorrect references. Miss Jane narrated the tale of Bill the Dinosaur as it was acted out by Gillies, a sad story with a happy ending.
No Need (to mention the gay marriage issue) was a delightful pub encounter between Gillies and Wood. Their timing was impeccable
A rousing version of Click Go the Shears (Quick Go the Years) finished the performance on an upbeat note.
Mitchell Price-Noorgaard was superb as the accompanist, using the musical format designed by the late Geoff Harvey, he also performed two marvellous musical solos; The Sting and a dazzling final movement from Weber's Piano Sonata No. 1 (Perpetuum Mobile)
A funny, polished, satisfying theatrical offering.
Return Fire Productions presents
by Angus FitzSimons and Kevin Brumpton
Director Angus FitzSimons
Venue: Heath Ledger Theatre | State Theatre Complex
Dates: 10 – 17 April 2019
Tickets: $55 – $75
Bookings: 62129292 | www.ticketek.com.au
Also touring nationally