Review by Terry Gaisin
Wikipedia defines the term ‘Music Hall’ as a British format circa 1850 that paralleled the American Vaudeville genus. The UK.’s vaudeville sector was lower class and thus more in keeping with the burlesque shows on this side of the pond. The style(s) remained popular for a century. Why the history lesson? Just to introduce the oddity that is Drury Lane Theatre Productions who can continually fill a house for just short of four decades!
Directed & choreographed by Caroline Clarke & Shelley Rennick, audiences are the recipients of the requisite telegraphed one-liners; skits; chorus numbers and are essential participants in commentary and sing-alongs.
A difficult photo-op situation, on stage
The last being selections that recalled hits of the Depression era to intro Act I, and three big Beatles numbers post-interval.
Bit of trivia; next week will mark fifty-four years (Feb. 9/’64) since the quartet’s invasion on the Ed Sullivan Show.
The M.C. is Ivan Buzzelli whose ability to elicit responses from this side of the footlights, plus his thick skin-ability to brush off the groans and boos; are perfectly suited to the job. This is his 5th iteration as ‘Mr. Chairman’. The twelve mature performers exude their intense enthusiasm and dedication to making the evening a success. From duet & trio numbers, to the full-cast dance routines; their commitment is obvious and easily recognized. The corny zingers each one exchanges with Buzzelli are perfect liaisons between skits. We were especially touched by a warm rendering of ‘When You Say Nothing At All’. This Overstreet/Schlitz composition of ’83 was widely introduced as part of the Hugh Grant & Julia Roberts movie ‘Notting Hill’. Drury Lane’s John Dillon & May Farquhar imbued it with profound feelings. Mayhaps a little out of Music Hall tradition, but certainly a welcome feature.
The show opened with ‘That’s Entertainment’ from MGM’s The Band Wagon. This work has become the anthem of musical comedy and was an easy segue to the full cast performing excerpts from ‘Singing in the Rain’, complete with Gene Kelly’s ‘brolly’. Then, a duo/trio/quartet take on the joy of having female domestic assistance, from the hilarious ‘Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum’ movie. A cutesy take on ‘Mutual Admiration Society’ was performed by Carrie Mines & Kirsten Feldner; then a paean to The Jersey Boys’ that highlighted ‘Sherrie’ & “Big Girls (don’t cry)”.
A terrifically staged version of the photograph song from ‘Half a Sixpence’ had Jamie Taylor struggling to get his subjects in a non-embarrassing position before clicking his Nikon. The Elvis tribute was cute but the choreography was rather ill-rehearsed & amateurish.
Post intermission; offered the ‘Easy Street’ number from ANNIE ( a welcome relief from ‘Tomorrow’… etc.). Then, some early Rock & Roll hits such as Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around the Clock’. By the time the sextet had covered the 1;2;3 o’clock; 4 o’clock -rock intro; the audience could be heard quietly reciting the familiar lyrics. A brief comedy bit about Bee-keeping & an odd-behaving interlocutor, was offered by Dillon & Michael Belton.
The major offerings were the creative ‘If I Were Not Upon The Stage‘ which is convoluted to perform and off-times Byzantine for the audience to follow; and the requisite Cockney ‘Pearlies Medley.’ It may have been -17C outside, but the atmosphere inside the theatre was more than temperate. MUSIC HALL runs until March 11th.
Personal aside:- Thanks for the inclusion of ‘Daisy Bell’ in the sing Along. Hubby just bought us a Schwinn tandem bike to replace our stolen Vespa scooter!!! If you see us this spring,wave as we go by.