Review: Phillip Bate
Cancel Christmas, there’s no ham left! The Centenary Playhouse Group at Chelmer has cornered the market for its end of year production Red White & Boogie (or It happened in Tanjablanca).
Can anyone get away with murder? The cast of six actors certainly did as they followed orders from director Steve Peaton to have the ‘time of their lives’ with a story that has no deep and meaningful message, no ulterior motives and no sweeping social commentary. Research indicates ‘It Happened in Tanjablanca’ was an Australian musical ‘whodunnit’ written in 1968 by Peter Pinne and Don Battye spoofing dramatic films of the 1940s. Set in north Africa, the ‘whodunnit’ features a cast of recognizable characters which include an American film star, a tweedy English eccentric and a European Countess. Echoes of Humphrey Bogart, Claude Raines, Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Carmen Miranda, and Peter Lorre abound. In a later rewrite in 1974 – still using the same story – it was called Red, White & Boogie. Although originally written as a musical, the Centenary production has omitted the songs. Whether or not that is a blessing one can only surmise. However, the north African setting is spot-on given the recent political upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Set in Tanjablanca – a mythical city somewhere between Tangiers and Casablanca – the story takes place in the foyer of a seedy hotel where a group of shipwrecked survivors are holed up, and an international financier ends up shot, strangled and stabbed. What is it with actors Samantha McLaughlin and Helene Holland? They always seem to be fighting over men! In Noel Coward’s ‘Blithe Spirit’ they fought over a husband. Now there’s a choice between a ‘dirty digger’ and a ‘would-be’ Hollywood film star manager. Samantha vamps it up as Viva Condias – a dumb, vacuous Hollywood movie starlet keen ‘to buy the negatives’ by bestowing a range of favours and willing to do battle with crafty Countess Popesceau – a shady lady that allows Helene Holland to employ a thick eastern European accent and to play fast and loose with both her politics and morals. The Countess is a shipwreck survivor as is Miss Fotherington – a tweedy English spinster determined to ensure her future and love life is not washed-up like the shipwreck and targets the seedy local bar manager Ali Mohammed played by director Steve Pearton. It’s a tribute to Jan Lord’s acting skills that Miss Fotherington gets both her man and the bar. In the classic spy/whodunit genre, there’s always a double agent or someone in disguise. This play is no exception with actor Andrew Wallace cast as both film star manager Chuck Wagon with Viva Condias as his meal ticket and a bumbling police inspector based on Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau. The other ‘romantic’ character is a true-blue Australian ‘digger’ separated from his battalion. played by Joshua Bevan who finds himself behind closed doors at different times with both the Hollywood actress and the Countess – sigh!
Season has ended.
Remember way back when music had not only good lyrics but melodies as well? In those halcyon days before they invented crap – sorry, I meant rap – for people with no talent and who can’t sing?
Well, if anyone out there is a hankerin’ for the old days of the 50s and the 60s then head up to StageDoor Dinner Theatre for their current production, Rock N Roll Inferno that runs up to Christmas..
Trooper Damien Lee and three equally talented dance and songsters – Gerrard Woodward, Natalie Mead and Sonia Leaf-Milham – pump out the hits of yesteryear in a few hours of loud and aggressive amateur theatre punching as usual well above its weight. Well, Damien excepted, maybe.
This part-time reviewer knows bugger all about music – and couldn’t hit a note for love or money – but this quartet pay tribute to an amazing range of 50s and 60s stars and they sound simply hot. Well, it is an inferno they’re presenting, covering rock and roll and blues. Adding to the fun is a well-compiled video show that depicts the era’s stars and their groundbreaking music. Just about everyone gets a guernsey, from the King himself to Buddy Holly and Aretha Franklin. And just like the crackers that light up the nearby Ekka for 10 nights a year, the cast end the show with a spectacular medley of top hits from this sadly missed era where a pantheon of talented stars shone very brightly, some sadly rather ephemerally.