Presented by The Metropolitan Musical Theatre Co. of S.A., Inc., (aka The Met)
Reviewed 10h May, 2018
Break out the Veuve Clicquot! We’re in Oyster Bay, Long Island, it’s 1938, and Tracy Lord is getting married to her fiancé, George Kittredge. No expense spared. The stage show of the stage show of the film of the stage play has finally got it right! This rewritten version of High Society works far better than its previous avatar, which I saw back in 1993 in a professional production which toured Australia. The Met is wise to have chosen this new script. It recovers some of the verbal sparkle of its origins, the stage play, The Philadelphia Story (by Phillip Barry), peppers the show with more Porter songs, and employs a Greek chorus of hired help to comment, narrate and shift the story along.
Barry Hill directs, and it shows. He’s an old hand at this style of musical, and his understanding of genre, music and era are evident throughout. His set design, in collaboration with Leonie Osborne, makes canny use of the Arts Theatre stage, allowing a scrim and a pretty backcloth to eke out his staging options. Despite his authority, Hill has directed with a light hand here; both expert senior actors and rookies are alike offered developmental space.
As the slight plot rolls forward, we are invited to follow tomorrow’s bride-to-be Tracy Lord, as she contemplates her impending marriage to a twit, copes with the unannounced arrival of her ex-husband, meets two gate-crashing undercover journalists intent on raking up gossip, avoids her hormonally-imbalanced Uncle Willie, argues with her father, who has just concluded an affair with a dancer, argues with her mother, who seems happy to take her erring husband back, and generally grouses. Her character is rich-bitch brittle, with waspish Algonquin overtones. From her first appearance, in jodhpurs, riding boots and crop, Tegan Gully sings and acts this demanding role with flair. Her pensive It’s All Right With Me, late in the second half of the show, is thoughtfully crafted.
The standout performance of the night comes from Andrew Crispe, as Dexter C.K. Haven, Tracy’s rakish ex. He looks right, is vocally adept and sensitive to dynamic nuance in both speaking and singing and maintains a wonderfully watchable ease in his role. His skills are closely matched by Georgia Cosercas, whose role as Dinah, Tracy’s annoyingly precocious kid sister, demands ballet-based dance skills, comic timing, confident and accurate singing, and articulatory clarity. Cosercas delivers it all with charm and consistent energy. Jenny Scarce’s performance, as Liz Imbrie, the undercover gossip rag photographer, combines utter reliability, gifted comedic skill and a genuinely warm, collaborative presence within the cast. Scarce sang He’s A Right Guy with sensitivity, clarity and intelligent judgement. Her fellow-journalist, Macaulay Connor, is played by Chris Eaton, whose affable acting skill far outstrips his singing capability. The role of fiancé Kittredge enables Graham Loveday to exhibit mastery of Silly Walks. He huffs with comic abandon.
Speaking of comedy, Andrew Crayford as Uncle Willie (it’s all in the name) provides a master-class of physically-imbedded farce and slapstick. His party-piece Dirty-Old-Man act is a corker. Mother of the bride, Margaret Lord, is the character who provides warmth, stability and pragmatic common-sense to all, particularly her waspish older daughter Tracy. Shelley Hampton brings a calm and generous energy, while Lance Jones, as her repentant returning husband, gives his character the kindly tolerance needed to balance the ensemble.
The chorus of nine waiters, chambermaids and butlers, works hard all night. From a very wobbly start, their singing became clear, confident and a charming adjunct to the action throughout the show. Celeste Barone’s choreography reminds me of Otto Von Bismark’s quote about politics – ‘the art of the possible’. Barone has used her resources, with their various abilities, prudently.
I would have liked a better front-of-house sound from the orchestra. Musical Director Ben Sanders does a great job. I especially like his take-no-prisoners tempi, and the care with which he’s demanded clear articulation from his singers at these speeds. The two-keyboard foundation works well in the pit, and all eight musos play Porter’s brilliant music very well indeed. However, by the time their sound is relayed through the desk and comes to us, it’s thin, toppy and lacking in resonance. It’s not the fault of the MD. It’s not the fault of the musos. It’s a sound problem that could do with some attention.
This quibble to one side, sit back and enjoy the bubbly – both verve and Veuve – of this bright show.
Reviewed by Pat. H. Wilson
Venue: Arts Theatre, Adelaide
Season: 10th – 19th May, 2018
Tickets: Full Price: $34:00. Concession: $28:00
Bookings: www metmusicals.com.au