Reviewed by Jan Kershaw
With Palace of Varieties the Adelaide Rep provides the audience with a wonderful evening at an old time music hall. It was great to see audience members getting into the spirit dressed in their finest Victorian gowns, tail coats and top hats. Director Pam O’Grady successfully melded high melodrama, comic skits, audience sing a-longs and magic into the classic musical hall format, most ably presented by the flamboyant Mistress of Ceremonies, Penni Hamilton-Smith.
My favourite piece would have to be The World Famous Balloon Dance which was brilliantly performed by Lindy LeCornu and Christopher Evans who were dressed in sparkling silver tops over generous blue tutus, very generous in Mr Evans’ case. The two actors managed to keep very serious, straight faces during the ludicrous manoeuvres with giant pink balloons. There were audience members, including me, with tears of laughter running down their faces by the finale of the dance.
The musical highlight of the evening was an Irish medley sung by Christopher Meegan who has a splendid voice. His rendition of Danny Boy was heart melting. Musical accompaniment throughout was provided by the very talented musicians Sandi McMenamin on piano and Rowan Dennis on drums.
The melodrama Virtue Always Triumphs or Life in the Wicked City was presented in parts, interspersed with singing, comedy and magic. The sets were spare but well done and evoked the right atmosphere for the different scenes of the melodrama, as did the costumes. I was disappointed by the lighting in some scenes as, at times, the faces of the actors downstage were in shadow.
The audience embraced the spirit of evening by loudly booing and hissing Warrington Chadbourne, the villain played by David Sinclair and cheering on the innocent heroine Charity played by Ashley Penny. I especially enjoyed Charity’s malapropisms such as ‘tenderloin’ instead of ‘tenterhooks’. Buddy Dawson gave a standout performance as Dick Truhart, the country bumpkin who falls in love with Charity and he was particularly convincing as a drunkard – having been led astray by the evil city folk.
All the performers in Palace of Varieties deserve praise for creating an evening of fun entertainment plus giving the audience the opportunity to sing along to some old tunes and perhaps even be lucky enough to catch a banana or some lollies.
Reviewed by Jan Kershaw