Reviewed by Kerry Cooper
What a delight it is to go the theatre and to be thoroughly entertained. If you are a fan of hilarious skits, a sing-a-long, melodrama and the odd dirty ditty, then look no further than ‘The Rep’s’ latest offering, Palace of Varieties.
Director Pam O’Grady knows her genre well and drains every laugh from the attentive and co-operative audience. With so much going on, mistress of ceremonies Penni Hamilton-Smith does a fine job to steer the night’s festivities, her sharp wit and improvisational skills on full display.
There was a time when music hall theatre/vaudeville was all the rage, a form of escapism that provided a good belly laugh. In this genre, everything on stage is overplayed, from the acting to the physical comedy.
In Palace of Varieties, wonderful toe-tapping tunes are provided by pianist Sandi McMenamin and drummer/percussionist Rowan Dennis. Dressing the part, they are just as much a part of the show as the actors on stage.
Playwright Walter Boughton is responsible for the melodrama component, Virtue Always Triumphs or Life in the Wicked City. It provides the main action of the production and is marvellously cast. It is a tale of a damsel in distress named Charity, who takes refuge in the Truharts’ house during a raging blizzard, whilst trying to escape from the perfidious Warrington Chadbourne. He is after her because she is the heir to a railroad fortune.
Charity is brought to life by Ashley Penny; she is delightfully sweet and cries on cue. Villainous Chadbourne is played by David Sinclair and is met with boos every time he walks on stage; his portrayal is spot-on.
Our unlikely hero Dick Truhart is played by the immensely talented Buddy Dawson. His hillbilly accent and slapstick performance draw many laughs.
Side-splitting moments came thick and fast, but it would be remiss of me not to mention the “World-famous Balloon Dance”. Hilariously performed with deadpan faces by Lindy LeCornu and Christopher Evans, the performance has the audience shrieking with laughter.
Aled Proeve provides a gorgeous rendition of “The Hole in the Elephant’s Bottom” and on the night I attended it did not take long before the audience chimed in to help.
The energy and talent provided by the whole cast make it impossible not to be swept up in the hilarity. If you are looking for a good old-fashioned thigh-slapping night at theatre, then this production is the ticket.
Reviewed by Kerry Cooper