Right: True Love - Louella Baldwin as Tracey and Michael McNish as Dexter. Photo by Dan Kennedy.
Music and lyrics by Cole Porter
Additional lyrics by Susan Birkenhead
Book by Arthur Copit
Directed by Jacqueline Kerr and Helen Ekundayo
Musical Director Sean Fagan
Choreographer: Helen Ekundayo
Seven Hills Theatre
Tallowwood Street & Griffith Place
(Off Clearview Terrace)
Season: Until November 11. Bookings: www.trybooking.com
Villanova Players made a good fist of their production of High Society. It looked good, with classy frocks and suits, courtesy of costume designers Desley Nichols and Lia Surrentino, and clean-lined stage settings. There was also a white clad eight-piece jazz band with lots of brass sitting in the bandstand as the patrons entered the theatre.
It had all the feel of a top end of town wedding.
High Society is one of my favourite musical. It has great characters, a fun-filled plotline, and fabulous songs. I became hooked when I first saw the classic movie with Crosby, Sinatra, and Grace Kelly. When I saw a professional production of the play I enjoyed so much that I didn’t want it to end. So I went to the Seven Hills Theatre ready to enjoy the evening. And I did as I listened once again to all those great songs - Little One, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? I Love Paris, She's Got That Thing, High Society, Well, Did You Evah! You're Sensational, Say It With Gin, It's All Right With Me, I Love You, Samantha and of course True Love.
In the plot Tracy Lord is about to marry successful industrialist George Kittredge. At the pre-wedding party her ex-husband, Dexter, turns up and informs the family that unless Tracy agrees to be photographed by two reporters from a celebrity magazine, they will print a story about Tracy's estranged father, who is carrying on an affair with an exotic dancer.
Later, the reporters, Mike and Liz, arrive. Confusion starts when Tracy introduces her Uncle Willie as her father and when her father makes surprise appearance she claims him as her uncle. Then Tracey takes to the champagne and goes skinny-dipping with an equally inebriated Mike which of course, leads to all sorts of problems.
So with all those diverse characters no director can afford to slip up in casting – especially when there is a lot drinking going on. It’s not easy to be a convincing stage drunk! But Jacqueline Kerr and Helen Ekundayo did an excellent job. All principals were well cast but the ensemble was a bit wobbly at times in the small stage area.
To make the show work it needs a convincing Tracey Samantha Lord. It is such a vital role that needs to create a real rapport with Dexter. Louella Baldwin did that in spades. This fairly recent QUT graduate is a real find. She has strong stage presence and interpreted the songs with a terrific voice. She was something special in opening night. Michael McNish was Dexter. He played his role well and did his share of singing with a unique style. There was true electricity between them and the True Love duet with Dexter and Tracey was a highlight of the night.
Louella, along with Peter Cattach as Mike Connor created another unforgettable scene with the You’re Sensational song. What a pair of brilliant drunks they were. Uncle Willie, the old reprobate was another top class drunk played by Leo Bradley and Lillian Dowdell created a great adolescent Dinah Lord.
Garry Condoseres had the unenviable task of playing the pompous, humourless George Kitteridge, surely one of most unrewarding of roles. As for the rest, no one put a foot wrong and, despite having the band onstage the sound was good enough for the lyrics to come over loud and clear. There were a few lost lines and hesitant moments in the opening act, but when the champagne started to flow in Act Two it added an extra sparkle.