Wednesday, 17 March 1999

Centrestage With Your Arms Up, 17 March 1999

by Charmaine Gorman at Courthouse Theatre until March 27, 1999
Reviewer: KATE HERBERT on 17 March 1999

A show-biz family is a strange creature. Growing up with parents who did the Tivoli must have been a peculiar environment. Choosing to continue the tradition is even stranger, considering the vaudeville form is virtually dead these days.

Sisters, Charmaine and Kate Gorman, are the children of Tiv performers, Reg Gorman and Judith Roberts. Charmain wrote Centrestage with Your Arms Up. She sings, dances and acts in it with her sister Kate and their parents are also present in video sketches and in slides and photos of their past glory in song and comedy.

It is a weird experience watching this show. Charmaine's play, her first, deals with two show-biz sisters who are still performing songs from the 40's, reminiscing about their parent's former glory and a childhood standing backstage at the Tiv and hoping for a break. It seems to be taken directly from their lives, except that the characters' parents are dead and the girls have no brother in the play.

These two young women are warm on stage but the most successful component of the show is the songs. The pair have a fine accompanist in Will Conyers who plays a grand piano onstage and is also the musical director. The numbers have a very 40's feel and it seem as though these two were born too late for their time.

The repertoire includes songs such as Little Rock, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Someone Who'll Watch Over Me, and a song about getting your man which could only have been written in the 40's - we hope -called Find Out What They Like and How They Like It a and Give it To Them.

The problems with this play are myriad. The direction is pedestrian, scene changes are interminable, the stage looks uninteresting and nothing happens. There is no substantial narrative development. The dramatic tension of the first act, in which Chris (Kate Gorman) suspects she is pregnant to her unpleasant ex-boyfriend, is diffused completely at the top of the second act.

Ther rest of the play is explication or rather banal dialogue between the two about food, virginity, sex, songs, jobs, boys and their parents. There is far too much description of the parents' vaudeville act. A twenty-minute scene discussing a photo album of Tivoli actors cannot replace dramatic dialogue.

This script lacks craft and needs dramaturgy. It would be a much better show if it was halved. An hour of songs and reminiscences could work.
K Herbert

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