Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Little Me, Production Company, Aug 22, 2007

 Little Me
Book by Neil Simon, music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Carolyn Leigh
The Production Company
State Theatre,  Victorian Arts Centre, Aug 22 to 26, 2007
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Aug 22, 2007

Debra Byrne and Mitchell Butel are deliciously wicked in Roger Hodgman’s taut production of Neil Simon’s musical satire, Little Me. Byrne plays Belle Poitrine (nee Schlumpfert), the poorest girl in Drifters’ Row who lives with her Momma (Heather Bolton), a “nurse” at the Red Light “Hospital”.

 At 16 Belle falls for Noble Egglestone (Butel), the richest boy on Quality Hill, and spends her life seeking wealth, culture and social standing to be worthy of him.

Simon adapted Patrick Dennis’s hilarious mock autobiography, Little Me: The Intimate Memoirs of the Great Star of Stage, Screen and Television, Belle Poitrine. Both book and musical are barbed parodies of the rich, the famous and unashamed social climbers and are riddled with puns, gags and innuendo. Belle Poitrine, for example, means “pretty bosom”, Belle’s only genuine talent.

Byrne captures delightfully the wide-eyed, trashy ambitious starlet who sleeps her way to the top, accidentally killing off lovers on the way. Her voice is rich and resonate and its best as the mature Belle. She does justice to Cy Coleman’s songs including The Other Side of the Tracks, Here’s To Us and the rousing Little Me. She and Butel relish their reprised duet, I Love You (As Much As I Am Able).

Butel, a consummate musical artist, showcases his comic versatility playing all of Belle’s lovers/victims: octogenarian miser, Mr Pinchley, French entertainer Val du Val, myopic Marine Fred Poitrine, ailing Prince Cherney of Rozenzweig and arrogant screen director, Otto Schnitzler.

But it is his portrayal of rich boy wunderkind, Noble, that is inspired. He prances and poses, tossing his head coltishly as the blue-blooded Noble advances ridiculously from captain of every school team to Harvard and Yale graduate, Air Force Colonel and Governor of both Dakotas.

Guy Simpson conducts Orchestra Victoria in tight orchestrations of Coleman’s diverse musical score and Roger Hodman’s direction is deft and colourful, highlighting the comedy and over-the-top characters. The entire support cast is skilful but Bolton is devilish as both Belle and Noble’s mothers. The multi-talented chorus enlivens Dana Jolly’s choreography, Richard Jeziorny’s design is flexible and Paul Jackson’s lighting creates atmosphere and location.

Little Me is a hoot from start to finish. Now read the book. It is a winner too.

By Kate Herbert

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