Thursday, 17 June 2010

Candy Man ***

Candy Man 
By Wayne Scott Kermond, presented by Kermond Creative
Playhouse, Victorian Arts Centre,  June 17 to 27, 2010
Reviewer: Kate Herbert

Candy Man is an homage to Sammy Davis Jr. and, more specifically, to song and dance men. Wayne Scott Kermond has the credentials as both a hoofer and singer and he grew up in a travelling music theatre family, performing in Gypsy at the age of 11. He was also the guy who did a Donald O’Connor by running up the wall in Singin’ in the Rain.

By creating this show with his wife and director, Katie Kermond, he is fulfilling a dream. His passion for both the material and his sense of achievement almost overwhelmed him on this opening night when tears filled his eyes.

Kermond does not attempt to impersonate Sammy Davis Jr. Although both have show biz families, sing, dance, are vertically challenged and funny, Kermond notes wryly that he is not black, one-eyed or Jewish. Kermond’s singing voice is less distinctive but he is compelling when belting out passionate numbers such as Birth of the Blues and Sing Sing Sing.

The production really starts to fly during Rockabye. Kermond peppers it with funny impersonations of Bogart, Rocky Balboa and Brando doing versions of the song.

Kermond is backed by an exceptionally tight, show band, with plenty of brass, under the musical direction of drummer, Jamie Castrisos. Although Kermond sings most songs alone, five versatile dancers join him on stage in snappy choreography that echoes the movies of Gene Kelly, vaudeville toe-tappers and music theatre. He also uses his acrobatic, clown skills in a slapstick routine for Make-em Laugh.

Kermond links songs with slightly cheesy patter describing Sammy Davis’s chequered life and career. The Las Vegas medley recalls Davis’s floor shows with favourites including Old Black Magic, and Lady is a Tramp, complete with showgirls dressed in little but feathers.

The glossy show tunes are balanced by warm, emotional ballads including Hey There and What Kind of Fool Am I. A volunteer dances with Kermond during Singin’ In The Rain and an enormous troupe of children appears on stage for a rousing version of Gonna Build a Mountain, with the entire audience joining in the chorus of Halleluiahs.

Kermond’s confidence and delight in the show accelerate over the evening and we are all hooked by his warmth and charm by the end.

By Kate Herbert

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