Saturday, 21 November 2015

Jerry's Girls, Nov 21, 2015 ***

Jerry's Girls; concept by Larry Alford, Wayne Cilento & Jerry Herman; music & lyrics by Jerry Herman; produced by The Production Company
Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, Nov 21 to Dec 6, 2015
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ***
 Review also published in Herald Sun Arts online on Monday Nov 23, 2015 & later in print,KH

In his musicals, Jerry Herman wrote plenty of outstanding roles for women – and for men dressed as women – and Jerry’s Girls is a glitzy celebration of his greatest show tunes for gals.

With a repertoire of over 30 Herman songs, Jerry’s Girls is the perfect showcase for female talent and director, Dean Bryant, has cast some of Australia’s musical theatre giants including veteran, Nancye Hayes, the inimitable Rhonda Burchmore and ever-gracious Silvie Paladino.

The songs come from Herman’s renowned musicals that include Hello, Dolly! Mame, Mack and Mabel, Parade and the cross-dressing La Cage aux Folles.

One audacious highlight is Debora Krizak as the saggy, grotesque and aged stripper in Take It All Off, singing the cruel but hilarious inversion of the title, Put It Back On.

Burchmore shines with If He Walked Into My Life, the poignant tune from Mame, while Paladino demonstrates her impeccable tone and vocal control singing the hymn-like Milk and Honey.

Virginia Gay, known more for her television work than musicals, shows she can sing, act and be funny when she cunningly plays both Mack and Mabel in I Won’t Send Roses.

Hayes shows her continuing versatility as a singer-dancer in Two-A-Day (Parade) and I Was Beautiful (Dear World) while Kirby Burgess, a genuine triple-threat, performs Showtune with a vivacious dance.

The audience is champing at the bit by the time the glittering song and dance chorus numbers finally arrive at the end of Acts One and Two.

Hello, Dolly! is a classic, classy display of 11 sassy gals wearing bold, scarlet frocks (Owen Phillips) and singing their hearts out accompanied by a fine orchestra led by Mathew Frank.

The finale of Tap Your Troubles Away leaves us wanting more of its effervescent chorus line of tap-dancing, singing all-stars wearing black lamé and the obligatory, feathered headwear.

There is no narrative in Jerry’s Girls because it is simply a parade of great show tunes, but Bryant creates his own framework by setting the show in the rehearsal room with the 11 women playing themselves and revealing real stories about their lives in musical theatre.

Brent Hill, another capable, musical performer, depicts the frazzled director who plays rehearsal games, allocates songs, referees arguments and soothes nerves.

However, this theatrical device feels clumsy, often stalling the natural movement of songs and interrupting the flow of the show.

Some dialogue feels manufactured and uncomfortable, and there are so many in-jokes and self-referential banter about cast and choreographer, Andrew Hallsworth, that anyone who doesn’t know the performers’ histories and characters won’t get the jokes.

When the band plays and the songs are in full production mode, this show really flies and reminds the audience of Herman’s splendid repertoire and that ‘there’s just no tune as exciting as a show tune’.

By Kate Herbert

Cast includes:
Rhonda Burchmore
Nancye Hayes
Silvie Paladino
Christie Whelan Browne
Virgina Gay
Claire Lyon
Kirby Burgess
Chelsea Gibb
Debora Krizak 
Josie Lane
Natalie O'Donnell
and Brent Hill
Creative Team:
Director: Dean Bryant
Choreographer: Andrew Hallsworth
Musical Director: Mathew Frank
Dale Ferguson: Set Design
Owen Phillips: Costumes
Matt Scott: Lighting 
Sound by System Sound.
Rhonda Burchmore, Virginia Gay - photo Jeff Busby

Nancye Hayes - photo Jeff Busby

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