|Date||12th May 2014|
|Society||Caprian Theatre Company|
|Venue||Little Theatre, Gateshead|
|Type of Production||Musical|
|Musical Director||Enid Stafford|
Author: Gordon Richardson
Whenever you visit a Caprian’s musical you are often treated to a production that is usually not the ‘standard fare’ of musical productions. The same was true of “Pal Joey”, a show I’d never seen before but from the stable of Rogers and Hart.
Telling the story of ambitious night club MC Joey Evans (Steve Nicol) whose embroidering of the truth and amoral attitude to life immediately had women despising him, whilst falling in love with him at the same time. One such conquest was ‘down on her luck’ Linda English (Charlotte Black) whose meeting outside a pet shop led to the well-sung “I Could Write a Book” which worked well and emphasised the onstage chemistry between Steve and Charlotte.
Joey, realising Linda would never help him achieve his ambitions, latched on to wealthy socialite Vera Simpson (Kim Robinson) as his ‘meal ticket’. Although much older than him, the married, Vera showered money and affection towards Joey, and even bought a night club ‘Chez Joey’ for him to indulge his work-related fantasies, whilst showing her feelings towards him in the iconic “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”.
The background to this production was mostly told around the nightclub, its dancing girls, and manager Mike Spears (Russel Rafferty) who epitomised a man slightly out of his depth in managing the strong character of Joey, and the often equally strong characters within the dancers. None more so than dancer Gladys Bumps (Lindsay Kellegher) who, although in reality is a splendid singer, had to sing several numbers in a ‘sharp’ Chicago drawl reminiscent of Lina Lamont in ‘Singing in the Rain’. Taking an instant dislike to Joey, Gladys forms an alliance with ‘gangster’ Ludlow Lowell (David Charlton) to blackmail Joey, Vera, and Vera’s husband.
David and Lindsay were well cast as ‘Gangster and Moll’ and the production benefitted from their comedic timing and actions.
There were also several minor roles of note played by Andrew Howe, Sam Monkhouse and the dancing girls, many of whom had dialogue. Of special note, however, were Melba Synder (Rexine Perry) as the cynical but ambitious reporter whose song “Zip” was a highlight and eye opener. Simon Devlin also proved what a fine character actor he is in taking on two very contrasting roles of the dour monotone tailor Ernest in the first act, and very camp Victor in the second act.
Set, although simple, was very effective and costumes, especially for the ladies of the chorus and dancers were within era. Congratulations also to the musical quartet, led by Enid Stafford on piano, which not only played sympathetically throughout the show but also played part in it - being on stage throughout as the night club resident musicians. Finally well done to the group for not needing microphones – voice projection is a dying art but one well practiced at Caprian’s