Sunday, June 30, 2013

JAZZ GARTERS

Directed by Cate Clelland
Musical Direction by James Court
Canberra Repertory at Theatre 3
21 June - 6 July, 2013

Review by Len Power 21 June 2013



There’s something new in the fourth edition of Canberra Repertory’s, ‘Jazz Garters’ – an underlying theme!  Cate Clelland, the director, wisely uses the Canberra Centenary to bind this production together.

There was some fine singing from the large cast in the group numbers, most notably in ‘Be My Friend’.  Ian Croker and the company performed an entertaining ‘Too Darn Hot’ by Cole Porter and Pamela Jansson, Bronte Forrester and Evan Kirby gave us a strong ‘Getting Married Today’, the fiendish Stephen Sondheim tongue-twister.

Amongst the solo numbers, Janelle McMenamin was a standout as ‘The Girl In 14G’, mixing opera and jazz apparently effortlessly.  Dick Goldberg was delightful performing ‘I’ve Never Seen a Straight Banana’ and topping that later in the show with the hysterical, ‘Model Of A Labour Politician’.  Evan Kirby’s fine voice was displayed in his thoughtful version of ‘Lost In the Wilderness’ by Stephen Schwartz. Charles Oliver was fun as Lady Denman but was a bit wasted as a peripheral character.  With more to do, she could have been a major asset in the show.

The band, led by James Court, played the large variety of music very well.  The set, designed by Andrew Kay, works very well for the large numbers but some of the solos staged towards the back of the set lost impact as a result.  Costumes designed by Helen Drum and co-ordinated by Jeanette Brown were eye-catching and effective.  The choreography by Lisa Buckley was imaginative, especially in the ‘Hot Air Song’ and the well-drilled cast performed the dances with energy and confidence.

As with all variety shows, some numbers work better than others.  The longer numbers, regardless of how well done they were, did sag a bit.  ‘Cell Block Tango’ seemed to be in the show only for the one-joke idea of having a male cast member, Lachlan Ruffy, play one of the girls, but with nothing especially amusing to do anyway.

Some items just seemed out of place in the show because there was no continuity ‘hook’ for them.  For example, ‘Come Rain Or Come Shine’, a beautiful song, nicely sung by Pamela Jansson, would have worked better if somehow related to what came before and after.  Also a problem in past editions, this lack of continuity between some numbers is particularly noticeable in this edition where a lot of numbers are successfully linked to the Canberra Centenary theme.

Cate Clelland’s direction keeps the show running smoothly at a fine pace.  ‘Jazz Garters’ has always been fun, but it is the Canberra Centenary focus that makes this one a standout.

Broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 30 June 2013.
A shorter version was first published in ‘City News’ digital edition on Saturday 22 June 2013.

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