|The Bugle Boys|
Written and Directed by John Livings.
The Famous Spiegeltent.
Civic Square, Canberra. 25.02.2016
Reviewed by Bill Stephens.
The Andrews Sisters have a lot to answer for. Since the 1940’s when they were at the height of their fame they have spawned countless copy-cat look-alike acts, but perhaps none more outrageous than the drag trio, Bugle Boys.
Dressed in spiffy blue satin, Broadway version, military uniforms, The Bugle Boys (Jon Jackson as Maxine, Michael Dalton as Patty, and Andrew Dessman as La Verne) belt out the songs which made the Andrew singers household names.
“Rum and Coca-Cola”, Bei Mir Bist Du Shon”, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and “ Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, all got their moment in the spotlight, as did “Pistol Packin Mama”, “The Three Caballeros” and “Lullaby of Broadway”. Brad Riddell provided energetic accompaniment and prompting from the piano, with some help from brassy click tapes.
Although the harmonies were rather wayward, and the choreography less than flawlessly executed, the voices were their own, and the supportive audience spontaneously joined in the singing of their favourites. At one point, Jon Jackson delivered a surprisingly sweet version of “I Wanna be Loved” in crystalline soprano.
It was not all sweetness and light however. Between songs, the Bugle Boys engaged in some sisterly bickering as they shared details of their glittering career trajectory. Although they shared names and their careers had been quite similar to that of the Andrew Sisters, details which emerged of the Bugle Boys private lives, gave some clues as to why they are unlikely to ever achieve the sort of fame accorded to the Andrew Sisters, despite their unlikely ambition to appear on Broadway.
As luck would have it, the Bugle Boys’ one Canberra performance took place in The Famous Spiegletent, late afternoon on a hot summer day. The near 40 degree heat clearly took its toll, because despite a clever script, and supportive audience, they often squandered laughs with lacklustre delivery, exhibiting little of the pace and precision expected from an act of their reputation.
This review also appears in Australian Arts Review. www.artsreview.com.au