BWW Reviews: PROMISES PROMISES Promises a Wonderful Cast
Promises promises is a "musical" of two halves. I say "musical" loosely as it is more a play with songs that don't particularly enhance the story. On top of this Burt Bacharach's score never reaches any great soaring heights, it is more a commentary of the action taking place. Its highlight is Turkey Lurkey Time at the conclusion of Act 1, by this stage, unfortunately, the audience has already been lost by some pretty uneventful script and direction.
One thing that certainly isn't uneventful are the performances of the principals. Matt Hetherington as Chuck Baxter delivers a phenomenal portrayal of a character that is particularly multi-faceted. Continually breaking the fourth wall to share his thoughts and feelings with the audience, Neil Simon's character has to be one of the most wordy parts in Musical Theatre and Hetherington is precise in his acting choices and words that we immediately love the character and genuinely care for his outcome.
Marina Prior as Fran Kubelik gives a charming performance of the young employee vying for the affection of her boss JD sheldrake played admirably by Troy Cogin. Prior portrays the fragility of her character with perfect subtlety and her vocal performance is as sublime as always, joining with Hetherington's effortless vocal in the evenings singing highlight Ill Never Fall In Love Again.
Act II turns the show on its head. It is in complete contrast with Act 1 in that it is particularly funny. This is noticeably due to the introduction and development of two supporting characters, the loveable cougar Marge MacDougall played to comic perfection by Chelsea Plumley and also Dr Dreyfus played by the equally comedic Robert Grubb. The action centres around Hetherington, Prior, Plumley and Grubb in Act II and in doing so the show transforms from quite a meaningless, uninspiring work to a meaningful, witty, yet still uninspiring work. For while the actors are working feverishly and the show moves from first gear to third, it never quite gets into full drive. Quite possibly this is why the piece is seldom presented and has barely reached a fizzle when it is.
Orchestra Victoria under the baton of Guy Simpson was as magnificent as ever, combining both the pop and classical rhythms of Bacharach with precision, choreography from Tanya Mitford is quite clever, albeit a little repetitive, but with only one real song and dance number this can be forgiven, and after the quite brilliant set of The Production Companys previous show Chess, set design by Andrew Bellchambers is particularly underwhelming.
Without a doubt you will see some fine performances in The Production Companys Promises Promises and you will follow the story of hero Chuck Baxter with interest, however, you may quite quickly find yourself losing interest in a story of broken promises and infidelity. Maybe this is one show that genuinely needs a slightly larger budget to give it the added boost needed to reach fourth or fifth gear.
The Arts Centre Melbourne