Review: JEEVES TAKES A BOW at Taproot Theatre

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By: May. 21, 2023
Review: JEEVES TAKES A BOW at Taproot Theatre
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Review: JEEVES TAKES A BOW at Taproot Theatre
Calder Shilling and Miguel Castellano
in Jeeves Takes a Bow at Taproot Theatre.
Photo by Robert Wade

Yowza indeed! JEEVES TAKES A BOW at Taproot Theatre launches into opening night full throttle on the comedy pedal. The beloved characters of PG Wodehouse take the audience on a delightful romp across the New York stage, through the seedy underbelly of the big city, and even a ramble into the wild, wild west, all without leaving the posh apartment of Bertram Wooster. From clever lines and word play, to the wryest eyebrow raise, to rolling physical comedy, this show finds a million ways to make you laugh.

JEEVES TAKES A BOW follows the misadventures of Bertram Wooster who has moved from England to New York City to escape his meddlesome Aunt Agatha. He receives a mysterious letter from an old school chum, Binkey who solicits his help in an unspecified situation. Binkey's arrival with the starlet Ruby LeRoy reveals a perplexing scenario that has caused Binkey to assume Wooster's name. LeRoy is closely followed by her "manager" Knuckles McCann who also gives Jeeves some tips on where to get "the good stuff" during Prohibition. The plot thickens with the arrival of Vivienne Duckworth, an acquaintance from England, who reveals she is engaged to the clueless Wooster. Meanwhile Binkey has told LeRoy that the real Wooster and Jeeves are a songwriting team and will write her a new song for her musical Naughty Natalie. Jeeves is tasked with finding a way out of this sticky wicket for all of them.

On opening night the cast was led by understudy Mark Waldstein in the role of Jeeves. His dry wit and polished manners brought Jeeves to life. He perfectly blended Jeeves' long-suffering indulgence of Wooster with the quick mind and problem-solving panache of one who secretly loves untangling Wooster's messes. At first Tyler Matthew Campbell appeared to have a one note portrayal of Knuckles McCann, but he quickly added dimension and depth with touches of humor and humanity. Miguel Castellano as Nigel "Binkey" Bingham-Binkersteth was a one man circus from start to finish. The physicality with which he approaches Binkey is a masterclass in slapstick comedy. Kelly Karcher as Vivienne Duckworth flexes her comedic chops and creates a complex character that delivers laughs equally in her stodgy demeanor and as well as after a few drinks. Claire Marx as Ruby LeRoy exudes flair right down to her fingertips. She whisks and flourishes and charms us all. And while the song she performs is no great composition, it is always a treat to hear Marx sing. Calder Jameson Shilling as Bertram "Bertie" Wilberforce Wooster is a perfect blend of hapless playboy, good-natured chum, and affable fop. His self-deprecating humor and good intentions make him impossible not to like. Shilling gives him a warmth and kindness that lay the foundation for Jeeves' years of loyalty.

Scott Nolte as director is a puppet master extraordinaire. His direction has the cast dancing, prancing, boxing, chasing, and rolling around every corner of the stage all with unforced intention and purpose. The show moves at an amazing pace while still milking scenes with grand pauses at just the right spots. Clearly everyone understands his vision and executes the plan with great zest. Matt Orme as fight choreographer has everyone moving comfortably and with great timing. Music Director R.J. Tancioco and Choreographer Beth Orme team up to make the one musical number a highlight of the show. Scenic Design by Richard Lorig makes great use of the space and helps set the tone with some great art deco touches. The costumes by Kilah Williams augment the characters' personalities and fit beautifully. I especially loved the green suit worn by Castellano and the gorgeous robe worn by LeRoy. The work of the artistic team is coherent and on point in every regard.

JEEVES TAKES A BOW is a smartly executed farce that doesn't try to reinvent the wheel but rather leans into the source material and milks it for all its worth. Riding the waves of laughter from an appreciative audience, the show steadily builds to chaos and once off the cliff, floats its way to a happy ending.Yet with all its frivolity, the show still manages to deliver some meaningful messages about friendship and loyalty. Taproot continues its magical season and has yet another winner on its hands.


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