BWW Review: ME AND MY GIRL at Shaw Festival
A "ME AND MY GIRL" Not To Be Missed
It is infrequent for the theatre god of comedy to shine bright enough to induce glee, but that is what occurred on opening night of the Shaw Festival's utterly charming production of ME AND MY GIRL. An alchemy of sorts has melded a super talented cast with the thoughtfully insightful director. The Shaw Festival has not always had a strong track record of completely successful musicals, but under new Artistic Director Tim Carroll's leadership, it seems as if the tide has turned. Of course, the selection of a musical with British heritage ( a rarity of sorts), fits in perfectly with the Shaw Festival's mandate.
The farcical story centers on locating the lone and unlikely heir to a large family fortune. At the Hareford family estate we meet the commoner, Bill Snibson, who born of an unfortunate family tryst, learns of his new position of heir apparent. How this cockney gent reacts to his new surroundings often plays a bit like Pygmalion, and tangentially makes references to Shaw's infamous characters.
Originally produced on the London Stage in 1937, this highly successful show has music by Noel Gay and a revised book by Stephen Fry for it's second life in a 1980's revival. The catchy score includes charming character numbers like "Leaning on a Lampost" and "Me and My Girl," but it is the toe tapping production numbers that had the audience enraptured. Act II opens with the superfluously wonderful tap number "The Sun Has Got His Hat On," which only serves to capture the happiness of a summer's day. Even G.B. Shaw himself would have found it hard not to be grinning from ear to ear with the energetic dancing and sun kissed costumes of the entire cast.
Michael Therriault as Bill is having a great time as the family outsider, with his physical comedy prowess being as glorious as his dancing. Mr. Therriault literally throws himself into the role, which often finds him falling down stairs, sliding on a banister or traipsing and tripping over his regal robes. His longtime cockney girlfriend Sally, played by Kristi Frank, must figure out how she fits into his new found life and wealth. Ms. Frank dances beautifully in the Act II dream sequence,and has a stunning physical transformation, ala Eliza Doolittle. Unfortunately her voice at times seemed unfocused and did not always match the caliber of her dancing skills.
Choreographer Parker Esse has created such vivacious and creative dances that nary a moment goes by without his talented eye leading the way. Jay Turvey is hilarious as the family solicitor, who eagerly breaks into song and silly dance for no apparent reason, but this limber dance becomes so infectious as to get the entire household skipping and dancing. A few hints at brief reprises of his solicitor song make for brilliant comedy. Mr. Esse's dances are executed lithely by longed leg blonde bombshell Elodie Gillette as Lady Jacqueline, the nymphomaniac young cousin who only wants to marry for money, so sets her sights on Bill.
Triple threat can best describe Kyle Blair as Gerald, the nephew and would be suitor to Lady Jacqueline. Blair's comedic timing, as well as his clarion tenor and agile dancing, made him a joy to watch. Shaw veteran Sharry Flett was marvelous as the family leader, the Duchess of Dene. Ms. Flett's "Song of Hareford" was a triumph, as her familial ancestors spring to life from their respective portraits on the wall and join her in dance. The imaginative choreography literally revolves around a rotating library ladder and was nothing short of brilliant. Ric Reid as Sir John was a great comedic foil to Mr. Therriault, and the funny and groan inducing quips they shared in their drunken states were played to the hilt.
Director Ashlie Corcoran has guided the evening with a perfect mix of physical bits and posturing, in addition to spot on pacing, that often induced riotous effects. The many sumptuous costumes by Sue LePage were meticulously tailored, with great attention to period detail. Sets by Drew Facey encompassed a large two tiered rotating staircase with a modern edge, complemented by immense greenery and flying pieces that danced along with the cast. Kudos to sound design by John Lott, where every character was clearly heard but never overpowered by Paul Sportelli's wonderful orchestrations.
Each Act closed with the crowd pleasing "Lambeth Walk" and it's infectious tune and high stepping dancers in glittery costumes made for as perfect a musical adventure one could ask for on a lovely evening in Niagara on the Lake.
ME AND MY GIRL plays at the Shaw Festival in Niagara on the Lake through October 15, 2017. Contact Shawfest.com for more information.