Review: ON THE RAZZLE at Shaw Festival

A Fresh Take On A Classic Story

By: Aug. 03, 2023
Review: ON THE RAZZLE at Shaw Festival

A good story often bears repeating. Such is the case in Tom Stoppard's ON THE RAZZLE, currently playing on the Royal George stage of the Shaw Festival. It's storied provenance has beginnings dated back to the 1842 play  "Einen Jux will er sich machen"   by Johann Nestroy.  
Thornton Wilder used the story as the basis for  his first play, THE MERCHANT OF YONKERS, which he then modified to his better known version, THE MATCHMAKER, albeit as a secondary story to his newly created character Dolly Gallagher Levi. And Jerry Herman capitalized on the hit comedy to compose his beloved HELLO, DOLLY!
Here two young store clerks  in a small Austrian shop decide  to leave their jobs for a night of adventure in Vienna. But their boss (Zangler) also heads to Vienna to meet his finacee, who runs a fashion house. When the group unexpectedly collides, the craziness reaches new heights as disguises and mistaken identities follow this bunch wherever they roam.
Wordsmith Stoppard , whose recent success LEOPOLDSTADT just closed on Broadway, has taken the story and created a farce that charms with it's witty script full of double entendres and malapropisms. This is the type of show that the Shaw Festival does best, with  a glamorous production that is tailor made for the Royal George jewel box theatre.
Director Craig Hall obviously understands farce, as his cast delivers a well rehearsed concept with pinpoint accuracy. Farce demands controlled chaos, and the players deliver on all accounts. Subtle but effective physical stunts as well as broad gestures and well timed sound effects never seem out of place for the period, but rather complement the actions in true comedic style.
Set and costumes designed by Christina Poddubiuk are picture perfect, with a unit set that cleverly adapts to many locales. The costumes are lavishly detailed and shine in their own beauty.
Mike Nadajewski turns in a magnificent performance as the head clerk Weinberl. His limber body and comic timing is spot on, embodying  the adventurous young man out on the town. In a switch of gender roles, his young apprentice Christopher is played by Christy Frank. This worked just fine and lent a "Victor/Victoria" spin on a woman playing a man (who later impersonates a woman). Frank landed all the naive, wide eyed comedy with aplomb.
Ric Reid was the blustery shop owner Zangler, whose misuse of  language  became a true running joke. Costumed with a too tight  uniform and clanking spurred boots, it was clear that even the costume designer understood the farcical elements outlined in the script. Zangler is out to protect his niece, Marie (played with Lindsay Fu,) from the clutches of who he perceives as an undesirable young ne'er do well, Sonders (Drew Plummer).
Shaw favorite Patrick Galligan nearly stole the show with his brief scene as the coachman. This gent knows how to  perfectly deliver a comedic performance, full of suggestive innuendos. He even garnered exit applause for this brilliant cameo.

The ladies all fared equally well.  Claire Julien was appropriately ditzy and carefree as Madame Knorr, Zangler's fiancee. Her friend and client, Frau Fischer (Elodie Gillett) , is dragged into the drama  to impersonate Weinberl's wife.  A crazy restaurant scene ensues with drunken waiters, mixed up couples and an amorous coachman playing a game of cat and mouse.
Tara Rosling as Fraulein Blumenblatt is the supposed protectress of young Marie. But she brings her own comic backstory of unrequited love to the farce with her repetitive story of woe.
Jonathan Tan is Melchior, Zangler's newly hired personal assistant. Tan is pert and efficient, bringing his own unique humor that often played of his slight frame.
The resolution to the story finds a happy ending for all, plus some surprises that tie the story up with a neat bow. And the audience was the happy recipient of this charming theatrical gift.
ON THE RAZZLE plays at The Royal George Theatre of the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada through October 8, 2023. Contact for more information.


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From This Author - Michael Rabice

Michael Rabice has over  40 years of experience attending plays, musicals and opera all over the world. He is a frequent performer in opera and has appeared with the Glimmerglass Opera, Artp... Michael Rabice">(read more about this author)


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