Spoofing film noir is hardly
a new concept. The standard Chandler-esque cliche-spouting detective reduced
to taking whatever job the uptown doll-face babe entering his seedy office
proposes is a familiar scenario--how many times has a leggy moll waved
a few bills around and crossed her seamed stockings in the direction of
a rumpled private dick down on his luck? But now this refreshingly charming
makes it all new again with a whimsical book by Scott Wentworth and one
of the most snazzy, infectious musical scores to hit the boards in years.
Laguna Beach Playhouse Artistic Director Andrew Barnicle, who played the
detective himself in his theatre's Southern California premiere of this
piece, guides the Los Angeles debut with tongue placed firmly in cheek,
a twinkle in his eye, and a definite knack for playing up every chance
for outrageous humor while keeping his actors just under the radar from
going too far. Luckily for this production, the sometimes Brechtian, sometimes
Sondheim-esque score, by Craig Bohmler and Marion Adler, is expertly sung
by a trio of gifted performers, especially Kevin Symons, whose impeccable
phrasing and feel for the era is clear both in the haunting ballad "Jenny"
and the bluesy title number. Symons is also in top form playing the world-weary
gumshoe with just the right mix of deadpanned retorts and precision comic
timing. Susan Wood complements him perfectly as several different characters--or
are they?--and is especially entertaining as a blowsy lounge singer who
ends her song sprawled like a human pretzel across the piano. Jeffrey Rockwell
not only doubles as the Red Eye Lounge's resident piano player and the
story's narrator but also serves as the show's music director and occasionally
steps out from behind the keyboards to play a series of minor characters,
each one progressively more comical than the last. From limning Max Headroom
at the piano to channeling Red Skelton in his cameo characterizations,
Rockwell is hilarious throughout. Gunmetal Blues at first seems a little
lost in the Colony's midsize space, surely originally intended to be presented
in a more intimate setting. But Barnicle and his crack team of players
and designers overcome the obstacle immediately. It is a testament to the
talents of the actors to hold this show as if performing in a more intimate
setting, despite the annoying microphones wired down their backs, which
surprisingly never distract in this piece. The actors are aided immensely
by John Berger's simple cabaret set design, which echoes the colors and
the sleekness of the Colony's auditorium, and by Paulie Jenkins' rich,
shadowy lighting, complete with the obligatory Venetian-blind illusion.
To Jenkins' credit, the cliche blinking red "Hotel" sign outside a window
never materializes. If you're looking for an evening to challenge your
intelligence and discover ways to save the planet, go see Homebody/Kabul.
If you want to have a load of laughs and leave the theatre with a smile,
humming the contagious title tune of a musical just as you did in the old
days, the Colony is the place.
Ensemble Delivers Powerful 'Incident at Vichy'
Travis Michael Holder, BackStage West
Copyright 2003 VNU eMedia
(Back Stage West)
Reprinted by Permission
Blues at the Colony Theatre