Musical a high-energy romp
Me and My Girl (out of 4) Book and lyrics by L. Arthur Rose and Douglas Furber. Book revised by Stephen Fry with Mike Ockrent. Music by Noel Gay. Directed by Ashlie Corcoran. Until October 15 at the Festival Theatre, 10 Queen’s Parade, Niagara-on-the-Lake. ShawFest.com or 905-468-2172.
In only a few years, director Ashlie Corcoran has gone from helming the indie company Theatre Smash to becoming the artistic director of the Thousand Islands Playhouse in Gananoque, Ont.
She has done small-scale touring productions like the Gay Heritage Project, and also the Magic Flute at the Canadian Opera Company. Corcoran has become one of the most productive directors in the country, and her productions often have the speed and agility that she does.
Helming her first large-scale production at the Shaw Festival, Corcoran turns a West End hit from the 1930s (and again in the 1980s due to a book update from Stephen Fry) but little-known today, Me and My Girl, by L. Arthur Rose, Douglas Furber and music by Noel Gay, into a highenergy crowd-pleasing romp.
The plot of Bill Snibson (Michael Therriault) being plucked from a low-class life in London to join the English elite as Earl of Hareford, inheriting a country estate from a father he never knew, and refusing to leave his lifestyle and his love Sally (Kristi Frank) behind, is thin, especially to Canadians who mostly understand the British class system theoretically, but not personally. Stephen Fry’s embellished book thankfully adds some self-awareness to the 1930s sense of humour, playing up the Cockney rhyming slang, adding clever references to My Fair Lady. It also inserts another Noel Gay for pure fun and frivolity to open the second act with a bang (boosted by Kyle Blair’s performance as the dandy Gerald Bolingbroke), “The Sun Has Got Its Hat On.” But in Corcoran’s production on the Shaw Festival stage, it’s pleasant filler until the next big musical dance number.
Parker Esse’s choreography captures an old school elegance and exu- berance, a romanticism that the film La La Land rode to the Oscars this year. In “Thinking of No One But Me,” Élodie Gillett’s Jacquie Carstone floats across the stage, held aloft by ensemble dancers David Ball, Travis Seetoo and Jonah McIntosh. One of the biggest comedic through-lines comes from the repeating choreography of Jay Turvey’s Parchester, in his theme song “The Family Solicitor,” the silly moves spoofing the elite family’s willingness to cheer on each other’s foolishness in their lack of selfawareness. And Therriault and Frank lead a rousing performance of the show’s signature song, “The Lambeth Walk.” With Sue LePage’s (many) exuberant costumes, these numbers are pure spectacle. Therriault’s leading man performance also puts the physical first, prat-falling his way around Drew Facey’s set with an enviable grace and ease.
Corcoran delivers a musical that feels aware of its own shortcomings and plays to its strengths. If you’re planning a trip to the country, you probably won’t want to leave this Girl behind either.
Michael Therriault as Bill Snibson, and Élodie Gillett as Lady Jacqueline Carstone in Me and My Girl.