Mu­si­cal a high-en­ergy romp

Toronto Star - - ENTERTAINMENT - Carly Maga at Shaw

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. 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.

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