Hu­mor­ous look at Roarin’ 20s in US

Hamilton News - - COMMUNITY - Ge­off Lewis

They called it the Roar­ing 20s for a rea­son.

It was the great cel­e­bra­tion of life fol­low­ing World War I. But in the United States it was also the great era of Pro­hi­bi­tion — where the pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion of al­co­hol was banned in many states.

Hamil­ton’s River­lea The­atre will present Zoot Suit Xmas, a wild rampage of song and dance based on Chicago where al­co­hol was traf­ficked by gang­sters and con­sumed by ner­vous pun­ters in il­licit bars and ‘speakeasies’.

Direc­tor Greg Hack said the idea for the show was put to the River­lea board in Septem­ber last year and au­di­tions be­gan in July this year.

Writ­ten in 2005 by Hamil­ton play­wright and ac­tor Michael Switzer, Zoot Suit Xmas was pre­vi­ously staged by River­lea in 2006.

The story fol­lows the cat and mouse con­test based around Bugsy’s Malarkey back-ally club — a take on the ac­tiv­i­ties of real 20s era mob­ster Bugsy Mo­ran.

“Bugsy is try­ing to build a rep­u­ta­tion for run­ning one of the top speakeasies while bat­tling Fed­eral pro­hi­bi­tion agents led by Eliot Ness, deal­ing with boot­leg liquor run­ners and fend­ing off the at­ten­tions of Al Capone and other gang-land high-rollers,” Hack said.

Zoot Suits, recog­nised by their high­waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed trousers and long coats, were out­lawed dur­ing World War II as us­ing too much cloth.

Zoot Suit Xmas has been a su­per-charged col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort re­quir­ing the cast to learn many pop­u­lar tunes and to dance. Wardrobe mis­tress Robyn Win­der was tasked with pro­duc­ing 90 per cent of the cos­tumes while chore­og­ra­pher Shanelle Bor­lais and vo­cal direc­tor Melissa Ni­chol­son put the cast mem­bers through their paces.

“We have a lot of new faces on stage who have worked very hard to cre­ate a great per­for­mance. The show is a hu­mor­ous look at a very tu­mul­tuous time in US his­tory. It has lots of op­por­tu­nity for au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion and sing-alongs to tunes like Peggy Lee’s Fever and Bon Jovi’s Liv­ing on a Prayer, Hack said.

On for nearly a month, Zoot Suit Xmas is River­lea’s big fund-raiser for the year — an im­por­tant event as the the­atre so­ci­ety is keen to progress the first stage of its lon­gawaited re-build of River­lea The­atre.

■ Zoot Suit Xmas, River­lea The­atre, writ­ten by Michael Switzer, di­rected by Greg Hack, pro­duc­tion Jane Bar­nett, chore­og­ra­phy Shanelle Bor­lais, Vo­cal direc­tor Melissa Ni­chol­son, Nov 17 — De­cem­ber 15, din­ner and show, Nightly prizes for best dressed in pe­riod. Book­ings iticket.co.nz or call the the­atre 07 856 5450.

Photo / Kerry Blak­eney-wil­liams

Henry Garfitt as Bugsy and So­phie Nairn as Boopsy.

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