I must say how freeing it felt to me, as a reviewer, when the reality finally clicked: writing about Drury Lane’s 40th Anniversary Music Hall is a sweet assignment because…. folks, they’ve been putting them on for 40 years! Clearly, something works for its large community of followers and fans. The current run continues at the Burlington venue until March 8th.
This is not to say that I haven’t given Music Hall proper thought and won’t duly note my observations here. However, practically speaking, if a production has been successfully mounted for four decades then it might just be ‘reviewer proof,’ if such a state exists.
A cast of six women and eight men, comprising the ‘Melodious Misses,’ ‘Marvelous Misters,’ and one ‘Mr. Chairman’ emcee make up Drury Lane’s current slate of Music Hall performers. That’s not to mention the guest artists that take the stage to reprise old favourites, including the warmly received father/daughter duo Al and Alix Kingston performing ‘Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better’ (in which Alix Kingston shows off formidable pipes!)
Over two Acts, the cast perform over twenty numbers, punctuated by the humorous & sarcastic commentary of Mr. Chairman (Ivan Buzzelli). Many favourites are mounted throughout the evening to celebrate the anniversary and show off the amazingly large catalogue of songs and comedic sketches Drury Lane has covered over the years.
Director/Choreographers Caroline Clarke and Shelley Rennick as well as Music Director Donna Dunn–Albert have clearly put in a lot of work, given the large cast, nearly two dozen numbers, and array of moving parts between scenes.
Stand out moments for me included the Misses’ beautiful harmonies on their portion of the ‘Canadian Medley,’ particularly their cover of Anne Murray’s ‘Snowbird.’ Both ‘Taylor the Latte Boy’ and ‘Taylor’s Rebuttal’ were fresh, modern and entertaining within a highly nostalgic program, with Melody Rasmussen and Paddy Skinner showing great comedic timing and a satisfying degree of snark. ‘Red Neck Deck’ was chock full of hilarious double entendres, and though ‘If I Were Not Upon the Stage’ seemed a tad too frenzied, it was a lot of fun.
In terms of costuming, although the ‘Pearlies’ outfits were certainly eye catching and, I gather, a real tradition at Drury Lane, I really loved the very classy and sharp black with white glossy outfits of Act Two’s ‘Gospel Medley.’
Did all of it work? No. Some sketches and bits of humour didn’t quite land for me, and there were moments when the harmonies were a bit off, or the choreography a little uninspired, or the bits a tad stale. It was extremely corny and a little too ‘on the nose’ at times. But Music Hall doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t. It intends to be corny, and lighthearted, and a zany, raucous way to spend an evening. During the show, it was announced that one elderly lady named Florence had attended 39 of the 40 years of shows (missing only the first year). Do I feel compelled to see it over its next forty years? No. But I can appreciate that everyone (performers and attendees) was having a great time. That’s an accomplishment. So there’s something to Music Hall, and I’d be a dope if I didn’t realize it.
In a January news article that Drury Lane member Carrie Mines wrote about Music Hall, she described it as “bringing together a family of performers each year, [when] patrons annually proclaim their love and delight for this centrepiece of Drury Lane’s playbill.” A scroll through Drury Lane’s Facebook posts over the past few weeks will show numerous remembrances of Music Hall dating back decades, and the lasting memories these productions have had for generations of performers, crew, and ticket buyers in the company’s close knit community.
That’s the thing. As I watched the show from about two–thirds back, I witnessed a full room of people singing, hooting and hollering, laughing and stomping. The show began with a singalong and, I mean, how can you resist a hearty singalong? To top it off, Drury Lane hospitality is warm and welcoming.
If your theatre has to be terribly serious and cerebral, don’t go. You’ll hate it. But if you’re hankering for a homey, uncomplicated, glee filled romp, Music Hall will fit the bill. V
Continues February 27, 28, 29 &
March 5, 6, 7 at 8 PM
Mar. 1 at 2 PM (matinee);
March 8th matinee *SOLD OUT*
Adults: $30; Seniors/Students: $25; Children/Members: $15
Drury Lane Theatrical Productions
2269 New Street, Burlington
For tickets, call the
Box Office: (905) 637-3979
or visit drurylane.ca