Article Title:Review: Camp classic - Babes In Arms
Author or Credit:John Curry
Published on:5th July 2006 - 12:00 pm
Story ID:1326
Text:Babes In Arms by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart Youth Theatre Production Auckland Music Theatre, Motions Road, Western Springs Until 15 July 2006 MTQs (music theatre queens) and anyone who loves a solid slice of entertainment make your way to that metallic barnlike edifice down by the zoo. For two weeks Auckland Music Theatre is presenting Rodgers and Hart's 1937 hit Babes in Arms. Hart was probably at least a bit gay and many of his fabbo showtunes have struck a chord with many MTQs for decades. What a rare pleasure to see the show that introduced the hit songs My Funny Valentine, Lady is a Tramp and Johnny One Note! And if you know your Ella Fitzgerald you will recognise two of the lesser hits, the haunting Where or When and the chucklesome (and non pc) I wish I were in love again. Of course a barn is the perfect place for a show about talented youngsters putting on a show in a barn! Even this 'bare-bones' (and it has to be admitted - rather raw around the edges) production, works for the show. Honey-voiced Hannah Lee holds the production together, handling both the humor and the famous songs with just the right sort of nonchalant delight. She also looks like someone from the period, something that doesn't happen for most of the others until the costumes hit the right note in the second half when they're all sent to work on a 'work farm'. (Well, this is the Great Depression! What did you expect? American Idol?) She's ably supported by Josh Clark as her boyfriend (great sense of humour, Josh) and Andrew Allen (nice hoofing, Andrew) as his best mate. Sarah-Jayne Phillips handles the 'funny lady' role of Baby Rose with quite some assurance and is perfectly delightful in a song unfamiliar to me, Way Out West. She also proves (correctly) something of a belter in Johnny One Note. Michaela Nicholls and Phillip White lend the show a lot of energy and experience as they fight and feud (and tap) their way through I wish I were in love again and the less interesting You Are So Fair. The Egyptian ballet looked good but went on for far too long (almost as long as it took to build the pyramids) and was saved by a dancing camel (this could only happen in a trad musical comedy, people). Lloyd Webber replaced the camel with a chandelier. However, the dream ballet in the second half proved a winner with the serene, elegant and graceful presence of a prima ballerina whose name I was not able to identify from the programme. The second half does suffer from a lack of one-line 'zingers' (surely the work of the fabulously witty Moss Hart) which make the first half so funny in a 'sophisticated' sort of way, and by having only one famous song (Lady Is a Tramp). Also, the cast relaxed too soon and the pace not only slackened but showed signs of wandering. And could someone tell the lighting designer that centrestage is a good place to provide some lighting! There was so much of it everywhere else. But the show's brave (very brave for the time) racist plot reversal still has legs, even today, sadly, and in this production allowed us to be entertained by the charming Paloma Reyes and the absolutely marvellous Joel Hewlett. He sings, he taps, he acts, he smiles! And he does it with such ease. Wow! Karl Buckley and Chad Muskett leant the procedings an air of maturity (well, Chad actually falls out of the air), and first-time director Pauline Vella shows she has the knack for casting people to their strengths. She gets good support from musical director Bryan Robinson and choreographer James Townshend. I would like to have seen the band out front though, and as for those alien antennae sticking out of the lead singers' heads, I didn't know they had those in the 30s. Thank you, Auckland Music Theatre, for this opportunity to see a true music theatre classic. John Curry - 5th July 2006    
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