In many ways this flippant and funny musical is perfect for our troubled times, and the Hills Musical Company provided us with a delightful diversion.
Based on the movie of the same name, the musical adds song and dance to the humorous antics of con artists working on their intended victims, including one another, on the French Riviera.
Director Michael Butler ensured that the cast and crew maintained the necessary pace, and Musical Director Ben Stefanoff blended the voices well and conducted the band to provide sympathetic support for the cast. Despite the interruptions to the show’s preparation caused by illness, the production was fluent and well-rehearsed. Notable in that regard were the smooth, timely scene changes and transitions of focus.
Rod Schultz was commanding and credible as the established con-man Lawrence Jameson. His comic timing and suave articulation are critical to the role, and he excelled in both. He was especially skilful in making meaning of the sometimes rapid lyrics of his songs, coupling that with his strong warm baritone voice. By contrast, his solo Love Sneaks In was very moving.
Opposite him, in more ways than one, was Sebastian Cooper as the raw, gauche Feddy Benson. At first, as the plot requires, Cooper played Freddy as very much secondary to Lawrence, but as the play developed, so did his portrayal of Freddy’s conniving ways. His comic performance during the second Act was physical, funny and well sustained.
Together, they worked well, and were especially effective in the several “gotcha” moments.
Callum Byrne played an engagingly understated Andre, Lawrence’s facilitator in many of his exploits. His interaction with the other characters was subtle and supportive. Of the intended scam victims, Megan Davidson, as Christine Colgate, handled the important changes in her relationship with the central characters very well, while Tammy Shields was all energy and action as the Oklahoman heiress Jolene. Kristen Stefanoff showed her experience and class as Muriel, and was credible, sensitive and effective in both dialogue and songs.
The ensemble sang and moved well. In the programme some of the cast noted that the choreography had been demanding. Choreographer Ashleigh Rathjen had schooled them well and had ensured they gave life and entertainment to the big numbers. Among others, the important opening chorus supporting Lawrence in Give Them What They Want effectively set the upbeat tone for the whole production.
There is no doubt that the Hills Musical Company’s cast and crew did justice to this quirky musical. We were all well entertained.