Blue Champagne and the 1940s
Conceived & Written by Ken John Grant
Musical Arrangements by Bob Ashley, Ted Shadbolt, Dan Parr
Directed & choreographed by David Connolly
Performed by Michael Killinger, Marianne McCord, Leah Oster, Stephanie Roth, Michael Torontow
Music Performed by Charles T. Cozens & Robert Mills
Drayton Entertainment Production
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
June 24 to July 4, 2009
Live! On Stage!
Review by Mary Alderson
For those who remember the 1940s, there’s a nostalgia trip to be taken at Huron Country Playhouse. Blue Champagne, billed as a musical flashback to the 1940s, offers 65 songs from that era.
The production pretends to be a radio show. The songs are categorized into sets such as Swing Medley, Hollywood Medley, Juke Box Medley and even a War Medley. One song flows into the next and then between sets, the audience is treated to commercials and newscasts. Old favourites like “Campbell Soup is Mmm-Mmm Good” and Chesterfield Cigarettes with their promise of smoke dreams are promoted.
Some of the numbers are real crowd pleasers. “The Trolley Song” featuring Leah Oster is a favourite, as is “Comin’ in on a Wing” with Stephanie Roth. Later in the show, the wartime favourite “Lilli Marlene” with Marianne McCord has patrons singing along. Michael Killinger and Michael Torontow round out the cast. In some songs, all five cast members harmonize creating a “Manhattan Transfer” sound, in other numbers they perform solo, in duets or trios and so on. The show demands good voices and high-energy to keep up the fast pace of one song after another, and this cast delivers.
The female cast members have great 1940s hairdos and the costumes seem authentic. The set is an Art Deco stage, with old-fashioned microphones set up, as if it were a radio broadcast before a live audience. At one side of the stage is a radio programming office and on the other side is a living room with a big old radio beside a chair.
One of the characters tap-dances along with the music. When she tires, she takes off her shoes and taps them on the desk, giving radio listeners the sound of tap-dancing, to the laughter of the audience. The old commercials and newscasts could have been great vehicles to bring in more comedy, but they fell short. There is certainly the potential for more laughs that isn’t fully exploited.
It isn’t often that I get to use the phrase “I’m too young” anymore, but on opening night, I actually felt too young to fully appreciate this show. However, for those with a fondness for the sound of the forties, it’s a great night out.
Blue Champagne continues with eight shows a week until July 4 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available at the Huron Country Playhouse box office at (519) 238-6000, Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463, or check www.draytonentertainment.com
Mary Alderson offers her view of area theatre in this column on a regular basis. As well as being a fan of live theatre, she is a former journalist who is currently employed with the Ontario Association of Community Futures Development Corporations.