Where's Charley?

Featured Photograph Default

Where's Charley?

Benjamin Elliott, Caitlin McCarthy and Amy Hall-Cummings. Photo by David CooperWhere's Charley?
Book  by George Abbott. Music & Lyrics by Frank Loesser
Directed by Dean Paul Gibson
Musical Direction by Steven Greenfield
Choreography by Shelley Stewart Hunt
Studio 58
Mar 25 to Apr 18, 2010

Vancouver, BC: I always love attending the  shows at Studio 58 because regardless of the genre they are performing, the student cast always exudes the vitality and joie de vivre that comes from doing something they love to do. Tonight's show was no exception.

Where's Charley is a musical farce based on the play, Charley's Aunt by English playwright, Brandon Thomas. The play premiered in 1892 and had record breaking runs in England and later on Broadway. Abbott and Loesser's musical adaptation, Where's Charley, directed by Abbott, opened on Broadway in 1948.

Loesser is probably best known for his marvelously hummable melodies and clever lyrics in his 1950 musical, Guys and Dolls, and the 1961 Pulitzer Prize winning How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying.

I mention this because sometime between 1948 and 1950 Loesser must have been blessed by  Euterpe, the Muse of Music and later, also the Muse of Lyric Poetry. How else could he come up with the marvellous sound-track of Guys and Dolls?

Sadly none of  the songs in Where's Charley are  truly memorable. It felt on occasion as if the singers, especially the women,  were straining to hit the high notes. Possibly that is why for me the musical was at its best in the colorful ensemble scenes like  "The Gossips" and the "The Red Rose Cotillion" and "Where's Charley?"

Amy Hall-Cumings and Graeme McComb. Photo by David cooperThe setting is Oxford University in 1892, and Charley, his roommate, Jack and their friends are celebrating their graduation. They have invited their girlfriends, Amy (Caitlin McCarthy) and Kitty (Amy Hall - Cummings) to their rooms, but the girls dare not be there without a chaperone, or they will be in trouble with their rigid guardian, Mr. Spettigue (Dustin Freeland).

Joy Castro and Benjamin Elliott. Photo by David CooperFortunately, Charley's wealthy aunt, Donna Lucia (Joy Castro) is coming to visit - but when she does not appear, a disguised Charley takes on the job of being aunt/chaperone.

The story of course is wildly improbable as befits a farce; but if you duly suspend your disbelief that Charley's aunt is not instantly recognizable as Charley in disguise, the performance offers lots of fast paced action, excellent choreography with entertaining dance numbers.

Freeland was a wonderfully villainous Spettigue and Benjamin Elliott was riotous as Charley.  Graeme McComb does an excellent job as Jack. Caitlin McCarthy and Amy Hall - Cummings looked gorgeous in the exquisite costumes, designed by Chris Sinosich. Pam Johnson's cream coloured set provided a striking contrast to the colorful period costumes and with Darren Boquist's lighting the production really was a visual feast. 

Where's Charley provides a fun vehicle to showcase the talent of these performers. It's an excellent evening of entertainment even if you don't leave singing. The production is dedicated to the memory of Lloyd Nicholson and it does him  proud.

For tickets call (604) 864-2787 or
book on-line at ticketstonight.
Studio 58 is at  Langara College - 49 th and Ontario.