Review by Stephanie Lee
Ever wondered what you get when you mix comedy, jazzercize and music theatre together? Well then, join the Pitts- Carol and Daryl- in the Shady Pines Nursing Home as they deliver their Weekly Wednesday Wellness Program.
Having graduated from their six-week music theatre program that they created themselves, Carol and Daryl Pitts are on a mission to educate seniors about the five pillars of wellness- physical, mental, social, spiritual and emotional. Despite having one day of CPR training and no actual experience or qualifications, the Pitts are here to give it their all, in a less than ideal environment for two people with big dreams of being stars.
Despite the minimal set consisting of a piano, armchair and bookshelf to represent the mundane nursing home setting, the cabaret show is truly brought to life by Brendy Ford and Stephanie Marion Wood who win over the crowd as the dynamic Pitts duo. Assisted by a well-comedically timed sound and lighting design by Charlie D. Barkle, there is barely a moment in the show where Wood and Ford are not breaking into a choreographed dance routine to classic, well known pop songs from Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’ to Olivia Newton John’s ‘Physical’.
The smooth lighting switch developed to prep the audience for interaction, cleverly allows the actors to move into the crowd while enabling audience members to still be able to observe the action- with the seating area illuminated for ease of viewing. It also weirdly welcomes the audience and gives them a sense of being a feature of the show, making for funny moments of actor-audience interactions, with members of the audience instantly firing back responses to actor’s direct questions or comments.
Bec Silver’s costume design, which has Daryl and Carol wearing matching light blue sweatsuits with pink and purple sequined accents and ‘The Pitts’ written across the back, significantly enhances the whole comedy of the duo. As the actors both dance around the stage, the twinning outfits truly encompass the silly, energetic and fabulous energy of their characters.
Without a doubt though, the stars of the show have to be Brendy Ford and Stephanie Marion Wood who never lose focus for a minute and keep the laughs coming the entire performance. Their performative energy radiates to the audience from the moment the duo enters the space and inclusively establishes everyone as the Shady Pines Nursing Homes residents.
Stephanie Marion Wood, as the jealous and overly assertive Carol Pitts, skilfully sings her way through a repertoire of mashed together pop songs, impressively managing to maintain her squeaky ‘Carol voice’ the entire time. Wood even manages to work some piano moments into the whole ordeal, with the highlight being Carol’s hilariously emotional ballad telling Daryl he sucks, which is executed perfectly with hair flips and dramatic flair.
Similarly, Brendy Ford, playing the loveable and enthusiastic Daryl, charms the audience with his intentionally over the top gestures and facial expressions that successfully highlight the goofy nature of his character. If you are not in love with Daryl by the end of the show, did you even see the show? It is a true testament to Ford’s portrayal that the audience literally chanted for Daryl to come back after his dramatic exit toward the end.
Honestly the whole show is delightfully ridiculous, with jazzercize inspired choreography, jokes made from song lyric quotes and the highly dysfunctional Pitts duo leading the whole affair. Wood and Ford’s movements are so well synchronised and fantastically cringey that it is impossible not to adore Carol and Daryl’s dorky wellness program presentation.
Possibly the highlight of the show is Daryl’s massive dance number, which is comedically heightened by cameos from nursing home resident Ethel and the nursing home staff member (Leigh Jay Booth and Stacey Kelly). The whole scene I could not stop laughing and the crowd clapped along as Ford, Booth and Kelly delivered a funny, perfectly choreographed sequence, which was basically a Daryl dream scene brought to life.
The Pitts, performed at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne is undoubtedly hilarious, incredibly witty and constantly surprises in the best ways possible. I am so glad I got to experience this wonderful comedy cabaret and I will be looking out for more of Brendy Ford and Stephanie Marion Wood’s work!