by Josie Montano & Robert McLachlan
Beenleigh Theatre Group (known fondly as BTG) took on the very ambitious musical theatre production of Victor Victoria, which opened this week at the Crete Street Theatre to a solid audience. The musical, originally produced on Broadway is based on the movie starring Julie Andrews. That film script was adapted from a 1933 German comedic film titled Viktor und Viktoria, about a woman pretending to be a female impersonator.
The story is told in two acts and set in Paris or the city better known as ‘Gay Paree’, where an unlikely friendship is formed by an English soprano Victoria, played by Jane Rapley and a gay club entertainer Toddy, played by David Austin. During an evening of mishaps, Victoria is mistaken for a man and thus the idea of her impersonating a man is conceived. The scheme doesn’t stop there, it grows sequinned wings with Victoria being a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman! And voila, Europe’s greatest most successful female impersonator is born! A complication of comedy ensues where Victoria falls in love with a very macho King, played by Michael McNish who is determined to uncover Victor’s disguise.
It must have been challenging for the Director, Julie Smith to work with such a large ensemble which at times all seemed to be on stage at once. Polar opposite performances were delivered with some actors standing out more than others, and one member of the ensemble noticeably overacting, and unknowingly upstaging the main cast. The accents added to the confusion, we heard French, German-tinged French, and all kinds of English, ie: American, UK and Australian.
We appreciate with amateur theatre that at times casting can be challenging, but with a story-line that already played with the topic of male/female impersonators there were some casting choices we found interesting ie: casting a female to play a support male lead. In this day and age of gender neutrality, it may have been better to just allow the actor to play the role without the awkward attempt to transform them into the male character.
Congratulations to the set construction team, the stage settings were comparable with a Broadway musical, particularly the life sized doll house. Sound, which is often a challenge for amateur theatre companies, was audible and on cue most of the time. And kudos to Alyson Dean and her assistants, as the costumes were stunning, particularly the dresses in the final number. A delightful addition was the live orchestra in the background, although it would’ve been nice to feature them a little more and make them more visible to the audience as their contribution was just as worthy as the stage performance.
The story-line played out on stage last night appeared disjointed where at times the delivery was sophisticated and on target yet unfortunately at other times this professionalism was dropped below an amateur standard. Whilst lines were almost word perfect in the first act, there were a few missed lines and cues in the second act, perhaps due to nerves.
The lead vocals were brilliant, even the pretty solo delivered by the Jazz Singer. Norma played by Isabel Kraemer, gave a very comical mob-girlfriend portrayal. Although it is a fun and entertaining show, we are hoping the opening night jitters and hiccups subside for the remainder of the season.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.