ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
Billericay Operatic Society
at Brentwood Theatre
Sixteen hours, and a crazy back-stage drama is played out on a state-of-the-art train. That's 'On The Twentieth Century', Comden and Green's warm and witty look back at the Thirties, with Cy Coleman's music recalling everything from operetta to the silent movies. [MD for this show was Derrick Thompson.]
A very enjoyable performance of a rarely-seen show in the tiny Brentwood space, the train represented by newsreel clips and two ingenious, if not especially glamorous, trucks.
Wayne Carpenter's production used the large cast to excellent effect, in the duets, quartets and ensembles that drive the implausible plot forward. Every single performer radiated energy and enthusiasm, for instance in "Together", eagerly anticipating sharing a journey with a superstar. Other stand-out numbers were the Indian Love Call pastiche, the infectious title song, the stylish Legacy and the OTT Veronique, allegedly Lily's first hit [and fairly blatantly ripped off from Brel's Madeleine of 1962].
Carpenter himself was the Little Corporal, the impresario whose career is on the line, and the girl he plucks from the Bronx to be Lily Garland was Fiona Whittaker, bringing her impressive vocal skills to a demanding role. Staunch support from his henchmen, Trevor Lowman and Matthew Carpenter, in the face of enemies Bruce Granit [Brian Plumb], the "two-bit ham hock" who's Lily's leading man, and upstart rival Max Jacobs [an amusingly youthful Simon Johnson]. And Gail Carpenter made the most of the religious maniac, urging everyone to "Repent" and gaily stickering the audience.