A penny for a show stopper

first_imgCharity by Sara Kreindler OFS Tuesday 21 –Saturday 25 October A Pembroke musical about financial crises? The irony got out of its seat and gave me a good slap round the face when I entered the theatre. Sara Kreindler, a loquacious Canadian studying at Pembroke, has written both the book and score for this show. Her talents composing are never thrown into question throughout the piece, but a plausible narrative unity is lacking here. The curtain opens on the meeting of a foreign aid charity. Its members are trying hopelessly to organise the most important event of the year, the Charity Ball. Conflict soon arises, as the committee splits into two, hurling abuse at each other through the camp medium of song. But ultimately, this is a story about that ol’ chestnut Love. More specifically, of Anita (Reina Hardy) and Ben (Richard Power). These two insecure, inexperienced souls refuse to admit their powerful attraction to one another, rendered paralysed by their shared fear of rejection. Anita worries that her strength and intelligence will alienate any man (how out-of-character for a girl to think that), whilst Ben contracts verbal dysentery when speaking to the opposite sex. Power plays Ben with an endearing humility and diffidence. Although his character is shy and unforthcoming, Power has a tremendous presence on stage, combining the naivety and ingenuousness of Jack Lemmon with the zeal and tenacity of a confident leading man. His voice is as strong as his acting, making him the highlight of this production. The relationship of Suzy and Trevor is explored, too. This is where my initial delight at the show turned to an uneasy dislike. Alice Shepherd, in the role of Suzy, lacked the necessary qualities to convince us of her character’s dissatisfaction with the sweet, but unexciting, Trevor. Suzy does not want her lover to be so thoughtful and caring. I began to cringe as Suzy launched into her lamenting “Why can’t you be wrong for me?” number; I’ve heard girls complain about guys being too sweet enough times without hearing it committed to music. Stop bloody complaining! Ahem. A bit about the staging. The OFS is set up in traverse, to accentuate the polarisation of the charity board: radicals against moderates, men against women. This opposition is achieved well, where many of the songs, whether politically- or ardently-driven, feature a tête-à-tête between man and woman. Christine Chung plays the femme fatale, Mavis, with seductive intensity that inveigles poor Trevor into her arms. And in ‘Farewell’, the intertwining of Anita and Ben’s vocals strongly suggests a gradual intimacy between the two. The music itself, however, is somewhat repetitious from song to song, with little stylistic variation. Vocally, the male leads outshone their female counterparts, most significantly, in their enunciation. Kreindler is very lyrically skilled, and the songs have a verbal playful quality. But on leaving the theatre, I was not sure what I had learnt from the show. Was the political element really necessary to drive the amorous plotline forward? Does charity really help us to change ourselves fundamentally? I was not convinced.ARCHIVE: 1st Week MT2003last_img read more