Babes in Arms

by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart

Director Scott Ashton Swan

Dates 31 October – 4 November 2006 @ 20.00h Venue @ Shadbolt Centre Studio Theatre (Burnaby

Reviewer Ed Farolan

This production marks the 20th musical performed by Applause Musical Society. Dal Richards was the guest of honor of this gala night performance, and after the show, Artistic Producer and Director Ashton Swan presented Richards as an honorary member of the society. There truly is a need for musicals in Vancouver, and I'm glad that a company like this is developing musical theatre. Eventually, we may not only have a North Hollywood but a North Broadway in town.

In past productions, these musicals were performed as Readers' Theatre, whereby the actors/singers would all have scripts on hand as they acted and sang. Everyone was dressed in black and white, and there was some kind of uniformity in these past productions.

However, Ashton has gone one step further and had the actors dressed in costumes. While some actors had scripts on hand, others didn't. The songs were sung without the books, but the spoken lines, especally with the main actors, had them holding and reading from their scripts.

I totally agree with the Readers' Theatre concept, but once you put costumes and a set, I don't think a musical should go half-way, so to speak. It's either everyone does it like Readers' Theatre, or no books at all, especially when sets and costumes are in place.

The impression I had was that this was a rehearsal, and not the actual show. In fact, some actors were stumbling over their lines, or forgetting their cues.So I suggest that Ashton go all the way next time. Besides, classic musicals like this would really shine if the actors didn't have books on hand.

I enjoyed the show; my only objection is having actors read. This is distracting not only for the audience but for the actors themselves. But despite this, I was surprised at the quality of acting and singing of these amateur performers.

Christine Quintana was superb as Susie; I enjoyed her rendition of the ever popular "My Funny Valentine". Scott Cumming as Val was a bit weak and seemed unprepared; the duet with Lauren Morrow (Jennifer) of another popular hit song, "When or When" could have been more romantic. Dane Szohner as the theatre owner, Mr. Flemming and Rob Christensen as playwright Lee Calhoun were hamming up their parts really well; Danielle Leger (Terry) was very good, and she received a warm ovation after singing "I Wish I Were in Love Again" with Blair Hayashi (Gus) who also did a good job acting and singing. Susan Skemp as Bunny was the best of all, in my opinion. I liked her rendition of "Way Out West on West End Avenue" and especially another classic, "The Lady Is A Tramp" which she sang with the other "apprentices". The audience really enjoyed this song, and I heard a few whistles and cheers as they applauded.

Congratulations to Scott Ashton Swan and to the entire cast for another enjoyable musical!

© 2006 Ed Farolan