by Lynn on May 9, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

At Park Place Theatre, at the Mady, Barrie, Ont.

Book by Nunnally Johnson
Revised version by Erik Haagensen
Lyrics by E. Y. Harburg
Music by Julie Styne
Directed by Richard Ouzounian
Musical director, James Smith
Choreography by Amanda Nuttall
Set and lights by Joe Pagnan
Costumes by Laura Gardener
Cast: Thom Allison
Jakob Ehman
Eddie Glenn
Amir Haidar
Jennifer Lyon
Judy Marshak
Andrew McAllister
Sarah Rorabeck
Claire Rouleau
Iain Stewart

A gem of a production and a sweet musical.

The Story. Celebrated painter and art critic Priam Farll and his butler Henry Leek are returning to England after being away for twenty years in the South Seas. When they land Henry Leek has a heart attack and dies. Priam Farll is mistaken for Leek by the doctor, so Priam Farll carries out the charade and takes on the persona of his butler. This will also get Farll out of the dreary business of being a celebrity. But there are complications. First there is Oxford, a snooty art dealer who knows the value of Priam Farll’s work. Then there’s Lady Vale, a huge collector of Farll’s work. Finally there is Alice Chalice, a down to earth cockney woman, who has been carrying on a correspondence with Henry Leek and thinks that it is he she is meeting. We know differently. Matters take off from there.

The Production. Richard Ouzounian has directed this lovely confection with a light hand, an impish eye, and a whole lot of affection and whimsy. The show is full of sweetness and that comes through in Ouzounian’s vision. Joe Pagnan’s set is rich looking without being garish. The floor says it all—it is black and white checks and says everything about a world of elegance and simplicity. Two moveable mini-gates are nice touches in suggesting a change of scene.

Amanda Nuttall does wonders with her choreography—lively, joyous, always seamless in the fabric of the production. Laura Gardner’s costumes establish the class differences. Priam Farll, Lady Vale and Oxford are stylishly dressed in rich materials, cravats, form-fitting vests. The clothes of Alice and her jolly friends are those of working people, sturdy, well-worn, not shabby but not pristine.

The cast is a dream. Priam (Thom Allison) and Alice (Jennifer Lyon) are a perfect couple. Allison is courtly, compassionate, and prickly enough to handle the snobs of the world he wants to escape. As Alice, Jennifer Lyon is down to earth, which Priam loves, and impish. She loves a drink and a good dance. Lyon gives the same charm to Alice as Allison gives to Priam. Judy Marshak plays the elegant Lady Vale with a twinkling hauteur. Jakob Ehman continues to be a chameleon. I’ve seen him play a baby as a grown man; a psychopath and a sociopath. In Darling of the Day he plays Oxford, a young arrogant, smarmy art dealer. He has finesse, arrogance and knows how to walk the walk of a person in the upper classes. He handles the music beautifully. The whole cast is wonderful.

Comment. Darling of the Day has had a checkered past. It started its life as Married Alive when it played the O’Keefe Centre in 1967 when I saw it (I was a fetus) on its way to Broadway. I loved it in Toronto; it was buoyant, fun and had fine performances from the leads: Vincent Price and Patricia Routledge. Alas it was a failure in New York.

What is not in question is that the music by Julie Styne is melodic and memorable and the lyrics by E.Y.Harburg are some of the wittiest, cleverest you will ever hear. They knew how to write for characters and to move the story along.

The show has been revised; the title changed to Darling of the Day; and it is still buoyant, fun and totally charming. For me it’s a darling for any day.

Talk is Free Theatre presents:

Opened: May 6, 2016.
Closes: May 14, 2016.
Cast: 10; 6 men, 4 women.
Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes approx.

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