Friday, 22 July 2016

The Ruby Red Fatales - Paper Haus (20 July 2016)

Garters, guns, Nazis, and jazz - what more could you want in this musical comedy romp where ‘Allo ‘Allo meets Cabaret? The former is supplied in a script by Heather Jerrems (who also directs) where, amongst other things, a woman poses as a man who poses as a woman to infiltrate a crack unit of Nazi assassins who are ordered to take down an American trained unit of burlesque dancers-cum-assassins. At the end of the second act when the silliness is at its height there are more guns onstage than at a Republican National Convention. The latter comes courtesy of some slinky outfits for our heroines and a cracking jazz quintet made up of WAAPA students. The venue itself, the intimate Ellington Jazz Club, provides the atmosphere.

Two key ingredients make this work – the show knows exactly what it is and plays up to the absurdity; and there is an impressive level of musicianship and vocal chops you wouldn’t necessarily expect for such a deliriously over-the-top confection.

To wit, the band of Harry Josland (trumpet), Joshua Cusak (double bass), Matthew Salt (saxophone), Oscar van Gass (drums), and Thomas Freeman (guitar) sounded right at home in Perth’s premier jazz venue. They also added a few sight gags of their own behind the performers in the tight stage space. You have the impression that they would have happily kept playing through the night. The audience would have happily kept listening. The smooth musical arrangements by Alex Turner added a touch of class.

The vocal talent headlined by sweet-voiced Cindy Randall and a brassy Sinead O’Hara was excellent. It also matched their characters to a tee. Randall was the fresh-faced innocent who becomes the main player in the battle between swastikas and stockings, guns drawn. Her Gina firstly becomes the improbably named burlesque tyro Miss Titties before assuming the male identity of Heimlich. Much humour is made of her/his appearance as confusion reigns and romance blooms. O’Hara is the leader of the Fatales as Miss Ruby and she embraces a take no prisoners approach to the role in a feisty performance. Emelia Peet is the third member of the troupe as Miss Scarlet, the faithful sidekick to Ruby. Peet has a couple of funny solo moments sending up advertisements of the period.

Their foes are the band of Germans headed up by Manfred (Brett Peart) and his mismatched assassins, Jurgen (Adam Droppert) and Klaus (Ryan Hunt). Jurgen falls for Gina/Miss Titties while Klaus falls for Manfred’s manly facial hair. Yes, there is bromance to go along with the romance. The outrageously kitsch I Don’t Just Need A Beard, I Need Two is a highlight. That it comes in the middle of the best sequence of the show is testament to a fine start to the second act. The duet between Randall and Droppert - When At War, Fall In Love – was not only the best song but performed with such joy and chemistry. Randall’s smile was incandescent. O’Hara replies after the follicle folly of Manfred and Klaus with a snarling Ultimateum; the sequence capped off by a beautifully sung and plaintive What’s It Going To Feel Like? by Randall. From there it’s all standoffs and conflicted loyalties as the climax gets a little messy but by then I was happy to forgive such excesses.

I can see why this reportedly did so well at Fringe World earlier in the year. It’s the perfect sort of fare for a couple of hours at a good venue having a drink and, in my case, one of their pizzas, while watching a talented cast and band frolic and play on stage. It’s funny, more than a little sexy, and showcases some serious talent. 

Written and directed by Heather Jerrems with Music and arrangements by Alex Turner, The Ruby Red Fatales has two more performances at The Ellington Jazz Club on Tuesday and Wednesday, 26 & 27 July

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