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Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - Hayes Theatre Co (NSW)

Music by Jule Styne. Lyrics by Leo Robin. Book by Anita Loos and Joseph Fields. Adapted from the novel by Anita Loos. Presented during Sydney WorldPride.


Reviewed by Justin Clarke

Hayes Theatre, Potts Point Until 18 March 2023


3.5 STARS


- Led by its superb leads, this production is worth your time just to listen to its diamond encrusted hit song -


The Hayes Theatre are known to always go big with their productions, challenging the borders of their intimate black box space, and Richard Carrol’s production of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is no different. Transporting the audience back to the roaring 20’s, we are positioned to revel in its over-the-top characters, ambitiously large set, unique Musical Direction style, and the jaw-dropping talent of its leads.


With a book by Anita Loos and Joseph Fields, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is adapted from the novel Gentlemen Prefer Blondes: The Intimate Diary of a Professional Lady (1925), and the 1950’s film starring one Miss Marilyn Monroe. The audience sets sail with the blonde bombshell Lorelei Lee (Georgina Hopson) and best friend Dorothy Shaw (Emily Havea) on the luxury cruise liner The Ile De France as the pair take advantage of the upper-class outlandishness and idiocy of the male characters onboard. Lorelei searches for a millionaire husband after leaving her fiance, the button king heir Gus Esmond Jr (Tomáš Kantor) behind. Meanwhile, all Dorothy wants to do is relax, sip champagne and get her kicks off with some lucky guy - or girl if the implied cues have been read correctly.


Jule Styne’s music and Leo Robin’s lyrics are inherently set in the “golden-age” of cinema and musical theatre. This was a time when if a song was a hit, it became timeless (read: ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’) and when they weren’t, they were best left out entirely. Such as the head scratcher ‘I’m A’ Tingle, I’m A’ Glow’ - despite the cast’s utmost enthusiasm and talent.



Credit: John McCrea


Carroll throws everything at the wall for this production to make it memorable and a good time at sea. Allowing the audience to walk through the stage door and onto the set before being seated, you’re made to feel welcomed by each member of the cast onto the luxury cruise liner itself. With two staircases standing centre stage, four sets of tables are placed either side to give audience members an immersive experience, even if this does eat further into the already limited space.


Musical Director Victoria Falconer and her band sit atop the stage in an outlined rectangle of stage lights and red velvet. Falconer continues to show audiences her musical prowess, entertaining audiences after intermission with some improvised musical treatments, again adding her own twist on the role of musical director in contemporary productions. Heck, if you have that much talent, don’t let it go to waste.


Benjamin Brockman’s lights, coupled with Angela White’s costume design are a match-made in heaven, as the extravagance of jewels, sequins, stylish buttons and golden zippers adorn each member of the cast. Brockman’s lights illuminate the glow of the costumes to wow the audience and raise the level of glitz and glamour.


A multitude of talent carries this production through, none more so than its leads. Joining Hopson and Havea on stage are a colourful cast of characters including zipper king Josephus Gage (Tomas Parrish), single and charming Englishman Henry Spofford (Matthew Predny) and his hilarious champagne loving mother (Octavia Barron-Martin), a dancer who can never stop practising (Leah Lim), as well as the stiff-lipped Lady Beekman (Monica Sayers) and her libidinous husband (Thomas Campbell).

Some characters are hilariously charming and endearing, such as Mrs Spofford and her constant search for her next glass of bubbly, or Sir Beekman who is imbued with immense comic timing by Campbell, providing some of the biggest laughs. Others are underused, like Sayers, who clearly desired to break free and be given more to do.


Glowing likes its standout diamond song, stuffed with talent and led by its two superbly outstanding leads, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a rip-roaring ride on the high sea.

Presented during Sydney WorldPride, the men in the production are merely pieces of eye-candy for the women in the show and the audience, or imbued with undertones of queerness, never coming across as a heteronormative masculine character. A noticeable role reversal from the 1950’s film, short shorts and topless scenes are abound to give Lorelei and Dorothy power over the men throughout, giving the patriarchy a good nip in the backside.


As Lorelei’s best friend, Havea is as seductive as she is strong-willed. With a singing voice that grips you from start to finish, Havea’s interactions with Hopson make for the best chemistry on stage. It wouldn’t have been a far stretch for the production team to do away with the traditional ending and have these two sail off into the sunset instead. The only shame is that after Dorothy finds love, her presence in the show is done with.


Mid-show standing ovations are rare to come by, but if anyone could make it happen, Hopson is the one to do it. The standout number on everybody’s lips was of course, ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’. Here, Hopson lets loose with everything she’s got in her bag of tricks. This near 10-minute performance literally stops the show as Hopson shows why she’s one of Australia’s leading musical theatre talents.


Glowing likes its standout diamond song, stuffed with talent and led by its two superbly outstanding leads, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is a rip-roaring ride on the high sea. Despite some laborious set changes and clear trimming needed to particular parts, this production is worth your time for a joyous evening, if not just to come and witness the diamond encrusted musical prowess of Georgina Hopson.

 

CAST & CREATIVES

Director Richard Carroll

Musical Director Victoria Falconer

Choreographer Sally Dashwood

Set Designer Dan Potra

Costume Designer Angela White

Lighting Designer Benjamin Brockman

Associate Musical Director Abi McCunn

Stage Manager Bronte Schuftan

Assistant Stage Manager Anastasia Mowen

Dialect Coach Benjamin Purser

Intimacy Coordinator Caroline Kaspar


Starring Octavia Barron-Martin, Thomas Campbell, Ruby Clark, Adam Di Martino, Emily Havea, Georgina Hopson, Tomáš Kantor, Leah Lim, Tomas Parrish, Matthew Predny, Monica Sayers


Band Nathan Barraclough, Victoria Falconer, Amanda Jenkins, Abi McCunn, Jarrad Payne



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