IT'S ONLY MAKE BELIEVE
Book by Chris Burgess
Based on an idea by John Plews
Ovation’s show for the 2000 / 2001 holiday season is a brand new musical. Set in a derelict cinema where movie characters come to life, ‘It’s Only Make Believe’ borrows an idea from Woody Allen and a style from Bob Carlton. There are eighteen great songs delivered by a cast of ten talented actor-musicians. Using popular tunes of the last six decades the show features words and music made famous by, amongst others, Queen, Bobby Darin, Elvis Presley, Darts, Neil Sedaka & Tammy Wynette.
Based on an idea by director John Plews and turned into a book by Chris Burgess, this fast-moving piece of musical theatre is simply gripping.
A decrepit cinema is purchased by luvvie Bev, splendidly portrayed by Ally Holmes, with the intention of converting it into a movie cafe. Her partner, the more practical Carol, ably played by Vivian Berry, opens some old cans of film to unwittingly release a trio of B-movies actors from the past. Lucy Victory takes on the role of blonde bombshell Donna DeeCup, Dean Armstrong is a mafia-type figure, with Michael Kantola playing the all-American action hero.
The multi-talented ten-strong team, who all sing and play at least one instrument, display varying degrees of versatility, as the enthralling and, at times, amusing dialogue is interspersed with song.
Eighteen tunes spanning five decades are slickly slotted into the plot so that there is something to stir the emotions of all age groups, from Cole Porter’s I Get a Kick Out of You to Ricky Martin’s Livin’ La Vida Loca.
Martin Craig is equally at home as a smarmy architect and a strait-laced banker who, perhaps unwittingly, evokes memories of Kenny Everett as he exits the stage. Seth Jee as Carol’s staid boyfriend, Lisa Baird as a wheelchair-bound granny, Titania Rodd as Lola Del Monte – she always says yes – complete the cast, alongside Chris Whitehead.
A real team effort from everyone, and very enjoyable indeed.
The artistic team at Upstairs at the Gatehouse have come up with a show that is not just lowbrow but scandalously hybrid to boot. It’s about two girlfriends who take over a derelict North London cinema. Left to make a success of the business and having doubts about her personal life, Carol finds support in the forgotten figures of the silver screen.
The production celebrates the world of the movies and that of live performance, incorporating a selection of favourite songs from the past six decades to tell its tale.
The plot reaffirms the old clichés of the genre that commitment and hard work pay off, true love wins through in the end and so on.
But the device of bringing the movie characters to life, inspired by Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo and indirectly attributable to the great modernist playwright Pirandello, is borrowed with a keen sense of how its comic possibilities might best be employed in the present context.
And, by crossing the boundaries between different media and different levels of reality in a space that itself lay disused for years before being handed over to its current management, several layers of irony are set into play.
One of the musical’s most cherished ideals is that there may be potential in the apparently modest. Okay, so it’s only make-believe in a room above a pub, but the 10-strong cast perform with evident enthusiasm and it is difficult not to respond.
Vivian Berry’s performance as the unpretentious heroine cannot be faulted. She is a joy both to listen to and to watch. She manages to pull off that rare thing: not once during the entire evening to “act”.
Among its other high points, the production can also boast a confident physical exploration of The Action-Adventure Hero and a wonderfully eccentric relationship between an old lady and one Frankie de Chino, minor character in Sicilian Massacre 2 and self-appointed care worker, before seeing Carol happily reunited with her adorably prosaic Kev.
Director John Plews credits Woody Allen’s movie “The Purple Rose of Cairo” for his initial idea for this musical, plus inspiration from last year’s production of “From a Jack to a King” at the Gatehouse.
This musical is the story of two businesswomen, Bev and Carol (Ally Holmes and Vivian Berry), who plan to turn a derelict cinema – The Roxy – into a film theme bar but don’t quite have the money or experience.
Carol’s fiancé, Kevin (Seth Jee), is about to be dumped because of his wetness, until he finds an old suitcase full of films in the basement of The Roxy which changes his fortune.
When Carol opens the cans of unseen movies, she unwittingly gives life to the films’ stars who appear mysteriously to help her in her quest for love and success.
We meet an eclectic mix of flawed B-movie caricatures, including Brad Maguire (Michael Kantola) the Indiana Jones rugged adventurer type, accurate right down to the khaki fatigues, bull whip and “Buzz Lightyear” voice.
Frankie De Chino (Dean Armstrong) is the stereotypical Italian mobster complete with pinstripe suit and de Niro accent. However, Frankie turns out to be a bit of a softy and spends his time pushing Carol’s wheelchair-bound mum (Lisa Baird) around the stage.
Last out of the suitcase, but not least, we meet Lola Del Monte (Titania Rodd) as the dark Latino beauty with a bit of lisp. She’s Carmen Miranda without the fruit.
The storyline provides all the right hooks for the show’s 18 songs, and the whole cast get their chance to sing and play.
One of the interesting features of the show is the musical flexibility of the performers, who pop up on different instruments throughout the evening with varying degrees of success.
This musical is full of energy and fun and has lots of toe-tapping tunes that should be recognisable to all.