Friday, April 5, 2013

Review: (Winnipeg) Gunmetal Blues

Andrew Wheeler (photo by Bruce Monk)
She waswaswas truetruetrue to herselfselfself
The case of the MPD dame
by John Herbert Cunningham

What does Mickey Spillane have in common with Scott Wentworth?

If you answered that they both created characters who were detectives, you win the boobie prize, and what a nice pair of boobies that dame has, all six, or is it eight, of them.

Mike Hammer ain't got nothin' on Sam Galahad (Andrew Wheeler). Why Sam even sings. They are both private dicks who have the hots for dames although, in Sam's case, he only met her once briefly and can't recognize her even though he encounters three, or is it four, different versions of her (all played by Meghan Gardiner). One of those versions is a songstress who slinks around in a tightly clinging red dress while she sings that she is several types of blonds potentially even the died type (and, yes, that word is spelled correctly).

The only musical number that caused consternation was the opening one.

The third part of this ménage à trios is a pianist at an airport bar who goes by the name of (Gordon Roberts). He also plays a Mafioso type in a reasonably good imitation of Marlon Brando's godfather, a taxi driver, a flatfoot otherwise known as a cop otherwise known as a police officer. The difference between this character and the one played by Gardiner is that he knows these are separate characters.

Wheeler and Roberts also do a good parody of Bogie's opening scene in Casablanca with just the requisite touch of humour that any good parody needs.

The music and lyrics are by Craig Bohmler and Marion Adler. For the most part, they are effective. They do not overpower the drama part of musical theatre; instead, they further it.

The only musical number that caused consternation was the opening one. This was a direct ripoff of Tom Waits combined, and not in a very convincing fashion, with Kurt Weill. Mind you, the Weill piece on its own could have been effective as it reminded one of The Threepenny Opera which was one of the original film noire pieces. Unfortunately, there were no other Brechtian devices in the play.

One of the more interesting musical items took place at the start of the second act. An overture is normally used to introduce a piece and contains several, if not most, of the themes that will be found in the main sections of the composition. In the case at hand, this overture contained some of the melodies found in pieces in the first act and introduced some in the second.

The second act did not sustain the drama and humour of the first and, therefore, dragged on a bit. This was probably because the parody was essentially developed in the first act leaving the second to pull the threads left dangling in the first together.

The synopsis can be quickly dispensed with. A man goes to an airport bar because he likes looking at the faces of the passengers arriving and departing. In the bar is a piano player. The man meets a blond named Julie who he dances with and kisses. They plan to run away together. He goes to fetch her a drink. She disappears leaving her ticket behind. He uses the ticket to disappear for 10 years before returning as he can't get her out of his mind (sounds like a good song title to me). He opens a private dick office.

While he is sitting in his office one day, a blond enters seeking to hire his services. She claims to be the executive assistant to a wealthy industrialist who had committed suicide the night before. Apparently, the rich man's daughter, Julie, has disappeared following the suicide. She wants to hire him to find the daughter.

A cop comes to his office and tells the dick that the rich man was murdered. This is shortly followed by the dick being kidnapped by a gangster who tells the dick that the dame is better off lost. 

Through all of this, the blond still hasn't put together who she she she (she) is.

He goes to the rich man's house where he meets a homeless, blond woman (are you beginning to note a trend here) who tells him she was outside the house on the night of the murder. The next day or so, he encounters the homeless woman again. This time she hands him an envelope with documents which prove that the rich man was in cahoots with the gangster and was laundering money.

He phones the rich man's office as he wants to get back in contact with the blond executive assistant. He then learns that the blond was not the executive assistant (are we surprised?).

He then returns to the airport bar to see the blond songstress whereupon he realizes that the homeless woman is the songstress Julie,  we are not certain if she is also the pseudo-executive assistant. Then he puts the pieces of the cut glass puzzle together and unmasks the killer. Through all of this, the blond still hasn't put together who she she she (she) is.

Through all of its faults, Gunmetal Blues is able to survive intact as an enjoyable spoof on film noire.

Runs to April 21
Running time: 2 hours with one intermission. 

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