A Musical Comedy Revue.
Words and Music by Noel Coward.
Devised by Roderick Cook.
Musical Direction by Gerald H. Bailey.
Directed by Cameron Turner.
Produced by Dead Writers Theatre Collective.
At the Athenaeum Theatre, Chicago.
“I have always been very fond of drama critics…I think it is so frightfully clever of them to go night after night to the theatre and know so little about it.”
“The theatre is a wonderful place, a house of strange enchantment, a temple of illusion. What it most emphatically is not and never will be is a scruffy, ill-lit, fumed-oak drill hall serving as a temporary soap box for political propaganda.” – Noel Coward.
Ambitious musical revue mostly delivers the sassy wit, very British humor of Noel Coward.
One could say that Gerald Bailey, the musical director, is the real star of Oh, Coward! since his talents got the cast of three to both understand and appreciate the unique approach to Noel Coward’s style songs. Music directing a song book of more that 35 songs in a distinct style to a cast that is mostly new to Coward’s early 20th Century British sensibilities is a daunting task. Bailey got his cast on board with Coward’s style effectively
Filled with the words and songs of Noel Coward (1899-1973), the English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer, known for his wit and flamboyance, Oh Coward! is a sharp 35 song-fest that is nicely performed by Michael Pacas, Joanna Riopelle and Ian Rigg with terrific arrangements by Gerald Bailey with fine piano work by Howard Pfeifer. The non-Equity cast delivered a slick, sophisticated, mostly well sung musical revue.
Elegance and a carefully crafted image and an acute sense of style were the hallmarks of Noel Coward. That sense is evident in the 30’s art-deco style nightclub set (designed by Eric Luchen) Style, proper RP English accents, smartly crafted enunciation gave the witticism and Coward songs just the proper edge to communicate his effervescent music and lyrics with their proper satirical bite. My only problem was that Joanna Riopelle constantly failed to both speak and sing loud enough to be heard and understood. Many of Coward’s quips and smart lyrics got lost by Riopelle’s speaking and singing too softly. Once she enunciates and projects stronger, this revue will become a fabulous one. Hopefully, she’ll realize that one must be heard and understood on stage.
Coward’s songbook is in terrific hands with this fabulous threesome. They sing harmonies, they participate in Coward-ish witty repartee to life and social norms as they throughout captivate us.