Adelaide’s Repertory Theatre’s production of Only an Orphan Girl is a welcome reminder that bawdy comedy is still some of the funniest.
This melodramatic musical provided the perfect escape from ‘normality’ and ensured a night of light-hearted entertainment.
Set in the deep south of America, Only an Orphan Girl takes the audience on a ridiculous journey, which sees the evil Arthur Rutherford attempt to blackmail his orphan niece Nellie into marrying him.
Motivated by Nellie’s secret million-dollar inheritance from Arthur Rutherford’s brother and Nellie’s long lost father, the storyline resembles a Jerry Springer episode when Nellie’s adopted brother Dick Perkins declares his love for his sister.
While the plot may evoke comparisons of American daytime melodrama, it’s the endearing portrayal of Nellie by (Sophia Bubner) and Robert Bell as Dick Perkins, which ensures this feelgood play reaches spectacular heights.
Sophia Bubner excels as an innocent and loveable character with a voice of an angel.
Robert Bell channels his inner Kramer from Seinfield; his entrances were a highlight of the show and with every slide and stiff heroic stance he won more and more fans.
Only an Orphan Girl was a memorable night thanks to the charming Josh Coldwell as the Master of Ceremony and the poignant sound effects by Sandi McMenamin.
The evil Arthur Rutherford played by Barry Hill was as magnificent as his curly moustache; his Movember efforts added to his excellent portrayal of the villain we love to hate.
Barry Hill was effortless in creating an eerie atmosphere, with his evil laugh echoing through the Arts Theatre.
Adding to this experience was a rowdy and engaged audience, who provided almost as many glorious one-liners as the cast.
The Governor of South Australia His Excellency The Honourable Hieu Van Le was front and centre to witness the side-splitting moments of hilarity.
The back and forth with the audience and cast provided an unforgettable live theatre experience.
The over the top nature of this melodrama allowed the use of props to lack any practicality; at one point, the audience saw the victims untying and then retying a rope around their wrists.
Through the use of a modest, yet functional set design, the Adelaide Arts Theatre was the perfect setting to take the audience back to a old musical hall.
The performances were amplified by the costumes, inparticular Penelope Hamilton-Smith’s portrayal of Ethel Rutherford was exceptional and complemented by her seductive outfits which helped her salacious cougar-esque advances on young hero Dick Perkins.
The musical numbers between scenes provided a smooth transition and the lighting was well timed and enhanced the drama.
Whether it was a cringe-worthy pun or a repetitive joke about Dick Perkins “coming” to the rescue, Rowan Dennis was always ready on percussion to provide the comical drum sound effect.
Pam O’Grady’s direction of Only an Orphan Girl is commendable. She likes to throw madness at the audience to see what sparks will fly, and fly they do!
It is a production well worth your time and money and is still showing at the Arts Theatre until November 28.
By Paul Bidmede