Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria University College, Wellington N.Z. Vol. 20, No. 8. June 13, 1957
Extrav 1957 a Hum-Dinger
Extrav 1957 a Hum-Dinger
Once again Extravangaza has hit the boards—Ker-runch! Audiences in Lower Hutt, Wellington and Hastings were treated to a show unusual in its polish, cohesiveness and wealth of talen when they turned out see Ian Rich and Bill Sheat's production of 'Up the Poll'—book and lyrics by frank Curtin, Ian Rich and Bill Sheat.
It is probably due to the tastes of the producen that 'Up the Poll' fits so excellently into the trend taken by Extravaganza over the last few years, though there may be some doubt about the excellence of the trend itself. For it is quite apparent that 'Up the Poll' like its predecessor The Seven Year Switch', belongs to the theatrical category' of 'Oklahoma' rather than to the unique and unidentifiable catefory of 'Vothuhalla' or 'Utopanella. This may seem sad, but the old order changes, and the new-type Extravaganza, even if it is not really an extravaganza at all, is certainly going down well with the masses.
'Up the Poll' fully deserved its success both at home and on tour. Frank Curtin's story had a solid theme, the dialogue was well written, the songs were lively and witty. The humour, mostly new if from the oldest source in the world, was intelligently put across and appreciated to the maximum by most of the audience. As usual, there seem to have been one or two of those jokes so unutterably subtle that no one in the audience ever catches on, so subtle in fact that they are rarely appreciated by even the quickest member of the cast until the dress rehearsal or later. These jokes being almost invariably the most shockingly crude in the whole show, it is probably all for the best.
Among the cast, mention and most of the credit must definitely go to Derek Homewood, who, handling a part that on paper seemed inadequately drawn for such an important central character, showed such, professional facility and skilful verve that he provided the show with a constant strength throughout. Nobody could have handled the part as well, and to such an extent docs 'Up the Poll' revolve about Cecil Candy that a lesser man than Derek would have been disastrous.
Joy Booth by as Venus did very well. She looked well on the stage and despite a weak singing voice managed to pet the utmost out of the part, achieving always a fine response from the audience.
Lesser leads who showed excellence were Tony Ferrers and Des. Deacon Tony's experience was apparent in his performance, and Des. is the possessor of a superb stage voice of which he made constant and valuable use.
Much of the show's success must be attributed to those players who were not leads, but who held the stage for a few moments only with a single act or song. Among these. Armour Mitchell at Danic Craven. Peter Barush as Professor Volkswagen and Lloyd Johns as Elvis the Pelvis spring immediately to mind. These bit parts are a staple of every Extravagant, and this year they seem to have been particularly good.
The choruses, coping with some fairly difficult material, managed on the whole very well. Most successful were the smaller groups singing numbers such as the Chars Song and 'Seven-and-a-half Years but the larger massed choruses were for the most part extremely competent and this goes for the particularly difficult production numbers such as 'We're in the Stone Age as well.
Scenery and costumes were as effective as usual, though one has the feeling that the producers and the stage manager may have worked a little too independently of one another. I am thinking in particular of the backdrop for the Commission on Love Scene, where we saw a relatively straightforward courtroom with, in the background, a chequered pathway receding to infinity, bordered by smoky celestial pillars. This may have some point which I have missed, but my feeling is that the backdrop would have been more suitable to the Heaven Scene.
Messrs. Sheat and Rich can feel truly proud of 'Up the Poll'. A group of amateurs putting a show before the public on equal terms with professional companies must make heavy demands upon those in charge, and these gentlemen actually knew what they were in for when they took on the task of producing the show. Their courage in this is to be admired; their success in doing is well as they have is to be marvelled at. Extravangza 57 has been great.—J.S.