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Gee, But It's Good To Be Here!

Published by: Cameron Lowe on 8th Oct 2013 | View all blogs by Cameron Lowe

Review by Ed Waugh

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Hats off to Steve Burbridge who has written, directed and produced this cracking show.

 

It takes the form of an “Evening with…” and the guest is Ethel Merman. Ethel Who? My thoughts exactly but she was one of, if not, the biggest stars of Broadway musical theatre from the 1930s spanning five decades.

 

Famous for her comedy timing and mezzo-soprano voice, she also had a successful film career that saw her rubbing shoulders with the likes of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rodgers, Jimmy Durante, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. 

 

In 1930 she was earning $500 a week and starred in the Gershwin’s musical Girl Crazy, in 1946 she  starred as Annie Oakley in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Annie Get Your Gun, in 1959 she started a 702-performance run of Gypsy. In 1964 the musical Hello Dolly was written specifically for her vocal range (she joined the cast in 1970). Ethel died in 1984.

 

Burbridge has researched his subject thoroughly and Merman (played excellently by Nicki French) reveals the foibles of her co-stars and, in true showbiz style, gives us the bitchier side of life. It’s fascinating stuff and anyone who reads biographies will lap this up.

 

Having said that, Merman was so interesting this will appeal to anyone who likes good entertainment.

 

Introduced by a host (Christopher Strain), Merman opens the show with her signature song Gee, But It’s Good to be here. French can belt out a tune and, once relaxed in the role, was superb. Breaking up the banter, she kicked on with more songs that Merman made famous; all of which are standards even today: Everything’s Coming Up Roses, I Get A Kick Out of You, Anything Goes, Who Could Ask For Anything More? and There’s No Business Like Show Business ...and with her glittery frocks, it rocked!

 

Married four times, her last betrothal was with the actor Ernest Borgnine in 1964: it lasted 32 days, and to quote Ethel, “32 days too long”. A diva, no doubt, but wonderfully entertaining.

Gee, But It’s Good To Be Here

Trent House, Newcastle
Until Saturday 12 October

 

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