Wal and Dog tread the boards

Footrot Flats: The Musical is a crowd-pleaser

Footrot Flats: The Musical is a crowd-pleaser

Footrot Flats
Footrot Flats

REVIEW

“Choice!” said a theatre-goer in the box seats as the curtain flew up to reveal the stage design for Musical Theatre Gisborne’s exuberant production last night of Footrot Flats: The Musical.

And choice it was. From Wal’s cartoonish house to Dog’s water tank kennel, Stephen Jones’ design could have lifted straight off a Murray Ball comic strip.

Performers in the Teresa Campbell-directed show brought a verve to the stage the musical composition often seemed to want to bring down. The cast found spirit in the music, though, and made it, well, sing.

The musical’s plot hinges on Walter Walsh’s Wal who, by the second half, finds himself ground down by life on the farm. He decides to sell Footrot Flats and move into town with his girlfriend, Danielle Siata’s well-played blonde, busty Cheeky Hobson.

Meanwhile, subplots that include interest by several characters in the earthy business of tupping, abound. As Dolores the sow, Mary Cowper is frighteningly seductive.

Matt Hatten plays out Dog’s excitability and swings of passion with huge energy and is constantly tricked by Sarah Robinson’s equally- energetic Pongo. Heather Derby’s Aunt Dolly could have stepped out of the comic strip, while Roy Neumegen brings both poignancy and rough toughness to his scarred hunting dog Major. Callum McConnochie as feral farm cat Horse is near-terrifying.

As conservation-minded Cooch, Peter Grealish’s solo performance of a song about New Zealand’s endangered beauty is one of the show’s highlights.

A trio of ewes played by Chloe Turner, Maria Lovelock and Quannah Nickerson are chaotically funny, but Ritchie Scott’s sling-testicled Cecil the Ram steals the show with career-wearied lugubriousness.

Liz Cutts, who choreographed the dance routines, plays Jess and neatly captures her character’s sensual appeal to all dogs on the farm, especially when on heat. One of Hatea Gray’s two roles is that of the property investor. Gray clearly relishes his role as the villain (“Baaastaaard,” chime the ewes).

Musicians Mikey Jones, Robyn Woods, Harnie Jo and Cam Wood are discreetly housed in a small barn upstage. It is a pleasure to be able to see, as well as hear, their excellent musicianship under Janet Roderick’s direction.

Apart from a few opening night wobbles in the singing — nothing to frighten the horses — the ensemble finds joy in the often curiously melancholic tunes. A throwaway line “You’re my girl now, Jess” points to the blues-inflected modern opera of tragic love, Porgy and Bess, and gives a clue to the reason for the emotional tone of the work’s music.

The second half of the musical becomes darker as Wal makes his decision to leave but is leavened with plenty of comic moments and fine singing. Walsh looks the part as Wal but, as a seasoned entertainer, he can easily afford to have more confidence in his character and let him do the work.

Andrew Stevens sets a benchmark in stagecraft, character and presence. He uses the whole stage and even when scooting across the floor to relieve Prince Albert’s itchy anal glands, the actor is connected to the action around him. He gives Aunt Dolly’s corgi a fine but subtle regal accent and sings with confidence and clarity.

The show ends on an upbeat note, of course, and the sign of a production’s success surely has to be the sight of a bubbling, smiling, chatting audience as they leave after the curtain closes on the farm.

REVIEW

“Choice!” said a theatre-goer in the box seats as the curtain flew up to reveal the stage design for Musical Theatre Gisborne’s exuberant production last night of Footrot Flats: The Musical.

And choice it was. From Wal’s cartoonish house to Dog’s water tank kennel, Stephen Jones’ design could have lifted straight off a Murray Ball comic strip.

Performers in the Teresa Campbell-directed show brought a verve to the stage the musical composition often seemed to want to bring down. The cast found spirit in the music, though, and made it, well, sing.

The musical’s plot hinges on Walter Walsh’s Wal who, by the second half, finds himself ground down by life on the farm. He decides to sell Footrot Flats and move into town with his girlfriend, Danielle Siata’s well-played blonde, busty Cheeky Hobson.

Meanwhile, subplots that include interest by several characters in the earthy business of tupping, abound. As Dolores the sow, Mary Cowper is frighteningly seductive.

Matt Hatten plays out Dog’s excitability and swings of passion with huge energy and is constantly tricked by Sarah Robinson’s equally- energetic Pongo. Heather Derby’s Aunt Dolly could have stepped out of the comic strip, while Roy Neumegen brings both poignancy and rough toughness to his scarred hunting dog Major. Callum McConnochie as feral farm cat Horse is near-terrifying.

As conservation-minded Cooch, Peter Grealish’s solo performance of a song about New Zealand’s endangered beauty is one of the show’s highlights.

A trio of ewes played by Chloe Turner, Maria Lovelock and Quannah Nickerson are chaotically funny, but Ritchie Scott’s sling-testicled Cecil the Ram steals the show with career-wearied lugubriousness.

Liz Cutts, who choreographed the dance routines, plays Jess and neatly captures her character’s sensual appeal to all dogs on the farm, especially when on heat. One of Hatea Gray’s two roles is that of the property investor. Gray clearly relishes his role as the villain (“Baaastaaard,” chime the ewes).

Musicians Mikey Jones, Robyn Woods, Harnie Jo and Cam Wood are discreetly housed in a small barn upstage. It is a pleasure to be able to see, as well as hear, their excellent musicianship under Janet Roderick’s direction.

Apart from a few opening night wobbles in the singing — nothing to frighten the horses — the ensemble finds joy in the often curiously melancholic tunes. A throwaway line “You’re my girl now, Jess” points to the blues-inflected modern opera of tragic love, Porgy and Bess, and gives a clue to the reason for the emotional tone of the work’s music.

The second half of the musical becomes darker as Wal makes his decision to leave but is leavened with plenty of comic moments and fine singing. Walsh looks the part as Wal but, as a seasoned entertainer, he can easily afford to have more confidence in his character and let him do the work.

Andrew Stevens sets a benchmark in stagecraft, character and presence. He uses the whole stage and even when scooting across the floor to relieve Prince Albert’s itchy anal glands, the actor is connected to the action around him. He gives Aunt Dolly’s corgi a fine but subtle regal accent and sings with confidence and clarity.

The show ends on an upbeat note, of course, and the sign of a production’s success surely has to be the sight of a bubbling, smiling, chatting audience as they leave after the curtain closes on the farm.

Your email address will not be published. Comments will display after being approved by a staff member. Comments may be edited for clarity.