TR Robertson — Lamb’s Players Theatre has brought back, after a 20 year absence, a delightful jukebox musical that will bring back memories of classic T.V. and movie westerns as well as sitting around campfires taking part in a sing-a-long with friends. The musical is “Chaps”, by Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner who, along with several other musicals, have written over 130 juvenile and young adult books.
Lamb’s Producing Artistic Director, Robert Smyth, has assembled a talented group of veteran performers, to tell the story, musically, of a group of British BBC Radio employees, set to broadcast over the airwaves an American cowboy band, “Tex Riley’s Radio Round-up”, to Allied forces fighting in Europe in 1944. As fate would have it, a problem arises, Tex Riley and his cowboy band is a no show, with the exception of the bands female stage manager. Time is running out, the show must go on and the BBC employees, with enthusiastic encouragement from the band’s stage manager, are persuaded to take on the voices, mannerisms and cowboy songs to ensure the soldiers do not miss out on a chance to hear some American western music. The result is a very funny, a bit silly and over the top mixing of 18 classic songs, not to mention routines to go along with the songs.
The BBC Radio crew consists of the nervous producer Miles Shadwell, played by Charles Evans Jr., who reluctantly agrees to go along with the rouse of pretending to be the band. In one hilarious portion of the show, Shadwell portrays a ventriloquist’s dummy. The audience gets a “kick” out of the hand and feet movements of the dummy. BBC sound engineer Archie Leitch is played by Steve Gouveia. Gouveia is wonderful on the guitar and as the equally nervous impersonation of Tex Riley. He can’t seem to lose his British accent when portraying Tex.
Photos by Ken Jacques
As Briggs-Stratton, Ross Hellwig is spot-on as the up-tight, very British BBC announcer who will end up in the most outrageous outfits of the musical. You will especially not want to miss his very saucy portrayal of Bell Star and a most unusual “Carmen” and the story of Little Luke Gold and Crooked Gulch. BBC Ad man Clive Cooper is played by Craig Noel Award winning actor Manny Fernendes. The multi-talented sound effects man, Stan, is played by Arusi Santi, and is also a Craig Noel Award winner. His task is to create a multitude of sounds to go along with the various songs. Stan doesn’t say anything except a variety of yahoos and coyote yells.
The lone female in this cast has been in over 35 Lamb’s productions, a Craig Noel Award winner with a beautiful voice. Caitie Grady plays Mabel Halliday, the Tex Riley stage manager. Mabel leads the boys in a number of songs and dance routines as she tries to salvage an impromptu performance for the soldiers. Caitie sings a moving “White Cliffs of Dover” and “Roundup in the Spring” in Act II.
Robert Smyth’s creative team consists of Musical Direction by Jon Lorenz, Choreography by Deborah Gilmour Smyth, Scenic Designer Mike Buckley, Costume Designer Jeanne Reith, Lighting Designer Nathan Peirson, Sound Designer Patrick J. Duffy and Stage Manager Maria Mangiavellano.
Some of the classic songs used for this musical include “I’m an Old Cowhand”, “Jingle, Jangle, Jingle”, “Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds”, “Ragtime Cowboy Joe”, and “Cool Water”.
“Yippee Ki yay Partner”, you should definitely get yourself across the bridge to Coronado to Lamb’s Players Theatre to take in this most entertaining production. “Chaps” will be on stage Tuesdays thru Sundays until April 20. Tickets range from $28-$78 and are available at www.lambsplayers.org or call 619-437-6000.