Jazz Garters

Jazz Garters
Canberra Repertory, directed by Jim McMullen. Theatre 3, 11–27 June 2009

Rep's decision to replace its Old Time Music Hall with something new has resulted in a reinvention of musical variety theatre. Jazz Garters, a "new tradition" difficult to sum up in a word, was an effective integration of a great variety of theatre.

How do you combine slapstick, song, and circus; standup; dance; acrobatics; even cultural comment, to make a night of seamless entertainment that has a raunchy edge but is completely suitable for children?

The how remains the collective secret of some 27 stage performers, instrumentalists, a couple of composers, and a crew of more than 40, who put in many months of hard work. But the results, I can assure you, are all that one could ask. Imaginative and authentic costuming, wonderful set design, tight musicianship, and complex choreography no doubt contributed; directing was masterful. In the performance I attended, the effortless dancing and perfect comedic timing surpassed even the singing, which, as always with Rep, by and large was delivered with skill and feeling (even if occasionally it was difficult to hear clearly over an orchestra of prodigious range), and the entire show, from the welcoming of the settling audience by special-effects clowns to the final bows, was surprisingly seamless.

If it sounds strange to mix a lecture demonstration and verbal stoushes with acrobatics, lingeried dance, and visual gags, on the night it seemed natural enough, a bundle of laughs you'd watch two nights in succession. Rep's self-designation as pro–am theatre is no boast: its irrepressible talents maintain its performances in the vicinity of the superb.

John P. Harvey

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