Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Noel and Gertie
Noel and Gertie
Also see Tracy's review of Mamma Mia!
In their day, Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence were theater royalty. He was a talented actor, playwright and composer who penned such classics as Private Lives and Blithe Spirit. She was a celebrated actress who triumphed on stage in pieces that included Lady in the Dark and The King and I. Together, they formed a remarkable team. Their friendship has become part of show business history and the inspiration for MetroStage's latest production, Noel and Gertie.
Noel and Gertie follows the relationship of these two dynamic people from the time they were child actors in England to Lawrence's death in 1952. Devised by Sheridan Morley, the show is filled with Coward material, which by all accounts should be delightful. However, this production falls a bit short. By no means can one fault Coward. The strength of his material is indisputable. Unfortunately, it is the interpretation is lacking.
As Coward, Carl Randolph fits the bill. He embodies the essence of Coward as he throws witticisms about the stage as easily as one throws a softball. He is all about sophistication and charm. Unfortunately, his acting partner is not an equal match.
Tracy McMullan makes a valiant effort but never quite convinces one that she is the ambitious Gertie. She is definitely lacking a diva quality that is necessary. Instead, she plays Lawrence as frothy and sweet. From watching her performance, one would never guess that this was a demanding woman who took ages to sign a contract and caused many a headache for those who worked with her.
The direction by Nancy Robillard is adequate. Although they are pleasant to watch, these characters don't pop. They are not all that they could be. Add to that some pacing problems and the result is a rather mediocre show.
The set design by Tracie Duncan is a variation on Jos. B. Musumeci's design for MetroStage's production of Rough Crossing. It works well for the piece. However, the real star of the show is Kate Turner-Walker's elegant costume design.
Noel Coward once said of himself, "I'm an enormously talented man, and there's no use pretending that I'm not ..." In fact, both Coward and Lawrence were enormously talented. It is a shame that this fact is not fully conveyed during Noel and Gertie. Noel and Gertie runs at MetroStage through December 14th.
Noel Coward: Carl Randolph