Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The plot follows Texas rancher and new oil billionaire Tom Coterel, who finds himself smitten by the seductive big city girl Pamela Wright. We immediately know that Pamela is only out for Tom's money but he doesn't. Tom feels like he isn't smart or cultured enough for Pamela, so when she goes back to New York for a few months and his foreman suggests he hire a tutor to coach him in culture and manners, Tom finds himself the student of Florence Rains, a charming woman who is incredibly smart but dresses like a librarian. As Florence transforms the rough and tumble hick Tom into a slick and smart, poet-quoting charmer, she also finds herself falling for him. Will Tom wise up and realize that Florence is the woman he should be with before their lessons are finished and she leaves Tom's Texas ranch for good, or will he marry the gold-digging Pamela?
While the play is fairly predictable, it's also a tightly constructed piece that plays out like a reverse gender My Fair Lady with a sweet tone and characters that are highly likable. There are also plenty of very funny jokes that got loud, sustained laughs from the audience at the performance I attended. The Man with the Pointed Toes was written by husband and wife Lynn and Helen Root and first premiered at California's Glendale Centre Theatre, the theatre company founded by Nathan and Ruth Hale who are the grandparents of Hale owner, and the director of this play, David Hale Dietlein. It's also been presented several times at the Hale Theatre in Utah.
Dietlein's direction is flawless. He doesn't rush the jokes or the action, which works perfectly, since this isn't a farce. The non-rushed but steady pace also allows the audience to fall in love with the characters in a realistic way. The cast for this production is excellent. They all create realistic characters and exhibit great chemistry with each other, which works incredibly well to portray natural relationships. They are also all gifted comics, which ensures that every joke gets a laugh, and the several physical comic moments shine with good staging and action. The set design by Brian Daily evokes a Texas ranch, while Tia Hawkes' vintage costumes and Cambrian James' period wigs and makeup ground the play in the 1980s.
Josh Hunt is lovable and endearing as Tom, a man who is doing his best to better himself, even though we know he's improving his manners and knowledge for the wrong woman. Alaina Beauloye is appropriately prim and proper, but also charming and never condescending, as the smart Florence. Hunt and Beauloye form a cute, winning couple you root to succeed.
Rob Stuart oozes charm and street smarts as Hank, Tom's foreman who also serves as his matchmaker. Kyle Webb and John Janezic, as ranch hands Lem and Hank, create characters full of sincerity and loads of humor. Hunt, Stuart, Webb and Janezic all play Texas ranchers, but they create different and distinct men that make the production that much more realistic. As Jose, the ranch's Mexican cook, Raymond Barcelo is a crowd pleaser. His scene change dance when he sets a table and dances around like a matador is very fun. Victoria Fairclough projects the characteristics of the perfect bad girl you love to hate as Pamela, and Fred Gerle is solid with a firm stage presence as her father.
The Man with the Pointed Toes may be predictable, but it's also a sweet, charming, funny, and very amusing show that will put a smile on your face and make you laugha lot. You're also most likely to never hear the words "social hygiene" again without laughing out loud. With a top-notch cast, excellent direction, and superb creative aspects, Hale Centre Theatre's production is one of the best comedies I've seen in town this season.
The Man with the Pointed Toes, through June 18, 2019, at Hale Centre Theatre, 50 W. Page Avenue, Gilbert AZ. For tickets and information, visit www.haletheatrearizona.com or call 480-497-1181
Directed by David Hale Dietlein
Cast: (in order of appearance