The only thing little about Deeside Musical Society’s latest production was in the title. Little Me, yes indeed, writes Joan Anderson.
Otherwise, big sound, bigger entertainment and biggest laugh in ages, thank you very much Mr Graeme Massie.
Given that comedy is the new rock and roll, Upper Deeside is blessed with a society of multi-talented people who are willing to put in the long hours and hard work that conclude with the kind of sparkling musical extravaganza you normally only find in the city. But these teachers, farmers, students and lawyers are all oor ain fowk, and once again they’ve made us proud as punch.
Little Me is a story from America in the mid 20th century, a time that took in two world wars, great depression and the glory years of film-making. All of these were covered in the lifestory of Belle Poitrine at Aboyne Community Theatre last week.
Old Belle, played by Fiona Brand, is invited by a chatshow host, Ian Murray, to link the chapters of her autobiography on television, while Young Belle, Stephanie Thomson-Mitchell, sings and dances her way through the actual events, many of which are shaped by the comic and colourful men in her life.
Little Me tradition requires that half a dozen of Belle’s beaux are played by the same man, and that is where Graeme Massie entered a marathon that included an all-American hero, an impresario and a film director. Out of a stellar, and seemingly tireless performance, his best gems were the sprightly millionaire, the thick-but-nice serviceman and the Russian prince whose – um – antics proved that Mr Massie can rise to any occasion, even while teetering on the edge of an X rating.
The remarkable Stephanie Thomson-Mitchell, as lead female, was singing and dancing in every scene as well and it was nearly impossible to remember that the storyline calls for her to be “talentless” when this lovely young actress with a big, beautiful voice filled the stage – and our hearts -- with joy and delight.
Senior Belle, Fiona Brand, was a gorgeous other half of that particular story, lending her own mighty vocals to the top and tail.
Neil Stewart and Phil Benzie, as the Buchsbaum brothers, brought pizzazz and yet more laughter to the stage; Jennie Simon was feisty and warmherarted as Belle’s mom, while Jane Bruce played the snobbish American matron to stylish perfection in her attempt to keep son Noble out of Belle’s clutches, while pushing him into the arms of the wealthy Ramona, played with expression and grace by Vikki May.
Like Vikki, several people appeared in multiple roles, and it was hard to pick the best bits of a fantastic bunch. James Atkinson was lovely as the hunky Lucky with the Sinatraesque voice; Laura Mason was nicely naughty as the nurse; Sarah Mackay was a comical Colette…especially during the Boom Boom Song, and Brian Miller had a succession of very funny moments, beginning with his shaking, quaking Nincompoop, then each one better than the last, right to the end. One to watch for the future, methinks.
Mike McMillan, also in multiple roles, was at his comic best as the prince’s servant, but that was just a culmination of several appearances which had the audience in stitches, especially his difficulties with an over-short tunic in the movie-maker scene.
There were brilliant performances, too, by Sheila Benzie, Morag Thomson, Nancy Davidson, Cheryl Robson and Craig Giblin.
With DMS, there’s always a little extra treat in the package. This time it was musical director Frank Odds’s use of heeled tap shoes played on the stage floor as a percussion instrument. Can’t believe it? Neither did I at first. Kept looking at the dancers’ feet to see which was putting in such a great performance.
Tapperty taps, boom booms, mighty music and laughs galore.