Barbican Cinema 1, 28 May 1995

Review by Emma Shane © 1998

Three distant cousins, who do not know each other, Chiquita, Harry and Blossom Hart (Jessica Martin, Sam Kelly and Louise Gold in this production) inherit a ranch in Texas. SEE THAT YOUíRE BORN IN TEXAS. We are then introduced to an Army camp that is near the ranch. At the Camp is Sergeant Rocky Fulton, who singing WHEN BABY GOES TO TOWN. Teddy Kempner sang this reasonably well; he is a good singer after all.

The three cousins arrive. Blossom soon makes the acquaintance of the army boys; after all she is always doing Something For The Boys. Presently the cousins also make the acquaintance of each other; although they do not at first like each other very much, they decide they will live on their ranch HOME ON THE RANGE.

††††††††††† The cousins find the ranch is run down, but the army base nearby, and have been using it to practice war games. Sgt Rocky and co sing COULD IT BE YOU. The cousins get caught up in the war games - quite amusingly. Blossom is in love with Sergeant Rocky Fulton (Teddy Kempner), who in civilian life was a Bandleader, and he is evidently quite attracted to her HEY GOOD LOOKIN. This has to be one of the few times Elizabeth Barrett Browning ever got quoted in a song lyric! Particularly amusing is when he sings the line "As the famous Tallulah muttered to me", since an animatronics expert (Christopher Finch) once likened Louise Goldís offstage manner to Tallulah Bankheadís, "only somewhat less restrained".

††††††††††† Unfortunately Rocky is engaged to Senator Walkerís ghastly daughter Melanie (Ashleigh Sendin). So Blossom sings HEíS A RIGHT GUY.

††††††††††† Hanging around their range is a crackpot named Mr Tobias Twitch (Stewart Permutt). The three cousins decide to turn their ranch into a munitions factory, and, perhaps in a similar spirit to "Women In Industry", a hostel for Army wives and girlfriends, who work in the factory, to help the war effort. Appropriately enough Blossom herself has a job on the factory floor, polishing off what they are making with CARBORUNDUM.

Blossom wants to make an impression on Rocky, at some party, which Melanie will also be at, so Chiquita says "You can have all my costume jewellery", Blossom, just exactly like Ethel Merman, replies "Yeah, and any that I canít wear Iíll carry over my arm". Someone asks Blossom if she is in love with Rocky, to which she replies "Me! Iíve just got a thing about bandleaders. Iíd even go for Jack Benny if he could play a violin" (well something like that, Iím not sure if I remember it too clearly) THE LEADER OF THE BIG TIME BAND. This number in particular summarised the most delightful thing about the show. It was great to find Louise Gold once again doing the Ethel Merman part. Particularly because she is so good at making any part very much her own, never mind who has previously sung it. Louise proved that she at least can rival anyone from Ethel Merman to Kim Criswell!

††††††††††† Melanie arrives and proceeds to take over the running of the factory; and there is a mention here of what happens to people who work with Carborundum. This is the sort of "other woman" part that Ashleigh Sendin is in her element playing. Blossom somehow manages to give Melanie a very bad fright, involving the machinery; she gets caught up in it, but is not actually hurt. This backfires badly, where Melanieís publicity is turned against them. Harryís gambling also has a few adverse affects, when two gamblers leave the ranch house by walking right through the shower-room, several girls wearing only towels run out screaming, right into Melanieís press photographers.

††††††††††† Act 2 finds the three cousins suffering from the repercussions of their brush with Melanie. Senator Walker and co have ordered the Ranch to be placed out of bounds to soldiers; much to the discontentment of both the soldiers and their significant others. Their feelings are summed up by Mary-Frances, played in this production by Hazel Holder (the part was created for Blossomís understudy, Betty Garrett in the original production), singing a heartfelt song I'M IN LOVE WITH A SOLDIER BOY. The only good thing that has come out of it is that Rocky has broken off his engagement. He has now fallen in love with Blossom. But as he isnít permitted to see her, or go near the ranch, he canít tell her.

††††††††††† Meanwhile the three cousins have other more pressing worries. Blossom keeps complaining that she can hear the radio; she says the girls have left it on in the factory, but they havenít! This is very amusing to watch. We find the trio striding across the stage, from bottom left to top right. Harry is closest to the audience and Chiquita (whom we canít really see, sheís 5ft2Ĺ " and so hidden behind her 5ft9" co-star) is furthest away, with Blossom between them. Harry says "Weíve dragged her round to every doctor in town. And they still donít know whatís wrong with her!" It is Tobias Twitch who eventually solves the mystery. He says to Blossom "You work with Carborundum donít you? Have you got any fillings?" Blossom opens her mouth wide and indicates to him where her filings are, and he says "Then that's what's wrong with you". He wonít say any more, and the three cousins are very puzzled. It is eventually realised that (as reported in the 1938 readers Digest article), Blossom has got Carborundum dust on her fillings, turning them into a crystal receiving set!

††††††††††† This gives the three cousins a brilliant idea for how they can help the war effort, and get themselves and their ranch reinstated in the armyís eyes. They devise an idea for manufacturing miniature radioís, well sort of. Basically its a cap of Carborundum, with can be fitted over someoneís filling to enable them pick up radio signals too. THEREíS A HAPPY LAND IN THE SKY, quite a risquť song, with some fine lyrics for everyone.

††††††††††† However the three cousins get absolutely nowhere with the army, who donít want to know them. So Blossom and Chiquita smuggle themselves into the army base, at some celebratory evening as entertainers, dressed as Red Indians BY THE MISSISSINEWAH. This number was one of the high spots of the evening. A real joint tour de force from Louise Gold and Jessica Martin. Jessica deserves a mention here, as one of the few singers who really can match Louise Gold note for note, and somehow manage not to get overshadowed by her when they are in a show, or doing a number, together. Which is all the more amazing since Jessica is six and a half inches shorter than Louise! The two really do make a great team, a comic duo but a terrific pair. Who said Ethel Merman was "Inimitable"? This was one of those occasions where Louise Gold, both with her singing and speaking voice, really did sound uncannily like Ethel Merman. If you half closed you eyes you really could imagine you were hearing the mighty Merman.

††††††††††† Unfortunately they get found out, no one will listen to their idea, and the three cousins are taken to Washington, in an army bomber, to appear before the Senate. Charged with illegally entering they army base, when they are prohibited. However the plane gets into difficulties, and looses radio contact with control. Harry suggests seeing if Blossom, with her teeth can help? She opens her mouth wide, he says "What can you hear cous?", she replies "Itís Bing Crosbyís radio show", he responds "That's no good, try again". She succeeds in picking up the right signal and the Army boss is persuaded to try one of their caps and their idea is a success and so everything ends happily.

††††††††††† Besides her suitability for Ethel Merman parts, It was perhaps especially appropriate that Louise Gold should be so cast as Blossom Hart - the munitions factory worker in this production, given that back during World War II, as an amateur lyricist, her mother, had some success, at Unity Theatre with a song WOMEN IN INDUSTRY about munitions factory workers.


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