For the 2011 revival of the 2008 hit show, director Blair Williams was faced with the daunting challenge of re-igniting playwright Ferenc Molnár’s madcap hilarity with just one-third of the cast reclaiming their roles. Fortunately (and a playbill deal breaker if unable to recreate the title role), Lorne Kennedy is back as Norrison, the wily capitalist who knows just how to get his way using other people’s money, their readily bought loyalty and copious amounts of saccharine oil to ease the awful truth of their unwitting acquiescence to his every whim. “Stop meddling in your own affairs,”—just one of the thousands of rapid-fire lines squeezed into the hour of mirth, mayhem and mischief—says it all. Kennedy hasn’t missed a beat, but some of his colleagues can’t quite keep pace, giving this production just a touch less pace than its predecessor.
New to the pivotal part of the buxom Lydia, Julie Martell pumps and grinds more blatant sex than Chilina Kennedy’s ditsier take, yet both approaches work. Happily, Jeff Meadows reprises the Pygmalion part of Tony Foot, morphing from honest-to-a-fault cabbie to the moneyed aristocracy before you can say “I will do anything for Lydia’s frequent charms.” After the head-over heels couple seem to literally screw their way to untold riches with the stroke of pen, Meadows aptly demonstrates that he’s more than, er, up for task with a few mimed bits of “No that’s not a banana in my pants” that are a shoe-in for this year’s comedy hall of fame.
On the other side of the sexual street, Ken James Stewart brings the house down and his panties on playing near-death, yet devoted Mr. Pinsky and ugliest secretary in the pool, Miss Hoyngabow.
The trio of easily led board members (at one with Conrad Black’s management style), Andrew Bunker, Kevin Hanchard and back-for-round-two William Vickers, look smarter in their red ties than in their devotion to due diligence—the latter’s intentional wardrobe malfunction is just one of dozens of sight gags that it would take repeated viewings to fully catalogue.
Finally, it’s hard to imagine anyone but Michael Ball playing Count von Schottenberg. The old codger has managed the remarkable achievement of having a son older than himself, but still has much life in his own shivering temper, which suddenly heats up with the prospect of a daughter-in-law who’s ready to take on all comers so long as it’s for her greater good.
Three cheers to Williams for pulling The President (2) together. His next comic assignment is eagerly awaited. JWR