It may be school holidays in Melbourne, but, as advertised, this raucous pantomime is definitely an adults-only affair. Nothing, it seems, is off limits, as pollies, celebs and headline makers are mercilessly skewered in the pursuit of nonstop hilarity.
Trevor Ashley and Phil Scott’s script, based on a certain not-to-be-mentioned Broadway musical, features a loose but surprisingly logical storyline about dear little orphan Fannie and her desperate pursuit of gender re-assignment surgery. The laughs, which come thick and fast, are mostly of the did-they-really-just-say-that variety, with the spectrum of swear words and mentions of sex scandals tossed about with gay abandon.
Director Craig Illott keeps the pace swift and the energy high. Despite not playing during the festive season, there is still plenty of good will generated to foster positive audience interaction and involvement. The bawdy pantomime style would, however, be much better suited to a cabaret venue, with the pro arch theatre setting exposing the budget limitations a little too harshly. The three-piece band and basic set are a shade below what might be expected in coming to the Comedy Theatre. Costumes are certainly flashy and witty, with excellent wigs providing the finishing touch.
Ashley brings his trademark verve and chutzpah to the endearing central role of Fannie, delivering the non-PC jibes with such glee that it is impossible to be offended. Ashley’s joy of performing is, as always, infectious and is a huge factor in garnering audience engagement in the show.
Rhonda Burchmore has a ball as the heinous Miss Trannigan, and proves herself a great sport given how close to the bone some of the plot points come to her own life. All swooshing black and purple panels, Miss Trannigan is a Disney villainess come to life, with Burchmore scoring extra points with a spot-on Ellen impression during the radio station scene. An extended tap dance solo is the icing on the cake to a terrific performance all round.
Gary Sweet is an ideal casting choice as gruff Daddy Warhorse, a man whose photographic inclinations suggest (repeatedly) a divisive high profile case.
The gay-friendly nature of the show is enhanced by the presence of Rhys Bobridge as Fannie’s adorable mutt. Although primarily there to look sexy, Bobridge actually does a really great job of mimicking the actions of a dog.
Enjoy a drink at the bar and get set for two hours of laughter with Little Orphan TrAshley.
Little Orphan TrAshley plays at Comedy Theatre until Sunday 14 July 2013 in conjunction with the Melbourne Cabaret Festival.
Photos: Prudence Upton
This review published on Theatre People 5 July 2013