by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
ABET launched the World Premier production of a brand new musical Fetteroff for Hire on March 23. The production will run through April 7, 2012 at 716 Ocean Boulevard, Atlantic Beach. Call 249-7177 or visit www.abettheatre.com for information and reservations.
This is the second new musical written by Fernandina Beach playwright Richard Wolf that has debuted at ABET. In fact, of all the local theatre groups, ABET probably has brought the most new musicals to the stage over the years. Wolf wrote the book and wrote the music and lyrics for the showstopper “My L.A.,” along with most of the lyrics for the rest of the songs, for which well- known local piano bar maestro Gene Nordan contributed the music and additional lyrics.
Fetteroff for Hire is a comic musical that spoofs detectives based on those found in the film noir melodramas popular in the 1940s and 50s. Set in Los Angeles in 1946, Set Designer Lee Hamby and Scenic Artist Jim Lynch put the audience in the scene with an expansive floor to ceiling mural of the city that includes street level buildings, the famous Hollywood sign, and towering skyscrapers.
The set is anchored with a film mogul’s office to the left and the detective’s to the right. Set pieces are swiftly moved on and off by Stage Managers Pam Larson and Jane Bull to create a number of locations, including a nightclub and an apartment interior. Costume Designer Margaret Hennessey completes the visual picture with the traditional beige trench coat and fedora for Fetterhoff, along with somber suits for other men, while the women have glamorous form-fitting day dresses, cocktail gowns along with a thick fur coat, and colorful lingerie. Bryan Frank’s light and sound design complements the stage action.
The leading character is the gumshoe Harry Fetterhoff, played with excellent humor and fine singing voice by Jimmy Alexander, who will probably remind you a little of Colombo, Dick Tracy, Sam Spade and other favorites in the movies and on TV. Everything is played as a tongue-in-cheek farce by Mr. Alexander. Yes, this is the same actor who played Rocky in The Rocky Horror Show and the stripper in The Full Monty.
The very attractive and excellent vocalist Jessica Alexander (Jimmy’s wife), is Ginger, Fetterhoff’s Girl Friday secretary and problem-solver, who is sweetly alluring while hopelessly in love with her oblivious boss.
The show revolves around a case Fetterhoff takes on with his client Carmen Totzkey (Peg Pascal), who wants him to find someone who does not exist. She puts several balled-up scraps of paper containing clues on his desk and quickly departs. Carmen has a dual personality and is also night club singer Lila Lavalle. In the latter incarnation, we get to hear a couple of excellent songs by Ms. Paschal, an established musical theatre performer and cabaret singer. You will love hearing “You Can’t Take My Love” and “Come and Get Me.”
Things are further complicated as Carmen is married to Mel Totzkey, a cut throat, hard as nails, very successful movie producer who just happens to hate his wife. Mel is played by David Jon Davis, who in six short years has been in musicals on every stage in Jacksonville. He will complete the circuit in June when he appears as Billy Bigelow in Carousel at Orange Park Community Theatre. Davis is a self-employed realtor and bills himself as Jacksonville’s best singing realtor. (And probably the only one we know of). A strong supporter of local theatre, Davis offers to donate $150 to the theatre of your choice, if you buy or list a home with him. Now that is unique.
As Mel, Davis is as funny as can be booming out those songs. Our favorite number was a duet with Victor, the final character in the play and a retired movie producer. Veteran actor, Mr. Reliable, Leonard Alterman as Victor, joins Mel in singing the song that probably got the most laughs called “A Dangerous Woman.” You don’t have to be much of a sleuth to figure out who that is, Carmen, of course.
There are eleven songs in the show, some humorous, some romantic ballads and all well performed. A lot of credit for this goes to Aaron Marshall who has developed into one of the most in-demand Musical Directors in this area. She knows her stuff, that is for sure. The orchestra who performs on-stage in about six feet of space includes Ms. Marshall on keyboard, with Damon Martin on bass and Erik DeCicco on a second keyboard. This is the fourth musical Judy Hulett has directed at ABET, and probably the most difficult since original musicals are not easy to write or direct. Her direction clearly followed the playwright’s intent to make this a fast-paced, entertaining comical show.
The backstage crew of Joan Patterson and Tori Alexander efficient changing of sets under the direction of the stage managers made this a very smooth running show.
Are you weary of musicals that have first acts that run one and a half hours? You will love Fetteroff whose first act runs 45 minutes, with the entire show is about one and a half hours long.
We think there is a future for Fetteroff for Hire since it is funny and humor is always in demand. In addition, it requires only five cast members, in contrast to most musicals with much larger casts, which would be attractive to many theatres.
Don’t miss this one, it is fun. We can tell you that Fetterhoff, with Ginger’s insightful help does solve the case and a potato winds up being one of the principal clues!!
FETTERHOFF FOR HIRE
by DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM