Pat Launer, Center Stage on KSDS JAZZ88
January 23, 2015
The blonde at the next table has “a mouth that would’ve sent Shakespeare thumbing through a thesaurus.”
So says poker-faced Sam Galahad, a hard-boiled, hard-drinking private eye who’s on the case of a murdered millionaire and his missing daughter. That MIA bombshell was the love of his life – even though they only had one brief encounter ten years ago – at the Red-Eye Lounge, a cheesy airport piano bar. Now, in that same seedy place, Sam is singin ’ the blues – the “Gunmetal Blues,” which just happens to be the color of Jenny’s eyes (and shoes) – and the title of a 1991 Off Broadway musical that’s getting a bang-up revival in its San Diego premiere at North Coast Repertory Theatre.
The show is a satirical mashup between gumshoe noir and musical theater. The book is by Scott Wentworth, with music and lyrics by Craig Bohmler and Marion Adler, all of whom were at the Solana Beach opening. They seemed to be having a wonderful time, as was the audience, thanks to the many clever quips and the snappy repartee.
Under Andrew Barnicle’s smart, slick direction, three actors play all the roles. Sharon Rietkerk is terrific as a bevy of blondes – including a mousy secretary, sultry chanteuse, bag lady and, in a flashback, the young runaway. She pours her lissome body into a rapid-fire array of outfits, and she has the most appealing, supple voice on the stage.
Jeffrey Rockwell, who plays a raft of stock characters, in various accents, also serves as host, narrator and piano-player, forever trying to hawk his $19.95 cassette, that features all the songs in the show. I guess that would make this meta-metal blues.
As the chivalrous P.I., Galahad, whose head and heart get knocked about, Kevin Bailey has flawless deadpan delivery of every well-crafted line and lyric. The score, played by an excellent offstage band, features a couple of knockout numbers. The whole shebang makes for a thoroughly enjoyable, if unlikely, stylistic marriage. As the piano-guy puts it, “Bon Voyage, mon voyeur.”
“Gunmetal Blues” has been extended through February 8, at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.
©2015 PAT LAUNER