The Last Resort

Book by Norm Foster, Music and Lyrics by Leslie Arden
Directed & Choreographed by Marc Richard
Performed by Sheldon Davis, John Devorski, Stuart Dowling, Susan Johnston Collins, Robert Latimer, Cara Leslie, Brett McCaig, Shelley Simester.
Drayton Entertainment Production
Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend
June 28 to July 14, 2007
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Comedy, mystery, and music rolled into one show

The Last Resort is a three-in-one play: for the price of one ticket, you get comedy, murder mystery and a musical, which makes great summer-stock fare. Norm Foster, Canada’s favourite comedy writer, has a string of hit plays that have been staged around this area, such as The Foursome, The Melville Boys, Looking, Here on the Flight Path, The Affections of May, Wrong for Each Other, and many more. When he created the comedy The Last Resort about 10 years ago, he added a ‘whodunit’ and ventured into musical theatre all at the same time. Foster teamed up with Canadian Leslie Arden, who added the songs, writing both music and lyrics.

Huron Country Playhouse’s version of The Last Resort is good fun. Seven strange characters check into a Saskatchewan resort that has seen better days. There’s Nick Galeazzo (Brett McCaig), the big city restaurateur who has come to the backwoods incognito to hide out from the mob, under the protection of agent Angela Miller (Shelley Simester) who’s working under cover. Then there’s the tourist couple Sid (Sheldon Davis) and Liz (Susan Johnston Collins), who are trying to rekindle the romance in the marriage. There are also twins Julia and Jessica Youngstead, on their way to the controversial reading of their father’s will. Finally, we have the poet Trent Balfour (John Devorski) who’s looking for a rendez-vous to overcome his writer’s block – which has lasted seven years. All the guests at the resort meet their hostess, Freda Heitz (Stuart Dowling) who is an interesting character to say the least. When one of the twins dies suddenly (Was that the evil twin or the good twin?), we meet Inspector Closely (Robert Latimer), the bumbling policeman.

But it isn’t the plot that makes this play – it’s Foster’s clever use of language. Foster is the master of double entendre and innuendo. In this story, he even has fun with the characters’ names. When the police inspector arrives to investigate the murder, he wants to go upstairs to see the elevator shaft. The German-accented resort owner introduces herself, “I’m Freda Heitz”, to which the inspector says, “Well, maybe you’d like to wait down here.” And on it goes, one corny joke after another. Fortunately, Foster creates new humour, there’s no stale corn.

The show is well cast. Brett McCaig as Nick is very good – he’ll be remembered as one of the Crickets in The Buddy Holly Story, and now you’ll recognize him as the human-kitten on the TV cat food commercials. Sheldon Davis demonstrates the same comedic talent that was evident in The Foursome at Playhouse II last summer. He is well matched with Susan Johnston Collins who plays the cheap tourist as funny without going too far over the top.

John Devorski, who was Hipockets in The Buddy Holly Story, is hilarious as the lustful and pretentious poet. Cara Leslie who was Ado Annie in last summer’s Oklahoma!, is very entertaining as she handles both roles of the opposite twins. Shelly Simester is good as the undercover agent trying to keep emotions in check. Robert Latimer has great facial expressions and excellent comedic timing as Inspector Closely, and Stuart Dowling as Freda – well, he could be a diva but we never find out for sure.

Not only do cast members handle the comedy well, they are all excellent singers, able to deliver the catchy tunes and witty lyrics. Credit goes to Director/Choreographer Marc Richard and Musical Director Greg Daikun for keeping up the fast pace, and not allowing the songs to interrupt as the mystery unfolds. Daikun plays the piano in the lobby of the resort and even gets to join in some of the on-stage fun. When he annoys Sid in one scene, Sid removes money from the piano player’s tip jar.

Eric Summerley’s set is well done, cluttered with a stuffed moose and other resort memorabilia. And yes, that rectangle on the wall is indeed a map of Saskatchewan. Monique Hodder’s costumes are excellent, especially – as strange as this sounds – the Brazilian gauchos.

Bring your friends – this is a light night out that’s sure to please everyone, because it has something for everyone: music, comedy and mystery.

The Last Resort continues with eight shows a week until July 14 at Huron Country Playhouse, Grand Bend. Tickets are available at the Huron Country Playhouse box office at (519) 238-6000 or Drayton Entertainment at 1-888-449-4463.

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