Edinburgh Fringe 2011
Magnificently performed by a cast of 5, this is a journey through the ups-and-downs in the life of Doris Day, who is still considered one of America’s sweethearts, but whose real life hasn’t always been as rosy.
Doris Day was an American movie star for 20 years. Her image, like many of that era, was of ‘the girl next door’ … the image didn’t always reflect the real person behind the persona. This musical successfully opens our eyes to the real Doris Day, taking us on a journey spanning her life to date, featuring many of the famous songs she sang throughout her career, and introducing us to many of the people who have played a defining part.
With 4-piece band live on stage, the show opens with the character of Doris Day singing ‘A Sentimental Journey’, before we are transported back to her childhood, and the days of performing as Doris Kappelhoff. The production guides the audience through her life story including four marriages, the birth of her only son, car accident, introduction into movies, scientology, Charles Manson/Sharon Tate connection, bankruptcy and many other things you may not have known, moving from narration to re-enactment to song with seamless precision, as encapsulated in the script by Adam Rolston.
During the production the 5 cast members take on numerous roles with the exception of Sally Hughes, who plays a very convincing Doris Day throughout, including Day’s trademark vocal tone and vibrato. The lynchpin of the story is Day’s son Terry Melcher, excellently played by Conor Michael Sheridan, whose rendition of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” was one of the highlights of the show for me. Another musical highlight was the performance of “Young at Heart” by Tom Sellwood who plays, among others, Frank Sinatra. But there were so many highlights … the audience often joined in, particularly throughout the Calamity Jane routine.
Because of the excellent production design elements, the story flows beautifully. The set is simple, only a few boxes that become chairs, cars, beds, and these are all easily manipulated by the cast and a couple of stage crew. This was perfect for the show. Anything bigger would have been cumbersome. Costume design and the costume change logistics could have been nightmarish with all the character changes, but again, this was simple and excellently executed.
The highly skilled performances in this excellently written true story all add up to it being a very satisfying production to watch.
Four stars: Highly Recommended.