Inspired by the life and times of US singer, pianist, actor and comedian
Jimmy Durante this new musical by Tony Day gets top marks for blood, sweat
and tears. With little room for dialogue in between all the singing - there are 39
songs in total - and dancing, including some impressive tap routines, it's
a wonder the performers don't drop dead by the end.
The title is a reference to Durante's trademark signoff at the end of his
radio shows, which for many years the meaning of which he kept locked in
secrecy. Durante later admitted that he was addressing his first wife Jeanne
Olsen who passed away in 1943, affectionately performed here by Jenni
Bowden. Sadly Tony Day's own wife Marti passed away just a week before
Goodnight Mrs Calabash was due to open, and a tribute is published
in the programme.
Not only is the musical a laudable tribute to Durante but director Racky Plews' use of
space is quite ingenious, aided by a cast of 11 who don't put a foot wrong as
they spin and leap about the stage. But while an attractive
ensemble provides plenty to look at the performances frequently engage more than the plot.
The ugliness of Durante is a frequent reference but Tim Frost, whose
delivery of malapropisms are spot on, is actually rather a looker.
Nevertheless the charm of Brooklyn Annie (Rachel Ann Crane), Lou Clayton
(David Muscat) and Ed Jackson (Matt Palmer) help to give the storyline more
depth even though their parts are somewhat patchy. Brooklyn
Annie's role is very pronounced in the first half but much less so in the
But it's certainly
refreshing to have the opportunity to witness a musical in all its splendour on an intimate stage above
a pub. Good effort.