Creativity in Jerry Herman revue at Rep

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DIRECTOR-choreographer Jordan Kelly has been around the theatrical traps of Canberra, the 16 or 17 years and he’s even been a GOLD CAT, but he’s never directed for Canberra Repertory before.

Director-choreographer Jordan Kelly
Director-choreographer Jordan Kelly

Now at the helm of Rep’s musical theatre offering for the year, the Off-Broadway musical revue “Showtune,” Kelly and his musical director Leisa Keene are threatening us with all the “excitement of Variety and the glamour of Broadway.” The showbiz lights on stage yesterday suggested nothing less as  he and cast members, including Liz de Totth and Nathan Kellie, were draping themselves all over the grand piano as they prepared to unveil a show that is dedicated to the words and music of the late Jerry Herman.

If you think you don’t know who that is, actually you do. Herman’s Broadway musicals include “Milk and Honey”, “Hello, Dolly!”, “Mame”, “Dear World”, “Mack & Mabel”, “The Grand Tour”, “A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine” and “La Cage aux Folles”.

The title of this revue was inspired by Herman’s autobiography “Showtune” and was put together by California architect Paul Gilger, who arranged the songs into thematic scenes and song-cycles.

Liz de Totth and Nathan Kellie
Liz de Totth and Nathan Kellie

This suits director Kelly perfectly. Although he loves the songs, this thematic arrangement gives him free rein to create choreographic sequences to match, so got in some of his friends who could really dance. “You don’t have to just stand and sing,” he tells “CityNews”.

One unusual mix is a medley that includes something from “Mack & Mabel”, and something from “Hello Dolly, not obvious bedfellows. This, he says, allows him a measure of creativity. “All the songs are out of context, so you can create all new meanings.”

Kelly knows that his directing in a long tradition of musical theatre at Rep, beginning with the long-running “Oldtime Music Hall” (at 34, he’s just old enough to have seen one or two of those). I’m followed by the more recent musical revue, “Jazz garters.”

So after “Showtune” what’s on the agenda for the mild-mannered choreographer who works at JB Hi-fi by day?

His own hoofing days are hardly over, “hopefully get a role in Supa Productions’ ‘La Cage aux Folles’,” Kelly enthuses.

“Showtune” by Canberra Repertory, Theatre 3, 3 Repertory Lane, Acton,   June 19 (preview) to July 5, bookings to 6257 1950 or canberrarep.org.au

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Helen Musa
“CityNews” arts editor

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