Theatre review: Victor/Victoria – Jeff Hylsop has some mighty big shoes to fill

Filling in for an injured Jeff Hyslop, understudy Seth Little was opening night’s highlight as Metro Theatre presents the stage musical Victor/Victoria.

Based on the 1982 Blake Edward film, Victor/Victoria tells the story of out-of-work soprano Victoria Grant who, in an effort to find work, disguises herself as a man and goes on to become one of Paris’ most celebrated female impersonators.

Playing Carroll (Toddy) Todd, the flamboyant impresario who colludes with Victoria, Seth Little is both charming and just the required amount of over-the-top swishiness.  Combined with great comedic timing, he effectively mined all the smallest of gems from Blake Edward’s book.  No slouch in the vocals department either, Little served up his Toddy with a wonderful balance of sugary goodness and just a hint of spice and his performance in drag towards the end of the show could easily put him as a contender on an upcoming season of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

On par with Little’s wonderful performance Saturday night was the scene-stealing Karin Inghammar as Norma Cassidy who milks every ounce of fun from the ditzy blonde moll as she drops malapropisms like bonbons across the stage.  Inghammar even managed to breathe some life into the forgettable Chicago, Illinois. The rest of the cast would benefit from some of the energy which seemed to have exploded on stage each time Little and Inghammar made an appearance.

As the other half of the ruse, Sylvia M Zaradic has the pipes for Victoria but at times it felt as if she were going for a Julie Andrews impersonation, especially when she wasn’t singing.  The central deceit that she is playing a man never quite works but then I never really believed for a second that Julie Andrews was fooling James Garner either.

Seth Little and Sylvia M Zaradic in Metro Theatre's production of Victor/Victoria. Photo by Brian Campbell.
Seth Little and Sylvia M Zaradic in Metro Theatre’s production of Victor/Victoria. Photo by Brian Campbell.

Matthew Graham, another performer with a great singing voice, was a little angrier than questioning as King Marchan as he must come to grips with his attraction to someone he thinks may very well be a man.  Grant Vlahovic brings a bearish sweetness to his role as “Squash” Bernstein and even though he may have been a little rough around the edges, he had the audience cheering him on when he finally admits that perhaps a little hot Toddy might be in order.  Director Mark Carter fills in as Chez Lui owner Henri Labisse, the role Little was meant to play, with an obvious wink to Blake Edward’s Pink Panther franchise.

I have always been impressed by community theatre that doesn’t dumb down its choreography to the lowest common denominator, but with a few near misses on stage opening night among the ensemble I’m wondering if Ken Overbey pushed this particular group a little beyond their comfort zone.

While not everything is up to Metro’s usual standards, set designer Grant Windsor does nail the two hotel suites that director Carter uses to great effect towards the end of the show.

This was Seth Little’s night to shine and had I joined the rest of the audience on its feet for the obligatory standing ovation, it would have been for him.  Jeff Hyslop, who we understand will be back in the role of Toddy starting this Wednesday, has some mighty big shoes to fill.

3 Out of 5 Stars Victor/Victoria

Book by Blake Edwards.  Music by Henry Mancini.  Lyrics by Leslie Bricusse.  Additional music by Frank Wildhorn.  Directed by Mark Carter.  Musical direction by Christopher King.  A Metro Theatre Centre production.  On stage at the Metro Theatre through April 7, 2012.  Visit http://www.metrotheatrevancouver.com for tickets and information.

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