To a world of Instagram, YouTube, reality television, and other forms of hyped up, electrified media for the short attention span-addled populace, MetroStage offers something different. Catherine Flye, a veteran actor and theatre maker, transports audiences back to a time of gentle humor, delivered not with bells and whistles, projections, and digital sound production but by one performer and a rack of costumes.
Entertainer Joyce Grenfell, a household name in the United Kingdom for decades, tickled funny bones and warmed hearts with her vivid characterizations of the high and low born, aristocrats and working class. She conquered West End stages, toured extensively, made popular albums of her routines, and a number of films in her heyday, including the St. Trinian’s series, and The Yellow Rolls Royce. (Grenfell died in 1979.)
This March, audiences at Alexandria’s MetroStage can experience Grenfell’s theatrical magic and charming humor as lovingly brought to life in George – Don’t Do That! Flye’s devised piece recreates the characters and routines of the late British monologist and raconteur. From her opening moments warbling Grenfell’s “I Like Life,” Flye’s evening of light comedy is refreshing in its simplicity.
Completely at ease with the audience, Flye shares moments from Grenfell’s life story – aided by the expert narration of Michael Tolyado and masterful musical direction by Joseph Walsh. Choosing different coats or hats from the rack and a few props, we meet the dulcet-voiced nursery school teacher addressing her younglings, including Master George who is always on the verge of causing a disaster, hence the catchphrase and title of the show, “George – don’t do that!” Upper crust music lovers are gently sent up in “Opera Interval,” while a stuffy lecturer addresses her captive audience in “Women’s Institute.” The routines range from the hilarious to the gently humorous and all are little gems.
George – Don’t Do That!
closes March 25, 2018
Details and tickets
Tolaydo tells us that Grenfell’s gift of observing the physical quirks, varied speech patterns and dialects of her characters were akin to the character work of Danny Kaye or Peter Sellers, but seeing the show, I find the hallmark of Grenfell’s work more subtle; she often did not aim for the big laugh but the humor inherent in thee true humanity of a character. In particular, I am thinking of Flye’s British working class matron taking a trans-Atlantic airliner to the United States to visit her adult son and his family. The nervousness of traveling long distance, the affection the mother clearly holds for her loved ones, and her outlook on life are memorable.
Grenfell also wrote lyrics to tunes by noted British composer and conductor Richard Addinsell which she recorded and performed around the world. Flye intersperses the monologues and personal accounts with songs, such as these standouts: “Stately as a Galleon” (about ballroom dancing), her signature “I’m Going to See You Today” (a charm song if there ever was one), and the poignant song about growing old, “Time.”
George – Don’t Do That! is the second in a series of pocket-sized solo-based performances in MetroStage’s spring season, in their words, “celebrating work by women, about women, starring women.” Last month, a short run of Roz White performing Resist: A Revolutionary Cabaret preceded Flye’s Grenfell tribute. In April, Deb Filler will present her own show I Did It My Way In Yiddish (In English). MetroStage continues to present performer-centric shows in what has been one of the best intimate venues near the district. The building will be making way for new construction, and when that happens, MetroStage will prepare to move into a new theatre. So George – Don’t Do That! and I Did It My Way in Yiddish are likely your last chances to see some delightful performances at Alexandria’s river’s edge for a while.
George – Don’t Do That! The Music and Magic of Joyce Grenfell . Devised and performed by Catherine Flye . Music by Richard . Addinsell . Featuring: Catherine Flye, Michael Tolaydo, Joseph Walsh . Music direction by Joseph Walsh . Lighting Design by Alex Keen . Stage manager: Michael Sharp . Produced by Metro Stage . Reviewed by Jeff Walker.