How the hell are they going to do that onstage?
It's worth the price of admission just to see how the producers of North by Northwest replicate two of cinema's most famous scenes on stage. If I tell you how they do it though, I'd have to kill you. Because it's supposed to be a surprise. And it is, it really is.
The 1959 Alfred Hitchcock classic that this stage version is based on features an amazing scene in which Cary Grant gets chased by a crop dusting plane. The movie's finale is a thrilling chase across the presidential visages of the Mount Rushmore National Monument in the USA.
These scenes are both included and how they are done is funny, brilliant, if a bit risky. There were a couple of minor technical hitches on opening night but nobody seemed to care, because we were all having such a great time. And just wait until you see how they recreate Mount Rushmore. What a hoot!
The story itself is an espionage thriller in which a Madison Avenue ad executive, Roger Thornhill (Grant in the movie, Matt Day on stage) gets mistaken for a bloke called George Kaplan, a bloke who is being chased by a cell of spies. This is the Cold War era after all.
As Thornhill tries to escape the clutches of the baddies, led by a swine called Vandamm (James Mason in the film, Jonny Pasvolsky on stage) he gets involved with a femme fatale by the name of Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint in the film, Amber McMahon in this version).
It's a dramatic thriller but also manages to be very funny and that's hard to do. Hitchcock of course, was a master, and managed it and by the way, yes there is the traditional film cameo by the great man. He's the one with the big tummy.
For Hitchcock fans this is an absolute treat but it will be enjoyed by everyone.
Part of the allure of the film is the Mad Men aesthetic and that is present in this staged version which looks attractively retro with costumes to boot. I love a sharp 50s suit with a sliver of white pocket square.
As a homage this is a pretty faithful one. It would have been a huge mistake to stray too far from Hitchcock's vision.
Matt Day is utterly convincing as the wisecracking, sardonic Thornhill and Amber McMahon is terrific as the siren Eve Kendall.
Great to see locals Leon Cain and Christen O'Leary in a number of roles. The ensemble is incredibly hard working and there's a lot of action on stage. When producers Liza McLean and Andrew Kay asked director Simon Phillips to have a crack at staging this Phillips leapt at the chance. Many would have declined the offer because it's a big challenge. But Phillips, a veteran who recently directed Queensland Theatre's huge national hit Ladies in Black is a master and his wife, playwright Carolyn Burns, has skilfully adapted the script by Ernest Lehman.
There is some of the original film score by Bernard Hermann in it but the bulk is a soundscape created by composer Ian McDonald. His music is so evocative that it sounds like the original score. The whole thing is fantastic and a bit of a guilty pleasure after all the serious stuff we have seen this year. I say that because in a way you feel like you're at the movies instead of the theatre and that's very relaxing. That will appeal to many of you, I know. By the way, BYO popcorn. But there are ice creams available during interval. Or should that be intermission?
NORTH BY NORTHWEST
Until December 9
Lyric Theatre, QPAC
Reviewed by Phil Brown