Wednesday, March 21

Theater Review: IRT: Noel Coward's Fallen Angels

Julia and Jane                                                                              Image/Curry
Noel Coward's Fallen Angels opened on the upper stage at Indiana Repertory Theatre, Indianapolis, to a nearly full house this weekend. The British farce, although originally set in the 1920's, was updated to the '50s by the playwright for this modern version.
The two main characters, Julia Sterroll (Cristina Panfilio) and Jane Banbury (Kelsey Brennan), are the closest of friends, and housewives to the dull, settled men who keep them in an upper-middle class lifestyle. Until, of course, they are contacted by a former flame who scorched both ladies with his Frenchman's manières romantiques. Then the fur flies (in this case a pink wrap) drinks are spilled, and insults and secrets are flung as each is positive the other is conniving and manipulating in an effort to get back in the bed of Maurice Duclos (Martin Yurek).
Julia and Jane                                    Image/Curry

No longer young and vamping around Europe, the girlfriends desperately wish to keep scandalous experiences in the past and their lavish lifestyle intact. Comedy sets in as the women attempt to keep themselves, and each other, from meeting up with the Ladies Man and keep the secrets of their past lives from their boring spouses and nosy housekeeper.

The dullards, portrayed with absolute dryness, are Fred Sterroll (Steve Haggard) and Willy Banbury (Eric Parks). Unaware of, well, pretty much everything, the husbands take their wives for granted and go off on a golf outing.

Julia and Saunders                           Image/Curry

While the spouses are away, the wives are at play ... with martinis, Champagne, and various smart cocktails in an attempt to numb their deepest romantic desires for heartthrob Maurice. Panfilio and Brennan play off each other with all the timing, self-deprecating antics and finesse as Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance in television's I Love Lucy. 

Saunders, the housekeeper, is portrayed brilliantly by Susan Felder as the always-one-more-surprise up her sleeve mystery under-appreciated maid. An expert at many things, including French, guitar playing and etiquette, among other topics, Felder elicits many of the countless rounds of laughter from the audience as she attempts to keep the drunken females from committing permanent damage to the crystal stemware, their reputations and their livers.


Bottom Line: IRT's Fallen Angels is easily the funniest theater offering yet this season and an absolute must-see for everyone.

A Coward Cabaret
Stay after the play (check IRT schedule for specific dates) for a cabaret performance by Steven Stolen and special guest Shannon Forsell, which demonstrates what most in Indianapolis already knows. And, if you don't know, maybe you should.
Stollen                                     Image/Lee
Cabaret is coming around again in a big way. Fans of the Great American Songbook will appreciate this performance as two of Indy's favorites (for good reason) pair up for approximately 90 minutes of standards.
Keeping the theme of the evening, the after-hours show continues the fun by featuring songs of Sir Noel Coward, along with Cole Porter (always a hit in Indiana), Burton Lane and Harold Arlen.

It's rare to find a singer so completely comfortable with himself, his vocal range and his surroundings as Stolen. As if entertaining at home, the host of Stolen Moments on WFYI-FM 90.1 draws the audience into his world, opening up as if sharing his deepest intimate thoughts via a strong tenor channel.
Whether listening to Stolen share his beloved songs or speaking to him afterward, you feel as if he is focusing completely on you ~ right here, right now, in this moment ~ as if nothing else exists. A pleasant feeling indeed. Perhaps what is truly remarkable about the managing director of IRT's talent, beyond his obviously soothing bedtime vocals, is the seemingly innate ability to choose songs which best showcases his passion, voice and style.

Bringing on stage Indy's darling, Forsell, Stolen once again chooses wisely as the couple is a perfect match for duets, such as Coward's Mad About the Boy. Forsell, the managing director of The Cabaret at The Columbia Club, treats the audience to her slightly smoky, slightly naughty style of singing. Her old-Hollywood glamour looks while retaining the girl-next-door under-image is further enhanced by her tickling-of-the-ivories-meets-brandy-snifter vocals.

Bottom Line: Steven Stolen and Shannon Forsell are the perfect choice for anyone wishing to get lost for a few moments meandering along the lovely path known as Memory Lane.

Photo credits: Mark A. Lee GreatExposures.net; JulieCurry.com
The two hour and fifteen minute performance includes two intermissions and runs through April 15 on the Upperstage at IRT. For tickets and details, visit IRTLive.com. 
Elizabeth J. Musgrave is a syndicated columnist, travel writer, performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as Indy’s Entertainment Adviser on 93 WIBC, and follow her on Twitter @GottaGo and Facebook. Gotta Go is published on www.BroadwayWorld.com and in M magazine and the following newspapers: South Sider Voice, Indiana Weekender, New Palestine Reporter, Pendleton Times Reporter and Fortville-McCordsville Reporter.

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