‘Love Noel’ was nostalgic.
Footlights Theatrical’s production of ‘Love Noel’, the Australian Premiere of the show, continues their strong 2019 season. With the more traditional theatrical setting of the Ron Hurley Theatre, this production truly transports the audience to the eras of the 20s, 30s and 40s.
‘Love Noel’ follows the life of Noel Coward through his career, told through his letters to his mother, various female actresses and female writer friends. The two-hander beautifully conveys the quick-witted and lovely nature of Noel through the reading of his letters, as well as Noel’s interjections of his own thoughts on the recipients of such letters. Throughout the production various songs of Noels are performed by either the actress they were written for or the man himself, truly bringing a more intimate association to the songs.
Footlights production makes the most of every facet of this script and brings it to life with a simplistic set, blocking and costume. With just a few furniture items, very much era-appropriate, the stage is transformed into an art-deco-esque apartment, radiating class, just as Noel would have styled it. Clever, stylised blocking involving the couch, direct audience addresses, and, of course, martini making, keeps the focus of the audience on the narrative of the play, the beauty of the songs, and the character of Noel.
The costumes are tokenistic, but they beautifully capture the ‘classic Hollywood’ star and starlet image. Noel in a white suit, as is iconic for him, throughout the entire production and his offsider, who played the multiple women in his life, draped in beautiful silken gowns, one for each act. On top of this, she adds hats, coats and bags to truly distinguish each different character, each, of course, true to the era.
In the role of every female that had made enough of an impact on Noel to be commemorated was Kellie Ireland. Ireland jumps from actress to writer, to mother, to an old woman on the street with commendable ease. Though this distinction comes through in her rather comedic renditions of the characters, perhaps alternating her singing voice to suit each new character would have further strengthened this distinction. In saying that, there are a few beautifully soft moments carried by Ireland, and she definitely doesn’t shy away from any of the demanding high notes in the production.
In the titular role, Adam Bartlett is everything you could want or dream of as Noel. If, of course, you can’t have the man, himself. He captures the beautiful nature of Noel with precision and finesse, true both to the man and the era. His voice carries off all the classic numbers effortlessly and without a single misstep. Bartlett has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand from the first line, and he knows it. A sly grin is never amiss, and his warm heart is always on display. A truly genuine, human performance, one couldn’t help but love him instantly.
Accompanying these two powerhouse performers is Shaeyna Day, a pianist, who acts almost as Noel’s personal player and confidant. Though a grand or at least baby grand piano would perhaps have been more era-appropriate, the set has the keyboard covered to not pull the audience out of the illusion. One forgets quickly that there even is a keyboard as Day so expertly traverses the score, all that was heard was beautiful music.
‘Love Noel’ is everything one needs to travel back in time, and simply live in a completely different, elegant time, truly immersed in nostalgia.
‘Love Noel’ performs until Sunday, 11 August 2019. For tickets and more information visit the Footlights Theatrical’s Website.