April 17th, 2024

Play Review: Get ready to bust a gut

By RYAN MCCRACKEN on February 18, 2022.

Kent Ertman, as Pontegnac, ogles Shelby Haga's Lucy in Medicine Hat Musical Theatre's production of The Ding Dong, during Wednesday's media night performance at the playhouse.--NEWS PHOTO RYAN MCCRACKEN


Get ready to bust a gut.

Live-action comedy returns to the local stage tonight with Medicine Hat Musical Theatre’s production of The Ding Dong (Or, How The French Kiss), the first of nine performances running through March 5.

As the curtains part, the audience is transported back to 1930s Paris, revealing a set that serves to supplement the silliness of the story. The many doors on stage create a veritable guessing game of what’s to come, and minor alterations to the aesthetics pay off in subtle but hilarious ways.

Make no mistake, this is a show for grown-ups. Right from the moment the first door swings open, a slapstick storm of torrential innuendos begins to brew – and it ends with a satisfying payoff.

The story centres on husband-and-wife duo Vatelin and Lucy, and the hilarious hi-jinx that ensue when Lucy proclaims – within earshot of a few prospective paramours – that she would “take a lover in a heartbeat” if Vatelin ever proved unfaithful.

And with that, the chase is on.

Ryan Holdaway takes on the role of Vatelin, as one of the few performers to stay in a single role for the duration of the play. That said, Holdaway nails Vatelin’s nervous nature throughout, leading to a few side-splitting moments as his evening reaches its climax.

Shelby Haga steps into the shoes of the (mostly) faithful wife Lucy, as well as the furiously flatulent Madame Pinchard. Haga handles the frenetic pace of the action with ease, firing back witty retorts and fighting off her various suitors as Lucy before scuttling across the floor as the frail Madame Pinchard.

The chaos is largely controlled by the supporting cast of Genevieve Anne, Jon Varus and Kent Ertman, each of whom balance three separate roles, accents and costumes to impressive effect.

Anne is simply spectacular in her triple-faceted performance of Madame Pontegnac, Fabiola and Mandy. Over the course of the play, Anne bounces between the trio of ludicrous ladies – balancing a number of quick changes, swapping accents on the fly and commanding the stage each time one of its many doors bursts open to allow for her emphatic entrance.

Ertman’s split performance of Pontegnac, Soldignac and Dr. Pinchard keeps the pace of the comedy churning forward like a freight train. Whether fawning over Lucy like a lapdog as Pontegnac, putting up his dukes as the hilarious Hungarian Soldignac, or lamenting the scent of his marriage as Dr. Pinchard, Ertman is a consistent highlight in a show full of them.

Varus jumps between the sleazy yet suave Redillon, the charmingly innocent Bellboy and one very confused Policeman. Varus spends the bulk of his time on stage in Redillon’s loafers – vying for the eye of Lucy, among others, in an uproarious portrayal of the womanizing playboy – but his performances as the Bellboy and Policeman keep the laughs rolling as the play progresses into its wild final act.

Lastly, Rae Wahl helps tie it all together with her brief but unforgettable cameo as “La Femme de Chambre.”

The Ding Dong runs for nine performances, opening with tonight’s 8 p.m. show. The show also runs Feb. 19, 24, 25 and 26, and March 2, 3, 4 and 5.

All shows begin at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 7 p.m.

Tickets can be purchased at mhmtheatre.com.

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