A packed house and several encores are duly deserved for this clever adaptation of Jules Verne’s book, Around the World in 80 Days. There is not one weak link in this six-strong ensemble who can act, sing, play instruments and deliver comedy with aplomb. The play opens almost informally with a visible set and props; as audience members are still milling around stashing coats, water bottles and bags of popcorn, Phileas Fogg enters the stage and we discover him almost as he discovers us. It’s a fitting start for a production where the actors interact with their audience just the right amount.
The standard of the music and acting is superb and the only drawback is that occasionally it is a little hard to hear the dialog over the music. I was especially pleased to note that the instruments on stage are not just props and everything from the piano to the banjo to the bass and beyond are all played at one point or another with a casual confidence that fits in perfectly with the storytelling.
This is a fairly fast-paced show but it slows enough to allow moments of slapstick humour that have audience members both young and old in stitches, much like the best children’s books that offer humour on two levels. Fogg’s journey is illustrated with props and minimal set changes as he travels from London to Egypt, India, Hong Kong, Japan and on to America. Yes, they draw toy guns on stage whilst on a train crossing the American plains, but the comedy of the scene is like an old Western with just the music to accompany it, and even my 6 year old saw the humour in it. Moments like when Fogg and the Princess search for his manservant by tiptoeing out amongst the top of the audience’s seats feed the feeling that anything could happen, a feeling which gives the production its contagious energy. My companion and I agreed that the actress playing Passepartout stands out amongst this particularly strong cast. Bravo to the Polka for bringing this adaptation of Philieas Fogg’s quest to its stage.