Oh we Americans do like those British drawing room comedies! In Village Theatre’s latest musical comedy, “A Proper Place,” directed by Jerry Dixon, the action moves from drawing room to deserted island in the midst of a tropical ocean, then back. It is, of course, during Victorian times, and the characters are members of the upper class along with their domestics. Among the later is the very proper butler, Crichton.
Those of you who read James Barrie’s classic play, “The Admirable Crichton” in high school will be familiar with this character. He’s an amazingly competent man born into the wrong class. Barrie’s stinging criticism of the British class system is somewhat muted here, though this musical by Leslie Becker and Curtis Rhodes does follow Barrie’s story line almost to the end.
Lord Loam has taken his family and two necessary servants on what is to be a delightful sea voyage, but it all goes wrong. Shipwreck! How can they survive? Away from the restrictions of their society, the most competent among them, Crichton, takes command. He’s not only competent. He’s creative. Love blooms under the hibiscus and palms, but of course it flouts all the social class rules prevalent at that time. Bliss! But then they are all rescued.
Due to an injury, the actor originally scheduled to play Crichton had to withdraw. In his place we have Kevin Vortmann who is absolutely marvelous in the role. He’s superb personifying the stuffy, class conscious Englishman of that period. As the head butler, he’s properly obsequious, totally competent, and never oversteps his role. On the island, he’s terrific as the leader who makes life not only possible, but actually very comfortable for them all.
The costumes by Melanie Taylor Burgess beautifully represent Victorian times, and then serve well to exemplify life on the island. And that island is delightfully evoked by Carey Wong’s clever set.
The orchestra sometimes overwhelms the voices in the first act. The songs, especially in Act II reinforce the plot nicely, but are not terribly memorable. I didn’t go home humming any of the tunes.
The Village participated in developing this world premiere, and I’m sure they are hoping it will be picked up nationally. With a bit of work, it might be.
Through April 23 at the Francis J. Gaudette Theatre, 303 Front St. N., Issaquah, and from April 28 to May 21 at the Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett, 425-257-8600 or VillageTheatre.org.