CAT’s first season opener hits the mark

The Fox on the Fairway plays at the Black Knight Inn in Red Deer

There are plenty of laughs bubbling up throughout Central Alberta Theatre’s dinner theatre season opener The Fox on the Fairway, currently onstage at the Black Knight Inn.

First off, it’s great to see the troupe back at the BKI – a setting that seems ideally suited to CAT’s dinner theatre line-up.

As to the play, it’s a terrific one to kick off the season – light-hearted, engaging, witty and fast-paced all the more strengthened by an outstanding cast and very solid, creative direction.

Penned by Ken Ludwig and directed by Alex Taylor, the show runs through to Nov. 12th with dinner starting at 6 p.m.

The cast includes Tara Rorke, Sarah Spicer, Jason Lee, Connor Lee, Craig Scott and Rina Pelletier.

As the synopsis points out, The Fox on the Fairway takes audiences on a hilarious romp, which pulls the rug out from underneath the stuffy denizens of a private country club. “Filled with mistaken identities, slamming doors, and over-the-top romantic shenanigans, it’s a furiously paced comedy that recalls the Marx Brothers classics. A charmingly madcap adventure about love, life and man’s eternal love affair, with golf. No matter whether you love golf or not, The Fox on the Fairway will tickle your funny bones.”

There is no question of that – and yes, it was reminiscent of those bright and brisk comic performances from the past.

Henry Bingham (Scott) is president of the Quail Valley Country Club, and he is in a tough position.

First off, he learned that his newly hired man Justin (Connor) is in love with waitress Louise (Spicer), and that the golfer he had lined up for the major tournament against his rival club has switched sides, having been recruited by Dickie Bell (Jason).

Top it off by Bingham having locked himself into potentially a very costly bet that looks now like a lost cause.

But Justin turns out to be a remarkable golfer – as long as he’s in a good space emotionally. Unfortunately, that’s about to change with news of a lost engagement ring.

What to do? Bingham is scrambling to find a replacement – but that’s just one part of the story. There’s plenty of mayhem that delightfully unfolds along the way as the play winds itself to its conclusion.

Really, it’s a clever, compelling blend of crisp, dry humour that’s also charged with a nice, energetic clip.

Scott is tremendous as the blustery, rather intimidating but sharply witty Bingham – he’s just got that natural charismatic stage presence that never disappoints. He’s the ideal actor for the part – Scott understands the intrinsic importance of timing in comedy, particularly one like that where the pace doesn’t let up for a second.

Rorke is also exceptional as Pamela Peabody – who also works at the club, has quite the colourful past and is just a real character all the way through. Rorke meets the demands of the role to a ‘T’ – she is perfectly comfortable with this style of play and, with some of the best zingers penned in the script, delivers them all with just the right level of gusto.

Connor is also very strong as Justin – wallowing in insecurity at first, but finding his way not only in terms of his skills but also in terms of how he relates to others – and as Louise, Spicer is also superb. At first, her role doesn’t seem to require much. But as the plot unfolds, we see Louise burst forth like a pent-up river. Here’s a character with a whole lot more fire than one may have first thought. Spicer is just great as it rolls along, offering lots of laughs with an energetic, finely executed delivery.

Rounding out the cast are the aformentioned Dickie, for which Jason turns in an excellent performance. It must be fun to play the slimy guy, and Jason Lee is clearly having a lot of fun tackling the role. But Dickie isn’t just simply a sneaky guy – Jason rounds out the character well, adding a depth that takes the role that much further.

And as Muriel Bingham, Pelletier is flat-out terrific. She doesn’t hold back one bit – and that fuels her portrayal beautifully. Muriel is just plain fed up with her husband, and while her antics and behaviour are hilarious to watch, there is a power behind her delivery. Kudos on a job very well done.

Credit must also go to Taylor. She not only has selected a great cast, but she has clearly guided them along as their roles took shape and brought the best out of each. It has come together as one well-crafted package of clever humour brought to us by a cast that isn’t in the least afraid to let go and just have fun with it. Which of course makes it a lot of fun for us.

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