Back in 1986 Carol Channing and Mary Martin toured with Legends! but it never made Broadway; twenty year later Joan Collins and former Dynasty co-star Linda Evans took the show on a 30-week, multi-city, North America tour. Now, ten years after that John Frost is touring the show around Australia with another dynamic duo Juliet Mills and her sister Hayley Mills. It premiered in Brisbane.
It’s New York and Leatrice Monsee (Hayley Mills) and Sylvia Glenn (Juliet Mills) are hustled by Martin Klemmer, a dodgy theatre producer played by Maxwell Caulfield (Grease 2, Dynasty, The Colbys) to restart their careers by starring in what is touted (without a cast, theatre or funding) to be Broadway–bound play. He tells them that the leading man is to be George Clooney. George however doesn’t know yet.
Trouble is the ladies have a history and have come to hate each another so the scene is set for two famous but fading movie stars to upstage one another.
It’s a nice vehicle for the sisters. They have some juicy dialogue and a lot of physical as well as verbal comedy, and of course they delivered just what the audience wanted – good work from stage royalty.
The play opens with Sylvia Glenn turning up at the house of a friend which she has borrowed along with the maid Aretha, for the meeting with Leatrice and Klemmer. One problem is that Aretha has arranged a party for a friend of the same name that night, but the persuasive Sylvia gets her to postpone the event.
So, with some lively interruptions from Aretha, who was energetically played by Leah Howard, the two stars started to hack at each other. The battle eventually became a girl fight which saw fists and wigs fly, much to the amusement of the audience. Leah’s Southern American accent was so good that is was hard to believe she has Fijian heritage and was raised in Australia. She added a lot of spice and fin to the show. So did David Denis as Boom-Boom Johnson, the male stripper booked for Aretha’s party, who turned up unannounced and proceeded to bring the house down in an hilarious scene where he did his party tricks before the befuddled duo and the enthusiastic Aretha.
That was the turn of the night.
But then something else destined for the cancelled party – “ju-ju biscuits” which were freshly made hash brownies – were accidentally consumed by the feuding actors and that produced some very funny work as they became slowly high and tried to clean the room. There were lots of laughs and vacuum cleaner jokes there.
I did enjoy Maxwell Caulfield’s work too. He created a lovely, sleazy character operating with street cunning and his lap-top to con people into his way of thinking, to play Peter against Paul and Peta against Pauline. He made me laugh a lot.
The play, it moved pretty quickly too. I felt no need to check my watch during either act. So there were lots of laughs and some good performances from top talent but it was obvious why the play never really hit the big time. The truly funny parts were really unrelated incidents contrived to break up the sniping of the two stars and I found the finale a bit of an anti-climax. It’s a lightweight play without much depth.
I found myself asking “why did we need the male stripper” and “what did the doped up cookies add to the plot”? Especially when Klemmer ate one himself and went off his tree before disappearing with a dodgy contract signed by two actors and still more work to be done.
It was easy to watch, light-hearted but mildly unsatisfactory.
Eric Scott (Absolute Theatre)
Legends is currently touring Australia. It plays the Brisbane Playhouse until June 13; Sydney’s Theatre Royal from 18 June; Her Majesty’s Theatre Perth from 2 August; Adelaide’s Her Majesty’s Theatre from 20 August and the Melbourne Comedy Theatre from 2 Sepetember.
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television