Theatre Gotham gambol pays off

Batman Follies of 1929

The Playhouse Friday, November 2

Reviewer: Arne Sjostedt

Breathing fresh life into a time past, producer Russall Beattie has a keeper with Batman Follies of 1929. Following Star Wars Burlesque, this show brings together three of Beattie's loves - silent film, Ziegfeld Follies and of course, Batman.

The evening's crafted, uncluttered format was based around a more refined brand of Vaudeville called the Ziegfeld Follies (after creator Florenz Ziegfeld).

Far from stuffy or archaic - as the expected characters arrived, each with a twisted slant - I immediately took to this reinvention. Hosted by Alfred, Batman/Bruce Wayne's faithful butler, the show eased through its program, and shot me out of the theatre with the same energy it imparted. Moving quickly between each act, Batman Follies offered up scene upon scene of ageless, talent/variety show performances from the superbly trained and organised cast.

A couple of the earlier numbers lacked the impact of glossier acts, which had me thinking that this show was more comfortable with a smaller venue. Yet as the special evening progressed these dips in energy gave a slightly frayed touch that made it feel more historic.

All up, much as Martin Scorsese's cinema masterpiece Hugo is a finely crafted work of art, in a less grand sense via its attention to historical detail, so, too, was Batman Follies.

No better was this highlighted than by Batgirl's performance, which had a flexible woman striking a series of poses more at home on an art deco lamp than a small revolve. Amid hat-juggling from the Riddler, opera from Mr Freeze, and a beautiful Busby Berkeley-inspired number from the Batman Follies dancers, the evening's biggest thrill came at the very end. Heightening suspense until it could be held in no longer, Batman appeared on stage in a kitsch superhero suit, only to then break into a tap routine to Sing, Sing, Sing played by the tight onstage band. He smiled his best stage smiles, the audience clapped and cheered and the evening closed to more deserved applause.