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Amazing Gracie

Review by Kumari Campbell

Homefree Productions’ 2004 summer season opened July 10 to an almost full house and the Island’s trademark standing ovation. On the boards was Amazing Gracie, their musical revue about 20th century British singer and comedienne Gracie Fields.

Island audiences accustomed to the zany antics of Nancy Beck and Pamela Campbell were not disappointed by the over-the-top hilarity of the pair in their latest collaboration. Their partner in crime was Andrew Zinck. A clearly talented pianist, Zinck’s expert fingers filled the theatre with an endless medley of delightful music that ranged from classical to opera to Broadway tunes. His clever arrangements melded such diverse pieces of music so seamlessly that the audience was barely aware of the transitions. But the audience was also treated to the comedic side of Andrew Zinck when he (literally) put on his comic hat on a few occasions and slipped off his piano bench to join Beck and Campbell onstage. These interludes however only lasted seconds, being curtly interrupted by a stern frown from Beck, which sent the downcast Zinck scurrying back to his piano.

Campbell and Beck have been entertaining Island residents and visitors for several years. But perhaps the most interesting nuance of the pair’s newest offering is the role reversal they go through when Campbell takes on the rubber face of the comic, and Beck lets the audience glimpse a facet of herself she usually keeps well hidden behind her comic mask: a rich and melodic voice with a stunning range.

Gracie Fields who was born in Rochdale, Lancashire, England in 1898, was ‘discovered’ at the age of seven (while singing as she cleaned outhouses, as Beck charmingly informs the audience), and went on to entertain scores of enthusiastic fans for seven decades. While Fields’ serious songs such as “Bless This House,” “Danny Boy,” “The Lord’s Prayer,” and “I’ll Be Seeing You,” are perfect vehicles for Campbell’s magnificent voice, the outrageous numbers such as “Turn Herbert’s Face To The Wall, Mother, He’s Dead But He Won’t Lie Down,” “Fonso (My Hot Spanish Knight),” and “What Can You Give A Nudist On His Birthday?” give the duo (particularly Beck) the latitude to have a great deal of fun with the audience.

Kudos to Homefree Productions for taking on the operation of the Kings Playhouse for the 2004 summer season, and bringing to eastern PEI a much needed entertainment venue.

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