Friday, October 14, 2016



When Stephen Sondheim wrote that lyric, it was part of a list of the horrors of airline travel, as perceived by an unprincipled, youngish, middle-classish American couple sampling international flying. The song is delicious, but I have never understood why Doris Day was included. I would love a Doris Day movie on a plane: all we get nowadays is American car chases and guns, Inglorious Basterds and a feeble film of Into the Woods. By S Sondheim.

Well, today I willingly went to the new and and splendid little risen-from-the earthquake Rangiora cinema-cum-theatre to see (nearly) 90 minutes of Doris Day. No, not a film. A live show. A one-woman show. And that one woman was the reason I roused myself from my fireside, in the rain, on a Friday afternoon to drive up to Rangiora.

Ali Harper is a New Zealand national treasure. She is the country’s outstanding female musical theatre performer, and has been such – though still young -- for a good few years. We were lucky enough to secure her for the leading role in Paul Graham Brown’s Fairystories …

So, Doris?  Ali Harper’s show is a truly one-woman affair. A delightfully conceived, arranged and staged (dir: Stephanie McKellar) piece which, with the help of a fine video background, dances elegantly between Doris’s screen persona and her less than lovely private life. Other folk are heard as voices (including her beloved dog) but the show is all Doris/Ali, whether relating faux cheerfully the horrors of the men in Doris’s life, lavishing good will on her screen leading men (a surprising number of whom seem to have been gay) and, most importantly, singing those songs we associate with La Day. The highlight for me was the star’s performance of ‘Secret Love’. Oh, I should say, Ms Harper actually has a ‘better’ voice than Ms Day. Her singing is impeccable and beautiful.

 This show is designed for a specific audience. We who remember, and enjoyed, Doris Day. Amongst the audience (amazingly numerous) today, I must (at 70) been one of the bottom-quarter by age. But, as an 80 year-old lady (who I’d taken for 60) said to me in the foyer: ‘at last, a show for us’. Well, it shouldn’t be just for ‘us’. I know many of Doris Day’s songs were best-selling (at the time) soup. But some were not. ‘Que sera sera’ and ‘Secret Love’ will last a lot longer than the latest Beyonce aria.

So, en somme, I spent a thoroughly enjoyable 80 minutes in the theatre this afternoon, with a memorable performer, one glass of wine and the feeling that I was surrounded by folk who were absolutely loving the entertainment. When I left the auditorium, virtually the entire audience of several hundred were lined up for a CD and a chat with ‘Doris’. If that’s not entertainment, what is.

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