Review: The showgirl
A NZ written disco noir set in Harlem, 1979. Dancer Fontella Pendavis (Deborah Eve Rea) has been murdered at Studio Soul and Detective Gonzales (Jordan Rivers) has been sent to investigate. There are plenty of possible suspects – Luz Cruz (Brittany Goss), who has inherited Fontella’s job; Ari Sugarman (Ed Blunden), the owner of the club; Raul Amoroso (Rodney Bane), Fontella’s benefactor, or De Castro (Margaret Ortega), Raul’s housekeeper. They are not the only people mourning a loss – Detective Gonzales’ mother Maria (Maria Jones) died recently. Will he be able to solve the case?
Director Cassandra Tse has infused this glittery disco noir with a sinister underbelly. Rivers as Gonzales is appropriately reserved as the grieving detective with a secret. Goss gives Cruz depth with a layer of flirtiness over a realistic centre. Bane captures Amoroso’s sense of loss, and disregard for the rules of society. The ensemble – Rea, Blunden, Jones and, Ortega – bring their individual named characters as well as other minor characters to life with changes in voice and stance. Their montage moments are some of my favourite parts of the show. All the cast use American style accents which they mainly stick to although there are some shaky moments. Costume designer Lisa Kiyomoto-Fink uses excellent fabric choices to evoke the 1970s. Lighting by designer Aaron Blackledge effectively delineates the various areas of the mostly empty stage as well as adding to the tension. No choreographer is credited so I assume the cast and director are responsible for the flash disco moves.
Nice direction and full commitment from all the cast make this an entertaining watch through the murky narrative to the final outrageous end.