On the run from his murderous bother-in-law, a balding, middle-aged businessman hops in a taxi and requests “take me where no one will find me!” When Gaetano Proclo is dropped off at The Ritz, he soon discovers the building is much more than the seedy hotel he sized it up to be…
Amidst puffs of steam our protagonist discovers dodgy detectives and gay orgies, he’s pursued by both a spindly chubby-chaser and wanna-be star convinced that he is a Broadway producer. Terrence McNally’s The Ritz is a steamy Manhattan bathhouse running rampant with the frivolities of the gay sexual revolution, at a time before the AIDS crisis when anything was possible.
Director David Marshall-Martin elaborated: “It’s [set in] a period of the gay liberation when people were happy to come to places and enjoy each others company – but also to be entertained… The Ritz is basically based on The Continental Baths in New York where Bette Midler, Tiny Tim and a whole lot of very famous people used to go and entertain.”
In association with the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras, the New Theatre team have been working hard to portray this madcap farce and marvellous atmosphere of debauchery on the stage.
With a cast of 15 (many of whom in little more than bath towels) and several choreographed musical numbers throughout, this production demanded an impactful set. Set designer Tom Bannerman is very much part of the furniture at the New Theatre, and this is “one of his more adventurous sets” – with several levels above the stage and numerous entrances and exits, “it lends itself to the sense of farce and people chasing each other around”.
“[The audience are] gonna leave with a big smile on their face, it is very, very funny,” said Marshall-Martin. “There are a few little moments in the play that are quite strong, it makes some strong statements about relationships, and sexuality… but on the other hand its just a lot of fun for people to really sit back and laugh at the antics that are going on onstage.”
This is the very first season to run six nights of the week at the New Theatre. The final performance will run at 2pm on the official Mardi Gras parade day, meaning you can start your afternoon with this classic and celebratory theatre offering, continue on to the Mardi Gras Parade and party on into the night… just stay out of the steam room! (AM)
Feb 16–Mar 5, Tues–Sun. New Theatre, 542 King Street, Newtown. $17-$22. Tickets & info: newtheatre.org.au