2 min

Gaga for Goo

Viscous & sweet

THAT GIRL MEETS LINDA LOVELACE. The cast of Suzie Goo: Private Secretary (clockwise, from top) Ryan Kelly, David Bateman, David Ramsden, Lisa Ann Ross, Edward Roy and Greg Campbell. Credit: David Hawe

Suzie Goo has returned to the Toronto stage and audiences should lap up her viscous sweetness with gusto.

The musical, written in 1991 by Sky Gilbert, has been resurrected for Buddies In Bad Times Theatre’s silver anniversary season, and runs till Sun, Jun 13. With Gilbert’s snappy dialogue and thoughtful direction by David Oiye, Suzie Goo is an enjoyable romp through the world of 1960s sexualized camp.

The fun starts with audience members being given appointment slips and ushered into an “elevator” antechamber by two glammed-up, gossipy secretaries. An unplanned moment of theatre verité – when the elevator door comes off its rollers – creates great ambiance as we’re forced to wait for the out-of-service lift.

Daniele Guevara’s kitschy office set, a smart, understated stage, represents the time period perfectly. The opening song introduces us to the title character on her first day of work, the private secretary to a libidinous Vincent Bagg. The music is punchy and funny, and immediately pulls us into the surreal That Girl-meets-Linda Lovelace world of Suzie Goo.

Ryan Kelly wonderfully balances wide-eyed innocence and coy flirtation as Suzie, who exploits her boss’s lecherous nature to further her career. Kelly sings pleasingly, and does a great job of steering the character away from pure camp into actual characterization. We care about Suzie, rather than simply laughing at her.

Recreating his role from the original production, David Ramsden adeptly keeps Mr Bagg distasteful but likable. He wisely keeps the bellowing blowhard shtick in check, delivering a nuanced and clever performance. Appearing in drag later in the play, he is brilliantly understated – almost stealing scenes from his cast mates.

The best performance here is Greg Campbell as secretary Sheree. Campbell’s portrayal of a sweet but snappy everygal is note-perfect – the quintessential Rhoda to Suzie’s Mary Richards. He’s also deftly unrecognizable in a secondary role in act two as Suzie’s hapless southern lawyer.

Lisa Anne Ross has fun in drag with Suzie’s paramour, Martin, who emerges as the play’s social conscience in questioning corporate cunning and greed. Ross is suitably smarmy when called for, though occasionally veers into likable but one-dimensional caricature.

The weakest link is Edward Roy’s portrayal of Miss Gulch, Suzie’s main nemesis. While possessing a wonderful, comedic physicality, Roy unfortunately decides to use a shrill falsetto while delivering his lines, which only serves to grate on the nerves as the play goes on. His shrieking, rapid-fire delivery often obscures Gilbert’s best one-liners, and is sadly at odds with his brilliant slapstick humour and inspired choreography.

A third act appearance by performance artist David Bateman as Helen Girly Brown is priceless (and though he’s a friend, that line was for free). Bateman enters to Glinda The Good Witch’s theme music from the Wizard Of Oz and counsels Suzie and the audience on the vagaries of safe but sticky sex.

With inventive lighting by Geoffrey Bouckley and John Alcon’s catchy upbeat score, Suzie Goo is a delight to the ears, eyes and mind. Its commentary on traditional gender roles remains timely and relevant, and gets its message of liberation across without ever feeling preachy or self-indulgent.

Definitely a Goo to do.

* Suzie Goo: Private Secretary continues at Buddies In Bad Times (12 Alexander St) until Sun, Jun 13; call (416) 975-8555.