With a few taps from the glorious feet of Shay Debney and Mikey Halcrow, Chapel Off Chapel was transported back in time to the old-Hollywood era this past November when Just A Couple Of Song & Dance Men premiered.
As entertaining as it is nostalgic, the show, which shares its name with the 1975 album by Fred Astaire and Bing Cosby, beautifully encapsulates the best of the silver-screen era. With an audience who were lapping up everything these boys had to offer, it proves that the music of not only Fred and Bing, but other greats such as Gene, Bob, Frank, Sammy and Jerry, is timeless and as well received today as it was in the past.
Fresh off the Australian tour of The Wizard Of Oz, Debney and Halcrow shared a terrific bond onstage together. The pair took a traditional technique with Debney playing the ‘straight man’ and Halcrow playing the comic, which is exactly what is needed when tackling content from the days of old. High Society’s ‘Well Did You Evah’ put the boys through their paces with a playful take on the aristocracies of the era, and really highlighted just how well these two work together. Debney and Halcrow had the look, moves, charisma and voices of the time, and their various costumes could not be more appropriate, along with the iconic jazz backing of keys, percussion and double bass.
Whilst both were highly skilled singers and dancers, Debney shone as a solo vocalist, whereas Halcrow was the better dancer of the pair—not unlike their counterparts for the majority of the show, Bing Cosby and Fred Astaire. Halcrow’s take on ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’, which he tapped through with fun and ease, kept up with Astaire in practically every way. His storytelling as he delivered facts from the times was also very easy to listen to, and you could clearly tell he was passionate about everything to do with the history of the era.
The vocal highlight of the show for me came toward the end, with Debney and Halcrow providing a haunting duet of ‘Mr Bojangles’. After an evening of high energy tap numbers spliced with soft shoe and showstoppers, this moment provided a pause to reflect on it all. It was the blend of the boys’ voices in this number that cemented that whilst classically trained, they could croon just like the best of them. A special mention must also be given to Music Director and keys player Shannon Whitelock for some of the best piano playing I’ve ever witnessed in Melbourne, and for the iconic selection of music he arranged for Debney and Halcrow. Whitelock and his band were just as much a part of the show as our resident Fred and Bing!
Just A Couple Of Song & Dance Men will tour Australia in 2019, and is a must see for lovers of the era, as well as those who are unfamiliar with it and in desperate need of an education!
For more information head to www.facebook.com/justacoupleofsonganddancemen
Review by Lachie McFarlane