Palm Court Light Orchestra brings balmy air of Hollywood to Victoria

“Whatcha gonna do when a feller gets flirty?” sang Kathryn Whitney from centre stage mid-way through the Palm Court Light Orchestra’s show at UVic Farquhar Auditorium on April 13. The mezzo soprano wore a baby blue two-piece gown and shimmied to the 1940s tune from the musical Oklahoma. She played the part well, throwing out the occasional wink. The ensemble supporting her act looked sharp in pearl white blazers, a Palm Court tradition.

Conducted by Charles Job, Over the Rainbow is a collection of classics from Hollywood’s MGM musicals, such as The Wizard of Oz, Annie Get Your Gun, and Singing in the Rain. The Palm Court Light Orchestra’s Victoria performance was well attended by people familiar with the era: an audience glazed over by blithe reminiscing and toe tapping.

The orchestra kicked things off with a mash-up of Harold Arlen’s soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz. Job met the applause with a deep northern English accent, suggesting that the first tune alone could be enough for the evening. Personally I was not ready for the ruby-red show to end. From my cushioned seat in the fourth row, any nose blowing, jacket rearranging or distracting leg-cross changes went unnoticed

Job made Over the Rainbow a combination of known and new. The loved-by-all tracks were interspersed with items by artists tucked away on Job’s music shelf. He included a 1940s selection from The Lisbon Story by Harry Parr-Davies, a show that follows the story of a love-struck Parisian vocalist during the Second World War.

Though her stage presence was notable, things started off quiet for Whitney. During her first solo, Whitney’s pipes were lost to the orchestra. But a one-song warm-up was what the singer needed to do justice to the role of a convent-leaving Austrian governess. The rest of Whitney’s performance was strong and well suited to the playful theme of the night.

While leading the 23-piece ensemble, Job’s grin was face-encompassing. His shaggy silver hair flopped with each bounce. His cheeky demeanour had the crowd in fits as he took on a salesman-like tone after each song, reminding the audience that the Christmas season was just around the corner; tickets and CDs were available. Though his tactics were entertaining, they broke the momentum of the performance and my reverie. Nevertheless, these mid-performance pauses were well-received and just as light-hearted as the tunes that followed.

Over the Rainbow is a chassé back in time to Kansas in sepia tone, to the Swiss Alps in summertime and to some other places that no one has really heard of. And, just as Whitney sings in her tell-all tale about a “flirty feller in a sombrero and chaps,” this show is one you just can’t say “no” to.

 

Palm Court Light Orchestra will next play “Flying Down to Rio” in UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium 7:30 p.m. October 19.

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