The 39 Steps
CFCA Youth Musical Theatre Troupe
by Carl F Gauze
By Patrick Barlow
Directed by Juan Torres
Presented at Trinity Preparatory School Winter Park FL
There’s funny, and then there’s “Alfred Hitchcock” funny. “39 Steps” began life as a war time spy thriller, but it morphed into a self-referential stage comedy full of sight gags and slapstick humor. Richard Hannay meets a suspiciously generous Fräulein looking to protect some war time secrets. He takes her in but rejects her advances, only to have her die unexpectedly. Naturally, he looks guilty and flees north on the most British transportation method ever: a train rigged to allow crawl over the outside while its in motions. He’s off to Scotland and a double cross or two. Along the way he meets every British archetype from the bumbling constable to cagey barmen and cranky hotel clerks.
The plot is forced and the scene changes amusingly blatant but all this adds up to as strong series of gags the work even when they don’t. Covid rules are pushed with a nearly full house, but those on stage announce ads encouraging us to use (and purchase) commercial cleaning products. I hope they get a fee. A single door in a frame moves around constantly and needs a bit of an oil as it squeaks like a pre air-conditioned Florida screen door. The police are polite if a bit behind the action; they just can’t seem to grasp a citizen chasing a spy is more important than any mere murder. Our lead Great Scot’s his way thought the plot; he has excellent comic timing even if his London English sounds a bit Vero Beachish to me. His reluctant girl freind works best when she’s tied to him and unable to escape. It may be un-PC, but it makes her lines all the funnier. The show uses Aqua’s 1997 pop hit “Barbie Girl” as a leitmotif, and its very effective at theming the relation. Another cute point: what trip to Scotland would be complete without adorable sheep? VERY adorable. Yes, this is a “young people’s” production and its way out on the farthest reaches of Orlando. But its worth the trip even if you’re not anyone’s grandfather.