Constructed around a live soundtrack of popular jazz music from the roaring 20s, ‘Tinpan Alley’ is the comic tragedy of the gregarious yet hapless Godfrey Uke, a fictional ukulele-wielding song-and-dance-man aspiring to stardom from the gritty regimen of the vaudeville stage.
Godfrey, the show’s protagonist, is a self-made man who should have really consulted an expert. His humorous tale of love, lust and eventually loss provides the opportunity for a band of talented (and appropriately well-spruced) young musicians to showcase the infectious and uninhibited music of an era remembered for its short-lived self-assurance and progressive rambunctiousness. The story of Godfrey’s personal journey reflects the historical setting of a sumptuous yet fragile decade of Western decadence ending abruptly with the Great Depression in 1929. As Godfrey’s stab at success goes awry, so too do the tables turn on a golden age of American opulence and opportunity.
The script and overall performance employ an insouciant brand of comedy, parodying the corny vaudeville gags that premise its storyline and closely inspired by pan-Atlantic absurdist traditions, including the work of Spike Milligan and S.J. Perelman. It also draws on popular notions and events of the 1920s to make humorous and thought-provoking comparisons with contemporary social trends. The bulk of the narrative is delivered by Godfrey, who at times interacts with the audience of diners as if they are part of the story, and as a dialogue between Godfrey and one or more of the other musicians whose own characters develop over the course of the show.
Many of the tunes are recognisable for an audience familiar with the big hits of pre-war America, while others are somewhat more obscure. From Cole Porter’s Broadway successes to the popular songs made ubiquitous by West 28th Street song publishers and penned by the likes of Irving Berlin, Hoagy Carmichael and George Gershwin, ‘Tinpan Alley’ provides a uniquely entertaining insight into this fabulous musical tradition. It is at once irreverent and respectful in dealing with the material and in this way captures the fine balance between frivolity and genius that American popular music of the 1920s embodies.
This hilarious show debuted at last year’s Roaring 20s Festival and Hotel Blue couldn’t be happier to see its return. Following the show’s success in the Blue Mountains, little old ‘Godfrey Uke’ made his way to 2016’s Adelaide Fringe Festival and got a 4 out of 5 stars from Glamadelaide. Godfrey is back at Hotel Blue for one-show-only this Saturday night and seating is limited – book your tickets now!