It’s possible there may still be a few out there who haven’t been exposed to the British comedy group Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
But Semiahmoo Peninsula fans should fondly remember the random links between bizarre goings-on in which John Cleese – appearing suddenly and incongruously behind a desk in a tuxedo – would intone, in best BBC-announcer manner, “and now for something completely different.”
That catchphrase provides the theme – and the format – for the latest stage foray of the popular Pacific Showtime Chorus, Friday, June 1 and Saturday, June 2 at St. Mark’s parish hall in Ocean Park (performances at 7:30 p.m. each day).
Something Completely Different promises a fast-paced blend of upbeat songs and some of what the volunteer group’s professional director/keyboardist/writer and arranger Jonathan Wiltse calls their “greatest hits” from other productions (the Beatles’ Let It Be, The Beach Boys’ God Only Knows and Elvis’ Viva Las Vegas are a few examples).
And this time they’ll be interspersing the music with even more comedy material – classic sketches drawn from the repertoire of the Pythons and such other beloved talents as Bob Newhart, The Two Ronnies and Tim Conway and Harvey Korman.
‘Completely different’ is also an apt description of Pacific Showtime – which, unlike more sober-sided male voice-harmony groups, has always emphasized the fun quotient to the max.
In addition to their strong singing talents, the chorus members have shown no reluctance, during the group’s 14-year history, to give full reign to zanier instincts in such well-received burlesques as the Western-themed Deadwood, the mobster-laden The Godfather – A Musical Comedy, the ocean-going Ticket To Ride and the multiple-detective mystery, Private Eyes.
The variety format of Something Completely Different is, admittedly, a little looser in structure than some of the other Wiltse-directed shows, but in a typically jibe-heavy exchange with chorus founder-members Terry Bucknell and Denny O’Donovan, as well as recent group addition – and new chorus president – Bruce Kleeberger, Wiltse refused to be painted as a reluctant participant.
“I was onboard with the idea from the start,” he said, in spite of Bucknell’s insistence that the format was only settled on after a “straw poll” of members.
Wiltse acknowledged, however, that he does miss the ploys for shoe-horning songs into a more plot-driven show.
“In some of the others, we’d find really corny ways to transition into the songs,” he noted a little wistfully. “There’d be a groan before we started the number.”
However, there are numerous compensations in the current show, including a nod to Python that seems tailor-made for the chorus – ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life. ‘
“It’s one that everyone is enjoying,” said Kleeberger, who gets to ham it up as a dentist in a Tim Conway sketch, quite appropriately as it happens – he’s actually a retired dentist.
Bucknell – who brings his droll British demeanour to several favourite Two Ronnies skits – has also contributed to another number that promises to be memorable.
“We’ve been wanting to do Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen, but the lyrics have been a little…troublesome,” he said.
“Particularly if we wanted to go home at night,” interjected O’ Donovan (who will be performing Bob Newhart’s famous ‘Driving Instructor’ routine elsewhere in the show.
“So I wrote some different lyrics and it’s now the Fish-Slapping Song,” Bucknell continued.
“It has some super-nice harmonies,” Kleeberger noted.
“We’ve embellished it with props and some physical humour,” Wiltse added.
Another number – Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines, theme of a popular comedy film of the 1960s – also seems tailor-made for the ensemble.
“When I first got hired to be the director, that tune came into my head and I sat down and started doing an arrangement for them,” Wiltse said.
“It’s because you were thinking, ‘what a pleasure it is to be directing such magnificent men,’” O’Donovan suggested, but again Wiltse declined the bait.
“The guys in this group – to a man – are great performers and great before an audience, once we get all the music and all the words,” he observed.
“As long as we can get to that point, it’s all gold from there.”
As always, Pacific Showtime is also on the lookout for a few good men who might enjoy joining in the fun as well.
The group, which rehearses Monday nights at 7:30 p.m. at St. Mark’s Church, 12953 20 Ave., continues to seek new members for subsequent shows in all vocal ranges (lead, tenor, baritone and bass). Singers are invited to attend rehearsals to check out the group and, hopefully, join in.
For more information, call 604-536-5292 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tickets for Something Completely Different ($20) are available from O’Donovan at 604-536-7983, or online from www.pacificshowtime.com