In His Element
August 17, 2009
It's always a treat to see an actor having fun on stage. The fun factor can often ebb and flow during a long run of a play. But if it's a short run and the role is prime, the person charged with playing it tends to find it easier to let rip.
Such was the case on Friday night, when I caught the amazing Bay Area performer, Geoff Hoyle, essaying the role of Alfred P. Doolittle in the Lamplighters production of My Fair Lady. It's been a long time since I've seen an actor enjoying himself so much on stage. His enthusiasm was infectious. And because he's such a brilliant performer, Hoyle's presence raised the game for the Lamplighters crew -- which generally relies on the sweat equity of good amateur rather than professional performers for its shows. (Hoyle's is the only Equity contract in the production).
Hoyle is best known in the Bay Area and elsewhere as a consummate clown and mime. He appeared on Broadway as Zazu in the original cast of The Lion King and has clowned with many organizations including Cirque du Soleil, Pickle Family Circus and Teatro Zinzanni.
The actor is slight and lithe and as slick as the grease on a mechanic's overalls. His physique is almost too bird-like for such a bloviating part. But then, when he first appears on stage grinning, gurning, pinching flower girls' bottoms and looking for all the world like he regularly has his cake and eats it too, Hoyle seems larger than life. He fills the stage and yet never becomes overbearing. He remains, throughout, a great ensemble player.
Singing isn't Hoyle's forte. He growls for the low notes which can barely be heard above the orchestra. But his energy is infectious.
What Hoyle brings to the role of Doolittle in Lerner and Loewe's perennial favorite about the princess-ifying of a lowly flower-girl is "a little bit of luck" for Lamplighters.