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Theater: It’s a hoot to hear those ‘Gunmetal Blues’ at North Coast Rep

Jeffrey Rockwell (piano player Buddy), Sharon Rietkerk (blonde singer) and Kevin Bailey (private eye) totally amuse in the San Diego premiere of ‘Gunmetal Blues.’
Jeffrey Rockwell (piano player Buddy), Sharon Rietkerk (blonde singer) and Kevin Bailey (private eye) totally amuse in the San Diego premiere of ‘Gunmetal Blues.’
( / Courtesy)

Non-stop laughter filled the theater at the opening night performance of the San Diego premiere of the musical “Gunmetal Blues” at the North Coast Repertory Theatre.

The story of a private eye (Kevin Bailey) working a murder case becomes complicated when he attempts to question several blondes — Princess, Laura, Jenny and Carol (all played by Sharon Rietkerk) — about their observations or involvements. The detective practically makes the seedy, smoky Red Eye Lounge his office, which is quite a comical setup as Buddy, the piano player, is constantly playing tunes with lyrics that correspond to what’s happening in the lounge.

Each actor in this film noir-spun story effectively delivers the goods. Jeffrey Rockwell, who announces his character as Buddy Toupee, is a terrific piano player. He adds his own humorous commentary to each of the pertinent tell-all songs by Craig Bohmler and Marion Adler, who wrote the music and lyrics.

The tune “Don’t Know What I Expected” sung throughout by Rietkerk, is a constant reminder that she’s sexy and evasive answering the detective’s questions. Other tunes like “Loose Change,” “Skeletons,” and “I’m the One That Got Away,” help spell out the personalities of the characters, along with playwright Scott Wentworth’s wonderful dialogue, which is ingeniously funny.

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Bailey has to do triple duty as the detective in sparring with Buddy, trying to solve the crimes and stay alert after a-few-too-many drinks at the lounge.

Rietkerk is amazing in her roles. Not only does she handle the quick costume changes required, but each time she reappears as a different character, her total demeanor also changes. Her trained, operatic voice is beautiful and fully serves her femme fatale manner.

Andrew Barnicle’s direction is clearly evident in staging what could have been a rather chaotic play to pull off. Veteran scenic designer Marty Burnett’s set is once again engaging. With so much going on — mystery, music, mayhem and comedy — “Gunmetal Blues” is a good bet for anyone. If you go: “Gunmetal Blues” runs matinees, evenings Jan. 17-Feb. 15 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach. Tickets from $54 at (858) 481-1055. northcoastrep.org