In what has become an annual tradition, incorrigible ne’er-do-well Bertie Wooster and his ever-so-patient valet Jeeves return to North Carolina Stage Company to delight audiences with their misadventures. The third such production in as many years, Jeeves Takes a Bow, runs through Sunday, Feb. 18.
Margaret Raether’s adaptations of the classic P.G. Wodehouse characters have become audience favorites and solid hit shows for N.C. Stage. Some of the area’s top talents help propel the shows into a cascade of laughs. Michael MacCauley returns as Jeeves, the droll butler who always saves the day. MacCauley is a stellar performer with a broad range. The Jeeves character requires a constant calm amid the storm of chaos, barely raising an eyebrow, let alone his voice.
The storm comes in the form of Bertie Wooster, played by Scott Treadway with a panache that would do Noel Coward proud. Bertie is a perpetual playboy with more money than sense, who constantly needs bailing out by Jeeves. The duo of MacCauley and Treadway alone are worth the price of admission.
In this installment, Bertie has come to New York to dodge familial obligations back in England, but his desire to get away from it all comes crashing down when his friend Nigel Bingham-Binkersteth, aka Binky, arrives with a madcap plan to win the heart of the actress Ruby LeRoy.
Binky came to America to be a diplomat in Washington. Instead, he followed Ruby into an audition, got a bit part and has been smitten with her ever since. To prevent his family from finding out, he has told everyone that he is Bertie Wooster. Bertie’s arrival has created a kink in his plans.
Binky tells Ruby that Jeeves and Bertie are show-tune writers who will help make her a star. Charlie Flynn-McIver is wonderfully giddy as the buffoonish Binky. Maria Buchanan shines as the starlet Ruby, leaning perfectly into the mob moll persona.
John Hall‘s “Knuckles” McCann arrives on the scene as the mobster who is funding Ruby’s show, a musical called Naughty Natalie, and is overly protective of her. A final wrinkle is added when Viviene Duckworth arrives from England, pledges that she is to marry Bertie and sets off to write a book about the seedy underbelly of New York. Lauren Fortuna inhabits the dowdy Duckworth with a nebbish nerdiness that is endearing to watch. Her transformation at the influence of the new world she discovers, thanks to McCann, is great fun to watch.
As the physical comedy ramps up with each new twist of the plot, director Angie Flynn-McIver gives the cast a workout. Jeeves endeavors to not provide his typical help in resolving the messes Bertie finds himself in but can’t help but steer the careening story onto a corrective path. To that end, the show includes a cleverly crafted show tune and a re-enactment of a scene from Naughty Natalie set in the Wild West.
WHAT: Jeeves Takes a Bow
WHERE: N.C. Stage Company, 15 Stage Lane, ncstage.org
WHEN: Through Sunday, Feb. 18. Wednesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2 p.m., and Saturdays, Feb. 10 and 17, at 2 p.m. $19-45