The 4 noels in THE MAGNIFICENT 17

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

30/05/2006 - 03/06/2006

ODDFELLOWS Comedy Festival

Production Details

Pulp Fiction meets High Noon meets Rocky Horror

Award winning Melbourne comedy trio, THE 4 NOELS are saddled up ready to ride into town this festival season with their internationally acclaimed CULT Classic `The Magnificent Seventeen’.

Popular with NZ audiences for their distinctive performance style that combines physical comedy, music, performance genres, mime and twisted characters, The 4 Noels (James Pratt, John Foreman and Jesse Griffen) have received five star reviews and played to sell-out audiences from the Edinburgh Fringe to the Sydney Opera House to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival to the Adelaide Fringe, and throughout Australia and NZ.

The relaxed and peaceful (and lets be honest, quite boring) atmosphere of the small western town of Buckley’s Crack is violently disrupted when a band of Mexican outlaws besieges the inhabitants, burning their houses and stealing their cattle. When Billy’s mother is violently killed, and he sets off to find the legendary gunslinger Fast Eddie to revenge his mother’s death, he unwittingly puts into action a sequence of events that converge in a terrible and bloody conclusion….

A classic Western story performed live on stage using 30 characters, 40 scenes, 13 songs and several bad wigs. `The Magnificent Seventeen’ pays homage to all the things that made Western movies so great – outlaws, revenge, gunslingers, a showdown at high noon and at the heart of it, a love story like no other.

High action scenes involving chases on horseback, evangelical church meetings, high noon shoot-outs, bank robberies and the dramatic deaths of loved ones combine to create a show that takes the audience on a wild ride through the Wild West.

Theatre , Comedy ,

Crack up showdown at high noon

Review by Kate Ward-Smythe 31st May 2006

Ah, the antics of James, John and Jesse: 3 multi-talented actor-singer-musician-sort-of-dancers, whose self devised show, The Magnificent Seventeen, left us crying for more. (Even though opening night ran 30 minutes overtime – who cares? It was so much FUN!)

They find humour in the smallest of details: a look, an aside, a perfectly timed pause, a piece of black felt on a string of elastic… When interwoven into their light-hearted script, and performed with such confidence and versatile craft, it’s no wonder these 3 ex-pat Kiwis have a loyal and ever increasing audience, both here and in Australia.

The opening song is interesting. While the rest of the night flows nicely, with flawless comic timing from all, along with stand out individual moments, the opening song by contrast is a little shaky on all fronts, especially the choreography.

However, the ultimate cliff-hanger quickly follows and we are thrown into the sleepy western town of Buckley’s Crack, where the story really begins. Song after song, scene after scene, presented through a multitude of those clichéd characters that make westerns so great, keeps the pace cracking along, right up to the showdown at high noon.

Along the way, The 4 Noels conquer almost every musical genre imaginable, including hip-hop, rap, boy-band tripe and angry rock. Their segue into Stairway to Heaven in one song and their Nirvana-like grunge rock tribute to "how low can you hang your bass and still play it" in another, were both musical highlights. Jesse and John play mean guitar and James plays an angry egg.

Another musical stand out is John as the preacher’s assistant, the cross-eyed Abraham, who’s joined by James’s James Brown, then Jesse as the Preacher Man. The song deserves the backing of a 10 piece band full of horns and a bitchin’ mama choir…  but the characterisations of the 3 fills the room with enough inspiration to more than satisfy the congregation.

Scenes by the lovable but thick Mexican bandits, are true slapstick, played out with such eclectic charm, it’s reminiscent of what made Fawlty Towers so brilliant.

James and Jesse engaging in a father-daughter sword fight, with bigger and bigger weapons, and John’s slo-mo yippy-i-ay, are but two of many proofs of the high standard of acting and craft these men possess.

At times I wondered how much was scripted and how much was just goof-off, ad-libs and improv… Whatever the blend, the team work of this ensemble is so strong, it all reads as dynamic and hilarious. See for yourself! They’re on till Saturday.

FOOTNOTE: Is it just me, or does John Forman look like Rhys Darby’s long lost twin? … Maybe I’ve seen one too many festival shows.


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