‘Pink Panther’ strikes the funny bone at Phoenix Stage Company

“The Pink Panther Strikes Again” runs through Sept. 21.

“The Pink Panther Strikes Again” runs through Sept. 21.

Phoenix Stage Company / Contributed photo /

Phoenix Stage Company, Oakville: There are some plays where the lead just can’t be replaced. Take “The King and I” for instance. Yul Brynner was so spectacular in that show that no one else has ever come close to filling his shoes, though many have tried. However, such is not the case for “The Pink Panther Strikes Again.” The Phoenix Stage Company’s Rick Haylon as Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau would make Peter Sellers proud.

On opening night at the Phoenix Stage Company a large cast took on the Blake Edwards and Frank Walkman’s “The Pink Panther Strikes Again.” Adapted by William Gleason, the cast of varying degrees of talent turned the production into a more silly than funny experience, but thoroughly enjoyable nonetheless. Directed by Ed Bassett, the executive director of the Phoenix Stage Company, he focused on the action. The bare bones set, which Bassett also designed, is a smart choice for a play with so many set changes. It’s amazing how functional chairs can be, especially when moved about by pretty in pink pajama-clad panthers. Many of the actors played multiple roles.

The plot, which includes plenty of confusion, plays on the bumbling Clouseau and his former boss Paul Dreyfus who, thanks to Clouseau, ended up in a mental facility for three years. Almost ready to be released, Dreyfus has a relapse when Clouseau decides to visit him and gives him one heck of a surprise. The relapse is just what Dreyfus needs to go over the edge and that is when he decides to kill Clouseau. When all attempts fail, Dreyfus goes for the Doomsday Machine, which will end not only Clouseau, but the entire world.

Haylon as Clouseau has nailed the bumbling inspector’s strange speech pattern. It’s a little French, a little English, and a lot of mispronounced words. What is so important and so much to the actor’s credit is that the audience understands every word. Haylon has honed in the body language as well and does an exceptional job in the role.

Killian Meehan does a fairly good job as Dreyfus, but he belies the lines that refer to Dreyfus as Clouseau’s “old good friend.” There’s nothing old about Meehan. The actor hams it up a lot and has his best moments when Dreyfus is in agony with a toothache. Mitch Freidman goes a fine job as Dr. Fassbender as does Jennifer Beveridge as Margo Fassbender. J. Michael Elser plays Jarvis and Laura Sturges-Cortez as a hot Russian assassin fits the role well. Brian Elser plays Cato.

Multiple roles are played by members of the ensemble including: Tony Benedetti, Roni Gelormino, John Kennedy, Ian Kulesza, Brianna Mattingly, Maria Prussin, KC Ross, Leland M. Schick, and Heide Wallce. The Pink Panthers include: Brianna Mattingly, Jennifer Beverage, Maria Prusson and Heide Wallace.

There’s always so much going on that it isn’t always easy to keep track of the action, but overall, the production is entertaining and the audience enjoyed it thoroughly. The show runs through Sept. 21.

Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: jgrochman@gmail.com.