“Around the World
in 80 Days” in 2 hours
The Hudson Village Theatre presents a peppy version of the Jules Verne classic
By Byron Toben
In 1873, Jules Verne, the father of science fiction, published serially the classic novel, Around the World in 80 Days. This estimate, in an age of limited transport and communication, proved amazingly accurate.
In 1889, New York journalist Elizabeth Cochran (pen name Nellie Bly) traced the route in Verne’s book and shaved the time down to 72 days.
Now you can capture the essence of this great story in only 2 hours at the wonderful adaptation by Toby Hulse playing at the Hudson Village Theatre, having being first shown at Theatre Lac Brome in this coproduction in association with Geordie Theatre.
While this peppy version doesn’t have the financial wherewithal that Mike Todd’s 1956 film had, winning 5 Academy Awards and starring David Niven as Phileas Fogg, the Intrepid English traveller and introducing the iconic Mexican comic Cantinflas as his valet, Passepartout. Cantinflas has been compared to France’s great Fernandel and to both Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin, who called him the greatest actor in the world.
This Hudson version does feature the versatile Danielle Desormeaux as Passepartout. She may not qualify for Chaplin’s high accolade, but she is pretty darn good, as many Quebecers who have seen her over the years can attest. Anyway, her job here was in some ways more difficult as she had to also portray myriad minor characters that flit in and out of the plot.
Likewise so for Mike Hughes, here enacting Scotland Yard Inspector Fix, hampering Fogg’s timetable by wrongly suspecting him of having robbed a bank. He also more than ‘doubled’ in numerous cameos.
The film version had hundreds of unaccredited actors plus 50 some credited ones, most of whom were established stars, accepting small roles… Buster Keaton, Noël Coward, Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Shirley MacLaine are but a few examples.
Here, Chimwernwe Miller is the very model of a model unflappable British gentleman pursuing his gentleman’s club bet, involving in a way, years before Einstein, a relation between time and space.
Shout out to director Mike Payette for his clever direction as well as to Hudson artistic director Matthieu Tiffin for selecting this family pleasing show.
As the original novel was published serially, many readers seemed to feel the periodic escapades were real people, developing a “cliff hanger” audience. This resonates with rumours that Verne arranged with shipping companies and railroads en route to mention their names, perhaps for a fee. If true, first known example of product placing?
Fogg’s haunt, the Reform Club, still exists.
Real attempts to circumnavigate the globe
3 years – Magellan set out in September 1519 with five ships. One, the Vittoria, arrived back in Spain in September 1522, Magellan having been killed by natives in the Philippines.
2 years, 9 months, 17 days – Sir Francis Drake set out with five ships in December 1577. One, the Golden Hind, arrived back in England in September 158 with Drake still alive.
175 days – The US Air Force, with four Douglas airplanes, completed the first aerial circumnavigation of the world, in relay from April 6, 1924 to September 19, 1924, still longer than Nellie Bly’s journey in 1889 and only five days shorter than Philias Fogg’s fictional one in 1863. The lead plane, the Chicago, is on display at the Smithsonian.
21 days – The German-built William Randolph Hearst sponsored blimp Graf Zeppelin flew carrying many passengers from New Jersey and back around the world in 21 days in 1930.
8 days, 15 hours, 51 minutes – The legendary pilot Wiley Post beat the above record in a fixed wing aircraft, the Winnie Mae, accompanied only by navigator Harold Gatty. In 1931 (June 23 to July 1), he and Gatty published an account Around the World in Eight Days, with an intro by legendary American humourist Will Rogers. Sadly, Post and Rogers died in a crash in Alaska in 1935.
7 Days, 19 Hours 49 minutes – Wiley Post again, this time solo! In 1933, autopilot and radio direction finder helped.
32 Hours, 49 minutes and… 3 seconds – An Air France Concorde in 1992. The speedy Concorde, introduced in 1976, was retired in 2003. There is a current movement to resurrect it, but short of that, it is unlikely its record will ever be broken by suborbital craft.
Around the World in 80 Days continues at the Hudson Village Theatre until August 20.
450-458-5361 or villagetheatre.ca
Images: Michael Green
Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club