Mysterious, spicy fun in ‘Gunmetal Blues’ at Solana Beach’s North Coast Rep

Mystery mixes with sexual motivation at the seedy, smoky Red Eye Lounge, in the San Diego premiere of the musical, “Gunmetal Blues,” directed by Andrew Barnicle from Jan. 17-Feb. 8 at the North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach.

How a trench-coated private eye, jaded piano player and sultry blondes work together — or antagonize each other — unfolds in this funny, inventive play, which fans of film noir mysteries won’t want to miss.

Sharon Rietkerk stars as The Blondes, Kevin Bailey as The Private Eye, and Jeffrey Rockwell as The Piano Player/Music Director.

Rietkerk said she’s ready for the challenge of playing multiple characters in her NCRT debut, and ready for the singing and dancing, as well. Bailey plays just one character, but Rockwell, like Rietkerk, tackles several.

“It’s an intimate ensemble with three people carrying the workload of an entire cast,” Rietkerk said. “My characters are all exceedingly different from each other, with different voices, histories and motives, and it’s really fun.”

She agreed that because the play is sexy and funny, it mimics the screwball comedies of early Hollywood. “The first blonde in the story is a femme fatale archetype,” Rietkerk said. “She’s the one who hires Sam, the private eye who is down on his luck, has morals, but drinks too much and is a dark soul. This starts the plot moving as we find out about her past. She’s curious, cold and alluring, and it’s uncertain what she’s hiding.”

Rietkerk sees “Gunmetal Blues” as a musical homage to film noir. “We do stop to sing, which usually doesn’t happen in film noir, but I think it treats the genre very lovingly by being aware of itself and telling a story in the medium of stage, which is different than film with technology and approach. Scott Wentworth, the writer, did a wonderful job blending humor, history and music into one show.”

Rietkerk said audiences often think comedy is easier to do than drama, but ask most actors and they’ll disagree. “It would seem easier to tell a joke than to cry,” she said. “A comedy is sensitive, and you can’t overwork it, or be flippant with it. You have to have a sense of awareness and timing, and be cognitive of your audience and the purpose of the jokes and lines that have humor. I love it. There’s nothing better than hearing laughter or feeling enjoyment from the audience.”

Rietkerk said she’s managing all she has to do for her five characters — especially every time she must exit the stage to become a different one. “I have to change my clothes really quickly, so it’s a definite dance of choreography,” she said. “That could have been a problem here because of the small spaces behind the stage, but I just memorize the order of things, and thankfully, there is someone back there to help me, and eventually it becomes a rhythm.”

Working at NCRT has been a wonderful experience.

“There are dedicated people working both on and off stage. Everyone I’ve talked to speaks passionately about the work that is done here,” she said. “I’m grateful that Andrew Barnicle is directing, because he’s so familiar with the material, which is a dense plot with lots of twist and turns. I adore my two actors. Kevin is wonderful and Buddy helps Sam tell the story by turning into the doorman, the cop, or the gangster.

“The cleverness of using two actors to play multiple characters, but tell one story, is unique,” Rietkerk said. “There’s complexity even within the conventions of the play. The music score and lyrics by Craig Bohmler and Marion Adler have elements of blues and jazz, and winks at classic music as well, all of which enhances the voice of the writer. It’s a really fun show.”

“Gunmetal Blues” runs matinees and evenings Jan. 17-Feb. 8 at North Coast Repertory Theatre, 987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach. Tickets from $54; call 858-481-1055; visit