Author of the original novel: Bradford Ropes
Director and co-authors: Mark Bramble and Michael Stewart
Lyricist: Al Dubin
Reviewer: Ann Bawtree
The Public Reviews Rating:
Set in 1933 just as the Great Depression was beginning to turn the corner, thanks to President Franklin D Roosevelt’s New Deal, this show is not so much a musical performance as an explosion of instrumental music, singing, and dancing, all of which glittered, dazzled, blazed in a show that was rip-roaringingly magical. The story line is not much to write home about, just the old American dream of “log cabin to White House”. A little girl from the country comes to the big city to try her hand at joining a chorus line. Soon after she is accepted into a company the leading lady falls by the wayside and lo, the newcomer steps bravely into the breach, finding overnight success and saving the bacon of the producer, backer, director and entire company. She even manages to salvage the former star’s love life.
As to the story of the musical they are all involved in, that is a mystery. It involves a huge cast of highly talented performers, glittering sets by designer Douglas W Schmidt, gorgeous costumes, witty, tuneful songs and endless tap dances of the highest standard of co-ordination. However, they are not all tap dances. One particularly memorable number is danced by a group of shadows on perfectly silent feet. Another is “danced” by girls lying on the floor under an angled mirror which produces a very Busby Berkeley effect, almost like synchronised swimming. All the chorus girls are svelte and gorgeous in fuzzy perms and those awful shorts which 1930s dancers were condemned to wear and which do their best to be unflattering .The boys were dashing and elegant and in one number demonstrated the skill of tying a proper bow tie while dancing and getting it fixed right on cue.
The two established stars of the show are Marti Webb and Dave Willetts. They are well supported by Bruce Montague, James O’Connell, Carol Ball, Graham Hoadly, Graeme Henderson, Stephen Weller and principal chorus members. However the evening must go to Jessica Punch who won the hearts of all who watched her. Even the rather over enthusiastic amplification which made the nine excellent musicians sound like the Massed Bands of the Royal Marines and which gave a screechy timbre to some of the female singers was not enough to take away any degree of the five stars this show deserves.
Runs until: October 6th and then on tour in the UK, see www.ukproductions.co.uk
Tags: American Musical Comedy, Bruce Montague, Carol Ball, Dave Willetts, Douglas W Schmidt, Graeme Henderson, Graham Hoadly, James O'Connell, Jessica Punch, Marti Webb, mayflower theatre, Southampton, Stephen Weller