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A Damsel in Distress – Festival Theatre, Chichester

Authors: P.G. Wodehouse and Ian Hay

Writers: Jeremy Sams and Robert Hudson

Music and Lyrics: George and Ira Gershwin

Director/Choreographer: Rob Ashford

Reviewer: Bill Avenell

The word verve springs to mind to encapsulate this new stage musical based on P.G.Wodehouse’s novel. It is a really lively evening’s entertainment which combines a top drawer cast showing off Chichester’s technical facility, the Gershwins’ peerless tunes, some extremely perceptive direction and, of course, Wodehouse’s wit and humour.

The plot is based on the quest of successful Broadway writer George Bevan, (a sparkling performance by Richard Fleeshman), to find something more to life than his superficial theatre existence. A chance meeting with heiress Maud Marshmoreton (Summer Strallen) and her formidable aunt (Isla Blair) introduces him and his leading lady Billie Dore (a lovely interpretation by Sally Ann Triplett) to the chaotic ‘Wodehousian’ world of Totleigh Towers, peopled by his Lordship (Nicholas Farrel), aged retainers, roses and, since it’s Wodehouse, pigs. Predictably it all ends happily, nothing too deep at Chichester last night, with love requited all over the place.

A delightfully happy show, how could it be anything else backed by Gershwin’s music including those two real classics of ‘Nice Work if you can get it’ and ‘A Foggy Day in London Town’. And well performed that music is. Alan Williams’ musicians, up above the proceedings, provide an excellent background for the cast to strut their musical stuff and as well as two strong performances by Triplett and Fleeshman there are some other surprises including Farrell’s ‘Mine’ a splendid interpretation of ‘I’m a Poached Egg’ by Richard Dempsey as Reggie Byng and some lovely singing from all corners of the stage in ‘You are You’.

All the cast are strong but as well as Fleeshman’s and Triplett’s performances the other stand out moments come from two wonderful cameos from David Roberts and Chloe Hart as Pierre the Cook and his assistant Dorcas, with perhaps a slight nod in the direction of ‘Strictly’. The only reservation is that for much of the time it is teetering on the edge of pantomime and Isla Blair in particular sometimes strays over that edge, almost playing Lady Caroline as a dame.

Director/ choreographer Rob Ashford is charged with pulling all this talent and technical expertise together and he does a fine job. Legs flashing everywhere, entrances and exits from all over the place, revolving scenes and secret passages (Christopher Oram’s designs are splendid), some very slick and inventive dance routines (Fidgety Feet with Fleeshman, Dempsey and the Ensemble in particular), some fine acting performances and that music.

It is a delight and well worth a visit.

Runs until 27th June 2015 | Photo Johann Persson

Authors: P.G. Wodehouse and Ian Hay Writers: Jeremy Sams and Robert Hudson Music and Lyrics: George and Ira Gershwin Director/Choreographer: Rob Ashford Reviewer: Bill Avenell The word verve springs to mind to encapsulate this new stage musical based on P.G.Wodehouse’s novel. It is a really lively evening’s entertainment which combines a top drawer cast showing off Chichester’s technical facility, the Gershwins’ peerless tunes, some extremely perceptive direction and, of course, Wodehouse’s wit and humour. The plot is based on the quest of successful Broadway writer George Bevan, (a sparkling performance by Richard Fleeshman), to find something more to life than…

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