Music & Lyrics: Irving Berlin
Book: Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse
Director: Michael Strassen
Reviewer: Samuel Hopkins
The Public Reviews Rating:
This musical, originally produced in 1950, takes the audience to fictional Litchenburg, a struggling European country riddled with famine and poverty. When brash but loveable Sally Adams, the newly appointed American ambassador of the country arrives, the country’s politics and foreign affairs soon take a drastic change, but as with so many musicals from this era, its heart lies with the romances to be found all around her. Although the plot is simple and the script sometimes predictable, it is easily forgiven due to the show’s feel good nature and the quality of this particular production.
A very noticeable trait of the show is its dependence on the lead character of Sally Adams, who delivers solo after solo after solo. Had the actress in the role merely coped with the task, the show could have risked becoming monotonous and so it is therefore lucky that the outstanding Lucy Williamson has been cast in the role. Her incredible voice and power captivated the audience and her command of the theatre would have equally been at home on a major Broadway stage. Leo Miles playing Kenneth Gibson also makes an impression as the young romantic hero. Miles’ voice is pure and soothing to listen to, whilst also possessing great strength, and he soon becomes an extremely likeable presence.
The show is also blessed by the strength of the ensemble. Every big number seemed to leave the audience grinning and the cast are to be applauded for all aspects of their performance: their vocals, dance and characterisation were all fine-tuned and mixed together in order to create an exceptionally high quality piece of musical theatre. Mark Smith’s choreography shows off the cast in an array of styles and blends with the music perfectly, complementing each lyric without becoming too overbearing or unnatural.
Michael Strassen’s direction ensures that the limited space at the Union Theatre is never an obstacle and promotes a feeling of intimacy yet one which always leaves enough room to breathe. Watching the cast work up close and personal makes the show all the more worth seeing and leaves the audience feeling highly engaged. Strongly recommended for anyone who likes a feel-good musical – make sure to catch this very talented cast before it finishes.