Writer: Robert Cohen
Director: Nicholas Quirke
Reviewer: Joan Phillips
A’Nother Productions have set themselves a tall challenge. Miss Givings is a one woman play with songs mostly from 1930’s America. The story, set just outside New York, follows a short period in the life of Anita Boult who is trying to get a break onto the New York music theatre circuit.
Obviously enthusiasts of American music, A’Nother Production treat us to an evening of music and stories from the early/mid 20th century. Some composers and songs are well known – Gershwin’s Someone to Watch Over Me and Copland’s ‘Tis the Gift to be Simple. This production also introduces us to some less well known songs from these and other less celebrated composers – Samuel Barber and Amy Beach (although Amy Beach can stay less celebrated).
The range and choice of great music and composers makes the era rich in themes that could be developed. In Miss Givings there is a hint at some great stories, for instance the show tells us that when On the Town was made into a Hollywood musical they dropped all but three of the songs from the stage version even though it had a successful run on Broadway of over 400 performances. These kinds of anecdotes are rare but really add interest to the show.
We see Anita struggle with realising her ambitions and coping with agents, casting directors, boyfriends, parents and, worst of all, her high school rival, Shelley. The story is a little sad but there are some humorous moments and finally a hint of professional breakthrough and private happiness – maybe.
This is a show that needs to think carefully about where it wants to be. Originally a concert and now developed into a short 70 minute play with songs it hasn’t quite found its winning final formula. Debbie Bridge is on stage playing the title roll throughout. She belts out the songs and provides the storyline in between the music. This story of personal set back with a hint of hope, rather like an Alan Bennett Talking Heads production, provides plenty of scope for tragedy and comedy. This production felt light in both areas although when the humour broke through it was good. The mining of anecdotes from the era has huge entertainment potential and we were hungry for more.
Bridge’s delivery of the songs is good but, apart from the finale Somewhere, fail to move. To make a successful transition from concert to play the script needs a lot more work and there needs to be some thought to the scale of the production. In small, intimate or cabaret style venues the show could be a hit, but for a bigger ambitions there would be a lot more to do. But all credit to A’nother Productions for giving us a thirst for more.