Music and lyrics by Cole Porter.
Book by Guy Bolton, P.G. Wodehouse, Howard Lindsay & Russel Crouse.
4 Stars ****
Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate Village, London N6 4BD to 29 January 2017.
Tues – Sat 7.30pm Mat Sun 4pm and 3pm on 27, 28, 29, 30 & 31 December.
Runs 2hr 30 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8340 3488.
Review: William Russell 16 December.
All aboard for a truly bon voyage (that won’t break your bank!)
Anyone looking for a Christmas musical which will not break the bank, unlike pretty well everything in the West End, who is within reach of Highgate should hie themselves to the Gatehouse and this energetic and sparkling revival of Cole Porter’s 1934 musical.
John Plews has directed it with style, there is a first rate band to play those famous tunes and a cast led by Taryn Erickson as Reno Sweeney, the hot gospel lady, who throw everything they have into it. Ms Erickson, in the role created by Ethel Merman, can belt a number with the required power and duly hits those high notes in style.
Opposite her Jack McCann as Billy Crocker, the stowaway on the S S American en route to London, assumes an amazing series of disguises to avoid discovery.
The plot made sense in 1934 – Transatlantic crossings were all the rage, Reno is a joke about the evangelist Amy Semple Macpherson, and the running gag about gangsters on the run is about Public Enemies, then topical. Today it comes across as just plain silly, but plot in 1930s musicals was always an irrelevance. It was the songs that mattered and here they are – Anything Goes, Blow, Gabriel Blow, You’re the Tops, and I Get a Kick Out of You among them – to enjoy. Add the very well staged tap routines, a nicely conceived set with a vast screen on which scenes from the voyage are projected, and those musicians and you have show to enjoy.
As the obligatory silly Englishman, Sir Evelyn Oakleigh, on the voyage with his fiancée, Hope, and her bossy mother, lanky Jack Keane is very funny indeed, and his shaving turn while in his underwear has to be seen to be believed. Billy is, of course, in love with Hope, a winsome Samantha Dorsey. Add David Pendlebury as Public Enemy No 13 Moonface Martin and as Bonnie, his moll, Chloe Adele Edwards, a blond bombshell from Brooklyn, and all the ingredients are there. The energy level is perhaps a shade too high – silly though the plot is there are some great gags, not all of which hit home because sometimes people are trying a little too hard.
But the cast should relax as the run goes on and the start to trust the material. The Gatehouse Christmas musicals are always worth catching and this one is no exception.
Murray the Steward: Timothy Booth.
Charlie the Reporter: Lewis McBean.
Sir Evelyn Oakleigh: Jack Keane.
Mrs Wadworth T. Harcourt: Nova Skipp.
Hope Harcourt: Samantha Dorsey.
Bishop Henry T. Dobson: Lucas James.
Reno Sweeney: Taryn Erickson.
Charity: Lucie Horsfall.
Chastity: Chloe Porter.
Billy Crocker: Jack McCann.
Mr Grandy the Purser: Lewis Mcbean.
Bonnie: Chloe Adele Edwards.
Moonface Martin: David Pendlebury.
Captain Macleod: Lucas James.
Ching Ling: Izabel Alvares Florence.
Director: John Plews.
Choreographer: Chris Whittaker.
Musical Director: Dan Glover.
Designer: Emily Barstow.
Costume Supervisor: Harriet Fowler.
Lighting Designer: Sam Waddington.
Assistant Director: Katerina Kattening.
Sound Designer: Jon Raper.
Voice Coach: Eleanor Boyce.