BETTY BLUE EYES To 22 October.


book by Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman lyrics by Anthony Drewe music by George Stiles adapted from the screenplay A Private Function by Alan Bennett.

Novello Theatre Aldwych WC2B 4LD.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 16 June 2.30pm.
BSL Signed 18 June 2.30pm.
Captioned 10 August.
Runs 2hr 35 min One interval.

TICKETS: 0844 482 5170 .
Review: Carole Woddis 13 April.

The Ealing spirit rises in song – and in Yorkshire.
I’d better confess right away. I’ve fallen in love. I know, it’s ridiculous. It’s only a pig and an animatronic one at that. But Cameron Mackintosh’s latest delirium based on the blissfully funny Alan Bennett and Malcolm Mowbray film A Private Function has had me in its thrall since opening night.

Never work with children or animals goes the saying. And indeed, we have to wait a full 50 minutes before we get a sighting of the eponymous Betty and then it’s only a teasing one. But once glimpsed, thoroughly smitten.

Another admission. I’m not a great follower of musicals. But despite one or two major lapses – a couple of leading actors who really can’t sing and the usually dependable and masterly Richard Eyre unable to decide whether he is directing a biting satire on Little England patriotism or celebrating it à la Noel Coward at his most flagrant – by the end I was hooked.

George Stiles (music) and Anthony Drewe (lyrics) have come up with a score that for the most part prances along with a nice blend of nostalgia, pastiche, tongue in cheek sentiment and one knock-out aspirational show-stopper that Sarah Lancashire as Joyce (the part played by Maggie Smith in the film) grabs with both hands.

Set in Yorkshire in 1947, the year of a royal wedding and in the midst of post-war austerity, the story involves small-town corruption and the stealing of a pig to celebrate the royal wedding, carried out under the nose of an officious Minister of Food official (Adrian Scarborough, got up with Hitler type ‘tache and heavy leather coat). It goes without saying that the comparisons with today are extraordinary even though its creators, Americans Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman (book) came up with the idea six years ago, in 2005.

There’s a tad more padding than the film and one or two wasted opportunities but as a discreetly subversive call to arms for the forgotten to rise up against their masters, as a terrific advertisement for vegetarianism and a pitch-perfect form of English escapism, it can’t be beaten. Fabulouso.

Joyce Chilvers: Sarah Lancashire.
Gilbert Chilvers: Reece Shearsmith.
Dr James Swaby: David Bamber.
Henry Allardyce: Jack Edwards.
Mother Dear: Ann Emery.
Francis Lockwood: Mark Meadows.
Inspector Wormwold: Adrian Scarborough.
Sergeant Noble/Voice of Movietone: Ian Conningham.
Mrs Metcalf/Billy Carroll’s Trio: Claire Machin.
Mr Metcalf/Hotel Manager: James Barron.
Mrs Allardyce: Kirsty Hoiles.
Veronica: Hollie Taylor.
Mrs Roach/Kitt/Princess Elizabeth: Annalisa Rossi.
Barraclough/Prince Philip: Dan Burton.
Mrs Turnbull/Mrs Tillbrook: Rachael Archer.
Reg Bowen/Handyman: Neil Ditt.
Mrs Lockwood/Billy Carroll’s Trio: Laura Medforth.
Mrs Lester/Billy Carroll’s Trio: Gemma Wardle.
Farmer Sutcliffe/Arthur Cunliffe: Christopher Howell.
Nuttall: Andy Mace.
The Voice of Betty: Kylie Minogue.
Swings: Victoria Hay; Howard Jones: Robert Kershaw; Rebecca Louis; Holly Dale Spencer.

Director: Richard Eyre.
Designer: Tim Hatley.
Lighting: Neil Austin.
Sound: Mick Potter.
Musical Director: Richard Beadle.
Choreographer: Stephen Mear.
Dance/Vocal Arrangements: George Stiles.
Orchestration: William David Brohn.
Music Supervisor: Stephen Brooker.
Dance captain: Holly Dale Spencer
Associate director: Adrian Sarple.
Associate choreographer: Geoff Barratt.
Assistant musical director: Mark Bousie.

World premiere at the Novello Theatre London 19 March 2011.

2011-04-15 12:57:56

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