Music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by George Furth.
Re-worked by Marianne Elliott and Stephen Sondheim.
The Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue,London W1D 6AR to 30 March 2019.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm
Runs 2hr 35 mins One interval.
TICKETS: 0344 482 5138.
Review: William Russell 18 October.
Company to keep in a brilliant revival
This 1950 musical set in New York was very much of its time. It was about Bobby, a single New Yorker, facing up to his 35th birthday and the attitude of his friends towards him. They all felt it was time he settled down and got married just like they either had or were planning to do. Director Marianne Elliott has turned it into a musical for today by changing Bobby into Bobbie, a 35 year old unmarried woman beautifully played by Rosalie Craig who is facing up to the same sort of reactions from her friends. The change had Sondheim’s blessing.
The friends too are different – the engaged couple facing up to imminent marriage are now gay and it is a male trolly dolly Bobbie tries to bed who in the morning insists he must leave as he has to go to Barcelona, while the husband in another couple has turned into a househusband.
Elliot’s changes work seamlessly and a fine cast seize their chances. Patti LuPone, the Broadway veteran, who plays the older Joanne in a rather nasty black helmet wig, gets little to do in the first half but has the splendid Ladies Who Lunch number to deliver in the second half watched by Bobbie who clearly sees this is what she might become if somehow or other she does not settle down. LuPone gives it her all and if she cannot erase memories of Elaine Stritch, who made the song her own, she is very good indeed.
It has been set in a series of almost anonymous rooms which slide on and off, a sort of dream world inhabited by Bobbie rather than the real one. Presented as an awful warning to career women about not letting time pass too long before deciding on marriage and a career or they will be stuck as ancient ladies who lunch and sit in the front rows at fashion shows in dark glasses it hits home today as much as it did back then although for different reasons.
Jamie, the gay husband to be having the jitters, is adeptly done by Jonathan Bailey, who gets the Getting Married Today number to deliver, and Alex Gaumond makes a handsome resigned husband to be Paul who knows what he is taking on.
The 1950 production was very fine indeed and this one matches it. Sondheimites – and they were there in their droves applauding pretty well anything that moved – will be in seventh heaven in the weeks to come and those coming fresh to it should be there as well. As musicals go this is as good as it gets, the message of the amalgamation of Furth’s playlets about various New Yorkers facing up to life remains, still pertinent. There have been up dating changes before with coloured and Latino actors playing Bobby, but none quite so radical as those Elliott has made. When you have an ancient musical to sell with no stars – LuPone may be a Broadway diva but here she is not a coach party draw – this is a very clever way of refurbishing it.
Bobbie: Rosalie Craig.
Joanne: Patti Lupone.
Sarah: Mel Giedroyc.
Jamie: Jonathan Bailey.
PJ: George Blagden.
Peter: Ashley Campbell.
Andy: Richard Fleeshman.
Paul: Alex Gaumond.
David: Richard Henders.
Larry: Ben Lewis.
Susan: Daisy Maywood.
Jenny: Jennifer Saayeng.
Theo: Matthew Seadon-Young.
Harry: Gavin Spokes
Ensemble: Francesca Ellis, Ewan Gilles, Grant Neal, Jamie Pruden.
Director: Marianne Elliott.
Designer: Liam Steel.
Lighting: Bunny Christie.
Sound@ Neil Austin.
Musical Supervisor: Joel Fram.
Dance Arrangements: Sam Davis.
Voice & Dialect Coach: Charmian Hoare.
Production photographs: Dan Kennedy.