DARLING OF THE DAY
music by Jule Styne lyrics by E.Y. Harburg book by Nunnally Johnson.
Union Theatre 204 Union Street Southwark SE1 0LX to 20 April 2013.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 261 9876.
Review: William Russell 22 March.
A darling show.
Jule Styne’s score for Darling of the Day is a delight and the lyrics by Yip Harburg are quite dazzling – they don’t make them like that any longer. The show, staged in Britain for the first time by the Union Theatre (although there was a Lost Musicals concert performance a couple of years back) was a flop when it opened on Broadway in 1968 lasting 31 performances.
There were reasons. Vincent Price, who starred as Priam Farll, the painter who assumes the identify of his dead valet, Henry Leek, was uncomfortable in the role. On the other hand Patricia Routledge as Alice, the Putney widow Leek had been courting by letter, whom Farll, now Leek, marries, won a Tony.
On the evidence of this production the show was actually its own worst enemy. Styne had composed a lovely turn of the last century operetta, but the other big musical that year was Hair against which his old-fashioned confection stood no chance.
Paul Foster’s Union production is energetic and he has in Katy Secombe’s Alice a splendid leading lady, buxom, twinkling and everything Farll, nicely done by James Dinsmore, could want.
After decades abroad nobody knows him. About to be knighted, appalled by the celebrity world he is going to live in, he seizes the chance to escape when the doctor mistakenly writes his name on the valet’s death certificate. Arnold Bennett’s novel Buried Alive told a good tale – well re-told in this version by Nunnally Johnson – about what happens when paintings by the “dead” man hit the market.
But there are a bit too many stage Cockney goings on for comfort, the chorus boys in particular suffering from a dose of Tommy Steele-itis, flashing their dentures, wiggling their bums and generally overdoing things. They come from Putney not Bow.
However the musical’s strengths are its tunes – ‘Let’s See What Happens’, the beautiful Act one waltz, and the Act two show stopper for Alice, ‘Not on Your Nellie’, are better than anything in Hair.
Priam Farll: James Dinsmore.
Alice Chalice: Katy Secombe.
Clive Oxford: Michael Hobbs.
Lady Vale: Rebecca Caine.
Alf: Matthew Rowland.
Bert/Leek’s son: John Sandberg.
Sidney/Doctor: Dan Looney.
Henry Leek/Judge: Andy Secombe.
Duncan Farll/Framemaker: Jonathan Leinmuller.
Daphne: Catherine Digges.
Rosey: Danielle Morris.
Pennington/Cabby: Will Keith.
Mrs Leek: Olivia Maffett.
Flower Girl/Stenographer: Bethan-Wyn Davies.
Director: Paul Foster.
Designer: Naomi Wright.
Lighting: Jason Meininger.
Musical Director: Inga Davis-Rutter.
Choreographer: Matt Flint.
Costume: Elle-Rose Hughes.
Assistant director: Josh Seymour.
Assistant choreographer: Rebecca Leonard.