Flowers for Mrs Harris – music & lyrics by Richard Taylor, book by Rachel Wagstaff. Chichester theatre on line. 4****. William Russell.

Available on line free until 8 May, this utterly enchanting production seen in the autumn of 2018 is one I missed – Chichester is easy enough to get to from London, but not so easy to get back to London from at night and matinees are not always convenient. But that is remedied. It won glowing reviews with which one can only Based on the novella by Paul Gallico with a score that is delicate and charming Flowers for Mrs Harris proves to be a heart warming experience.
It is not a night for big stand up songs, for diva’s hogging the limelight, although Clare Burt as the Cockney widow who pawns her late husband Albert’s watch to go to Paris to buy a Dior gown is never off stage and delivers a pitch perfect performance as she puts the world of Dior to rights and meets a handsome Marquis surprisingly like her late husband.
She also gets a gorgeous Dior gown.
Several other leading ladies of musical theatre – Joanna Riding, Claire Machin and Laura Pitt-Puldford – are in the cast,and GaryWilmott also makes an impression as a couple of Frenchmen who come her way. The plot is slight but it complements the novella perfectly. The evening ends with bouquets of flowers filling the stage and while maybe it is not a happily ever afterone perhaps it is.
Does Mrs Harris get to wear her dress? Does she get to take it home? Way back then in the age of austerity you had to pay duty. Log in and find out.
It could have been saccharine and flimsy, but in fact it charms and the score provides just the sort of haunting melodies required while Les Brotherston has come up with a splendid set which makes use of a revolve, a set of stairs and a kitchen cabinet to create Mrs Harris’s world. I is lit with pools of light in the darkness which add to the fairy tale mood of the piece.
At this late stage it is a bit silly to review the show and anyway this is a film of a stage production which, while it captures a lot, is inevitably something else. That said The Other Richard did a first rate job.
It is, of course, a day dream and could never happen. But there is nothing wrong with dreaming. Mrs Harris may be essentially a stock character, the working class British matron with a heart of gold who scrimps and saves and is kind to others, solving their problems along the way, but it does not matter. The show is there to make you feel good, to suggest that things can turn out for the best even when they seem fated to turn out badly.
A tear jerking run away success that will not fail to touch the heart of the audience according to Broadway World; full of wistful charm and old fashioned kindess according to the Evening Standard; a heartwarming treat said the Reviews Hub; the Guardian called it a five star fairy tale.
You can read the cast list and all the credits on line.
The production photograph is by Johan Persson
And as far as Reviewsgate is concerned it deserves all the bouquets in the world – bouquets all round, bouquets galore.

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