ME & JULIET
music by Richard Rodgers book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.
Finborough Theatre above Finborough Wine Bar 118 Finborough Road SW10 9ED To 30 October 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm mat Sat & Sun 3pm.
Runs 2hr 5min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 847 1652.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 10 October.
small is beautiful in musical love affair with the theatre.
Its very impossibility makes it. Here’s a 1953 Broadway musical by kings of the Great White Way Rodgers and Hammerstein mixing a show-within-a-show with backstage shenanigans. A love story set in the shadows of the spotlights, it shares features of the collaborators’ better-known musicals. The threat, the Jud or Billy Bigelow, is Bob, a psychopathic follow-spot operator who’ll smash anyone showing affection for the girl he’s lighted upon, while enjoying crushing her spirit.
And there’s the hesitancy of real love, following from Carousel’s conditional ‘If I loved you’ and the behavioural ‘Don’ts’ of Oklahoma’s ‘People Will Say We’re in Love’. As loving, suffering Julie Jordan is offset by complacent Carrie Pipperidge and her ordered household with Enoch Snow, and Laurey Williams is contrasted by fearless Ado Annie, so tender, timid Jeanie has a different sympathy from the active energy of take-it-as-it-comes showgirl Betty.
Jeanie’s stage manager love Larry wants to be a director. She just wants to earn money, being so shy it’s amazing she ever stepped through a stage-door. In 42nd Street terms, she’d go out unknown and come back an understudy.
Laura Main and Robert Hands play the sympathy-vote well enough, though a musical whose core characters have to express nerves and reserve through their voices has its limits. To ensure they’re not constricting there’s Jacobs’ tough wit, scintillating and energising. She’s the one you have to watch, though there are plenty more watchable ones, including the egoistic lead male, known only as, and thinking only about, Me.
Director Thom Southerland’s kept the spirit, if changing plenty of the letter from Hammerstein’s fifties book. He and choreographer Sally Brooks have done wonders, putting a chorus of ten into fast-stepping action on a tiny stage within the Finborough’s already minute space, then adding stage hands and offstage actors mooching in the wings on a set by Alex Marker that creates backstage, and flytower, reality in defiance of physical limitations.
On this scale, naturally enough, the orchestra’s played by a piano. And the piano’s played with plentiful variety of colouring by Joseph Atkins, who contributes considerably to a happy occasion.
Bob: John Addison.
Lily/Juliet: Gemma Atkins.
Jim/Don Juan: Terry Doe.
Suzy/1st Carmen: Daniella Gibb.
Larry: Robert Hands.
George/Happy Mourner: Reeda Harris.
Mac: Dafydd Gwyn Howells.
Betty/Carmen: Jodie Jacobs.
Ruby: Peter Kenworthy.
Jeanie: Laura Main.
Herbie: Brendan Matthew.
Charlie Clay/Me: Stephen McGlynn.
Buzz: Tom O’Brien.
Monica: Olivia O’Shea.
Sidney/Voice of Mr Harrison: Anthony Wise.
Voice of Ms Davenport: Susan Travers.
Director: Thom Southerland.
Designer: Alex Marker.
Lighting: Howard Hudson.
Sound: George Dennis.
Musical Director: Joseph Atkins.
Choreographer: Sally Brooks.
Costume: Tara Marricdale.
Assistant musical director: Sarah Bodalbhai.