by Stephen Wyatt.

Queen’s Theatre Billet Lane RM11 1QT To 26 March 2011.
Tue-Sat 8pm Mat19, 24 March 2.30pm.
Audio-described/BSL Signed 19 March 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.

TICKETS: 01708 443333.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 March.

Severe challenge for anyone not wanting to be entertained.
There’s a Radio 4 quiz which offers contestants the choice between Highbrow and Lowbrow questions. Stephen Wyatt’s comedy musical could divide theatregoers on those lines. For some it may seem a stale concoction of stereotypes, tricked-out with songs from old American musicals, its cardboard characters and cliché’d situations requiring only surface-technique acting.

Let such flee the Queen’s to search out Ibsen and Pirandello. Yet, while Wyatt seems unlikely to join such august dramatic ranks, he’s assembled a couple of happy hours for brows set low, not just furrowed.

And there’s a highbrow connection. Wyatt’s story follows the basic scheme of much classic comedy (from Molière back to Plautus – whose plays lie behind A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, the Queen’s production of which has just won an Off-West End award), where a young woman’s being married-off by her father to his rich old friend, while she has a more desirable, if less affluent, suitor in mind. Along this thread comic incidents are elaborated through the determined and sometimes desperate efforts of various servants.

Enabling inclusion of standards by Cole Porter and others (Don’t ask- I won’t tell you) Wyatt’s setting is 1930s American gangsterland, his comic servant principally a nightclub dancer mistaken for an eminent psychologist, and brought in by Simon Jessop’s gang-boss to wean his daughter off the trumpet that’s become her only method of communication (it makes for one loud sulk in a frustrated lover).

OK, so Hammett and Chandler’s reps have little to fear. For the comedy’s the point here, with familiar situations and character types, like Simon Jessop’s gangster who keeps violence implied, or Natasha Moore as golden-hearted Ruby regretting impulsively endangering her dance-partner by pretending he has Freudian credentials.

The script offers many tricks (though it becomes a bit stretched after the interval), and Matt Devitt’s production doesn’t miss any of them. Every vocal mannerism and physical stance is there, alongside expert singing and hoofing, including Allison Harding offering a couple of terrific numbers as a mature housekeeper with strong sexual urges, showing the Queen’s certainly can still get the staff.

Alphonso: Tom Jude.
Ruby: Natasha Moore.
Tom: Elliot Harper.
Herbie: Matthew Quinn.
Louie: Greg Last.
Tallulah: Allison Harding.
Gloria: Sarah Scowen.
Joe: Simon Jessop.
Harry: Jared Ashe.

Director: Matt Devitt.
Designer: Rodney Ford.
Lighting: Chris Howcroft.
Sound: Alexander Broad.
Musical Director: Julian Littman.
Choreographer: Cara Elston.

2011-03-08 13:14:04

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