Music by Richard Rogers
Book and Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein 11
Based on Sweet Thursday by John Steinbeck
Adaptation by David Ives
The Union Theatre, 204 Union Street, Southwark, London SE1 0LX to 31 August 2013
Tues – Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 2.30 pm
TICKETS: 0207 261 9876
www.ticketsource.co.ukRuns 2hr One interval, to 31 08 13
Review: William Russell, 02 08 13
Not the stuff dreams are made of.
Even Rogers and Hammerstein did not hit the jackpot every time. Pipe Dream, based on John Steinbeck’s novel, Sweet Thursday, a sequel to the more celebrated Cannery Row, was the duo’s seventh collaboration – and a flop. It ran for some 250 performances in 1955 on Broadway, but that was due largely to the fact that they had allowed advance group bookings, something they did not usually do. Once the reviews came out the show was doomed and a financial disaster for all concerned.
It tells how marine biologist Doc returns to Cannery Row after the Second World War to work on his research and is set up by his friends, who think he needs a woman in his life, with Suzy, a newly arrived prostitute in the local cat house.
The problem with the show is that none of those involved in creating it could face having a whore as the leading lady so Suzy is turned into some sort of juvenile delinquent given shelter by Fauna, the joint’s big hearted madam. All credibility as a result simply flew out the window, and whether the bashful, bespectacled Doc gets the stroppy Suzy or not is hardly worth bothering about and by default the role of Fauna becomes the lead.
However, Sasha Regan’s direction is very assured, it is well dressed and set, and there is no reason for not giving the show, flop or not, an airing on a stage. But it is not a lost, unappreciated gem.
Regan is lucky in her leading man, Keiran Brown, who plays dopey Doc. He is handsome, butch, sings extremely well, every word is clear, and is the best thing in the show. Charlotte Scott is pleasing as the feisty, but improbable Suzy, and the assorted chorus boys and girls work hard as the layabouts on Cannery Row and the broads of the cathouse. The main problem this production has, other than the flaws inherent in the show, is that Virge Gilchrist as Fauna, the madam with the heart of gold, looks much too svelte and cultured. It is a part that calls for a broad, a Shelley Winters or an Adele Jergens, not a lady. Gilchrist’s singing is fine, although she doesn’t quite have the bottom notes, but she is woefully miscast, more the doyenne of a Sussex teashop than a Monterey whorehouse.
Rogers has written some decent songs, although none are particularly memorable and one or two recall past glories, but the book by Hammerstein is dire. Regan was brave to stage the show and collectors of forgotten musicals should go post haste because the chances of seeing it anywhere else are almost certainly slight.
Doc: Keiran Brown
Suzy: Charlotte Scott
Fauna: Virge Gilchrist
Mac: David Haydn
Hazel: Nick Martland
Joe: John Hicks
Jim Blaikey/Dance Captain: Shane Landers
George Herman: Joshua Lovell
Ray Bush: Matt Parsons
Eddie: Christopher Connor
Johnny: Mitchell Jarvis
Milicent/Cover Suzy: Michaela Cartmell
Agnes: Rebecca Fennelly
Mabel: Catherine Sagar
Marjorie: Georgie Burdett
Emma: Alexandra A Lloyd-Hamilton
Kitty: Clare Duffy
Director: Sasha Regan
Choreographer: Lizzie Gee
Musical Director: Christopher Peake
Designer: Ellie-Rose Hughes
Lighting Designer: Tim Deiling
Assistant Director: Kirk Jameson