music by Noel Gay book by Abi Grant and Alex Armitage.
Watermill Theatre Bagnor RG20 8AE To24 Sept 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm except 24 September at 1.30pm and 6.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 01635 46044.
Review Mark Courtice 18 August.
A night of nostalgia with loads of skill.
It’s summer, and time for the annual marvel that is the Watermill musical. This one combines all the quality and pint-sized pizazz that audiences in Newbury have come to expect, and if this exercise in musical patchwork has little to offer but the songs and runs out of steam by act 2, that’s not the fault of the hard-working cast and ingenious production team.
Abi Grant stitches Noel Gay’s numbers into a story of theatrical stiff upper lip and love gone wrong, set in London’s Blitz. Actually it seems of little import that the show might get taken off the air, or that comedian Sammy might lose nice girl Olive. We know it will all end happily – so let’s get on with the songs.
These include ‘Who’s Been Polishing the Sun?’ and ‘Run Rabbit Run’, wartime favourites almost inviting older members of the audience to join in. Whether the Gay songbook has quite enough depth to sustain another musical (one after all he didn’t write) is debatable.
Nonetheless it’s given a terrific performance by the Watermill team. Gary Wilmot’s Sammy is all queasy charm and quick-fire gags, and he sings and dances as the leader of a company should. He’s matched by the splendid Anna-Jane Casey, touching and tuneful as nice girl Olive. Andrew C Wadsworth as straight-man Heathcliffe Bultitude is an excellent foil to Wilmot and, like everyone else, can really sing.
The rest of the company sing, act, dance and play with huge energy and skill. Paul Herbert’s neat orchestrations are robust enough to be played by a tap-dancing brass line when needed and despite restricted resources have texture, filling the theatre without drowning everything else out.
There’s an effective set from Tom Rogers that turns the intimate Watermill into a Criterion for the night, but leaves as much room as possible for Alistair David’s energetic and clever choreography. Director Caroline Leslie keeps things moving, trusts the performances to speak for themselves, and serves up a night of nostalgia with loads of charm.
Sammy: Gary Wilmot.
Olive: Anna-Jayne Casey.
Gary: Darren Bennett.
Grosvenor Girls: Sophie Byrne, Sophie Scott, Sarah Scowen.
Amy: Vivien Carter.
Grosvenor Man: Robin Colyer.
Jeep: Christian Edwards.
Show MD: Paul Herbert.
Wilf: Julian Littman.
Bultitude: Andrew C Wadsworth.
Director: Caroline Leslie.
Designer: Tom Rogers.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound designed: Peter Rice.
Musical Supervisor/Arranger: Paul Herbert.
Choreographer: Alistair David.
Assistant sound: Sally Evans.