Tour to 8 December 2012.
Runs 2hr 35min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 7 November at Richmond Theatre.
Morale-raising material from then in musical to cheer up now.
For much of its time, Radio Times evokes, without challenging, British wartime spirit. As it’s packed with composer Noel Gay’s songs from the era, that’s hardly surprising. There’s a light skein of story as a variety cast prepare for the first-ever live wireless transmission to a still-neutral America. Partly it’s a love-triangle, mainly useful for a few plot nudges; partly a satire on a BBC where regulations threaten to stifle creativity.
Calling the bureaucrat Heathcliffe Bultitude suggests this dry stick is a straw man, and it’s not long before John Conroy is joining-in with the best of them. And the best – indeed all this cast – are very good. Of the two anarchic comedians, who leave no line safe, comic feed Wilfred Davies at least comes to rehearsals, while Sammy Shaw bends any rule going and, in Gary Wilmot’s loveable performance, generally has everyone – certainly our side of the footlights – lined up supporting him.
But Radio Times comes to be more than a series of cues for songs. Sammy’s catch-phrase acquires a serious side. The threatened closure of ‘Variety Bandwagon’ links to an appeal to America to join the war, recalling the urgent broadcast, also set during an air-raid, ending Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent. This one, from British actor turned Hollywood star Gary Strong, has the calm popular appeal of J B Priestley’s wartime ‘Postscripts’. During this, even Christian Edwards’ Jeeps, who’s been driving them crazy with a panoply of sound effects suggesting a future on The Goon Show, falls silent.
Sensibly, the show fades as ‘radio girlfriend’ Amy Chapman reads-out readers’ messages; but they’re rightly included; tedious enough now, they were a part of the new ability broadcasting brought for wartime morale-raising.
As for the songs, the lyrics intelligently encapsulate sentiment or wit, while the growing vitality of production numbers, especially through the lighter first act, is offset by two novelty arrangements of popular numbers addressed to hens and rabbits, respectively calling for massed ukuleles and a cappella forces. Wartime spirit may not be your thing, but if it is, it’s unlikely to come more spirited or expert than this.
Leo: Jared Ashe.
Ruby: Sophie Byrne.
Amy Chapman: Vivien Carter.
Heathcliffe Bultitude: John Conroy.
Spud: Rob Copeland.
Cherry: Amelia Cormack.
Olive James: Sara Crowe.
Trevor: Ed Currie.
Jeeps: Christian Edwards.
Wilfred Davies: Ben Fox.
Monty Montgomery: Paul Herbert.
Gary Strong: Michael Hobbs.
Mouse: Sally Peerless.
Daisy: Sarah Scowen.
Sammy Shaw: Gary Wilmot.
Director: Caroline Leslie.
Designer: Tom Rogers.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Clement Rawling.
Musical Arranger/Musical Director: Paul Herbert.
Choreographer: Alistair David.
Associate director: Clive Judd.
Associate sound: Paul Delaney.
5-10 Nov 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Richmond Theatre 0844 871 7651 www.atgtickets.com/richmond
12-17 Nov 7.30pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Hall for Cornwall Truro 01872 262466 www.hallforcornwall.co.uk
21-25 Nov Wed-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm; Sun 3pm Wycombe Swan High Wycombe 01494 512000 www.wycombeswan.co.uk
26 Nov-1 Dec 8pm Mat Wed 1.30pm; Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Winchester 01962 840440 ww.theatre-royal-winchester.co.uk
3-8 Dec 7.300pm Mat Thu & Sat 2.30pm Theatre Royal Plymouth 01752 267222 www.theatreroyal.com