book by David Thompson music and lyrics by John Kander and Fred Ebb conceived by Scott Ellis, Susan Stroman and David Thompson.
Union Theatre 204 Union Street SE1 0LX To 24 November 2012.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Sun 6pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 261 9876.
Review: William Russell 2 November.
Strictly Come Dancing in a revival as good as it’s likely to get..
Steel Pier ran a mere 76 performances on Broadway where it was first staged in 1997 and one can see why. David Thompson’s book uncomfortably mixes whimsy, (the staple American fantasy about the dead man allowed time to sort the world he has left) with a fairly chilly look at marathon dance competitions of the Depression years.
But Paul Taylor-Mills’ production is extremely good and his cast could not be bettered. Maybe the songs are not the best Kander and Ebb came up with in their glittering career, but they are pretty good and the plot is efficiently worked-out. The scene is Atlantic City, the Steel Pier is where the marathon dance competition run by suave but nasty Mick Hamilton (Ian Knauer) is being held.
The star of the show is his wife Rita Racine (Sarah Galbraith in fine voice) and things are fixed so she will win. The dead man, Bill Kelly (a dashing Jay Rincon), is a pilot who saw her at an air show where she was dancing, won a ticket in a lottery to dance with her, but was killed when his plane crashed before he could do so. He has been given three weeks to fulfil his dream.
We meet the marathon entrants dancing themselves to death, some ambitious, some desperate, some deceitful, and all killing themselves on the dance floor in the hope of a better life. Hamilton is cheating on his wife; she finds the young pilot, who has demanded to be her dance partner, delightful and her husband sets up a fake wedding between the pair to drum up business.
There is a first rate band, the leading players are superb – Aimee Stevens as Shelby the obligatory tart with a heart makes up the quartet – and the rest of the cast dance-up such a storm on the concrete floor of the theatre one fears for their limbs.
This is a show anyone interested in musical theatre should not miss – apart from anything else it is an original work, not a rehash of some old movie. And it deserves an afterlife.
Rita Racine: Sarah Galbraith.
Bill Kelly: Jay Rincon.
Shelby Stevens: Aimee Atkinson.
Mick Hamilton: Ian Knauer.
Mr Walker: Ian Kirton.
Buddy Becker: Samuel Parker.
Bette Becker: Clare Louise Connolly.
Johnny Adel: Brett Shields.
Dora Foster: Amy Anzel.
Happy McGuire: Rob Lines.
Precious McGuire: Lisa-Anne Wood.
Luke Adams: Ben Beard.
Mick’s Pick No1: Louise Roberts.
Mick’s Pick No2: Natalie Douglas.
Mick’s Pick No3: Eithne Bryan.
Couple 29 – Connor Macnamare, Sheila Grant.
Couple 14 – Simon Mayhew, Rebecca Orwell.
Male Swing: Matthew Barksby.
Female Swing: Francesca Roche.
Director: Paul Taylor-Mills.
Designer: David Shields.
Lighting: Ben M Rogers.
Musical Director: Angharad Sanders.
Choreographer: Richard Jones.
Costume: Natalie Pryce.