Summer in the City written by Jennifer Selway. Upstairs at the Gatehouse, Highgate Village, London N6 to 15 January 2023. 4****. William Russell.

The Christmas musical at the Gatehouse directed by John Plews is one of the annual treats on the London fringe and this year’s offering is no exception. It is also a surprise as usually he revives well known shows in great style. This time with a slender tale about life in the Two Eyes coffee house in Soho devised by Jennifer Selway as the hook he has come up with a juke box musical of songs to set feet tapping and memories welling up of days gone by. The summers are in 1965 and 1967, the real Soho coffee house was called The Two i s and was the home for the rock and rollers of the day like Tommy Steel. In fact the show opens as it means to go on with a blazingly good rendition of Downtown followed by the likes of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, Ferry Cross the Mersey, Bobby’s Girl, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and I’m a Believer. Hetty, the coffee bar owner was once a performer, Sam, the guy who serves the milky coffee is an American who dreams of being Brian Epstein and the customers are Bobby, a nerd who composes songs, Vera, a traffic warden who dreams of being a star, Joanna, journalist on the Evening Standard who sings and Cassie, a would be fashion designer who also sings. The American turns them into a three girl group – they get to no 42 in the charts – with a little help from Hetty before reality sets in and the not really plain Jane traffic warden gets her chance to be a solo singer with the other two doing the wa wa backing bits before embarking on their own careers. It is impeccably performed, well sung and a splendid band under Musical Director Curtis Lavender provides perfect backing. As juke box musicals go this is as good as they get – especially if you knew the 1960s. This is the last Christmas musical for John Plews and wife Katie, who produces them, and they are going out on a high.

Hetty: Helen Goldwyn.

Bobby: Harry Curley.

Joanna: Eliza Shea.

Cassie: Candis Butler Jones..

Sam: Connor Arnold.

Vera: Elizabeth Walker.

Director: John Plews.

Musial Director: Curtis Lavender.

Set Designer: Ruby Boswell-Green.

Choreographer: Aimee Leigh.

Sound Designer: Alistair Warr.

Costume Designer: Jean Gray.

Lighting Designer: Aaron J Dootson.

Production photographs: Darren Bell.

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