THE BOYS FROM SYRACUSE
by Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.
Union Theatre 204 Union Street Southwark SE1 0LX To 26 October 2013.
Tue–Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat & Sun 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 261 9876.
Review: William Russell 8 October.
Twin peaks and double dips mixed.
Ben De Wynter’s staging of this 1938 musical comedy by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart is pretty rough and ready, but passes the time pleasantly enough. The show is not Rodgers’ and Hart’s best – that remains Pal Joey – but it demonstrates that lyricist Lorenz Hart brought out the best in Richard Rogers as a composer, whereas his successor, Oscar Hammerstein, brought out the worst.
There are no sanctimonious ballads about climbing mountains. Instead the score fizzes with energy and splendid tunes. Based more or less on Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors it tells what happens when identical twins, separated by a shipwreck years before and both called Antipholus, end up in Ephesus, with their respective servants, also identical twins, both called Dromio.
The problem is that the twin from Syracuse is a bachelor, while the twin from Ephesus has a wife and is a philanderer. The result is a glorious mix-up in which it never becomes quite clear just who did what when the wrong pairings – the Ephesus Dromio also has a wife – end up spending the night together and the Syracuse Antipholus, to make matters worse, falls for his brother’s wife’s sister.
Hart’s lyrics are a delight, cynical, witty and full of double meanings. The large cast do their best, but neither Aaron Hayes Rogers nor Oliver Seymour-Marsh, the two Antipholuses, is a natural comic and some singing is a little below par, with vowels cruelly distorted.
De Wynter keeps things moving briskly, but some of the choreography is rather unimaginative and holds up the action disastrously, if briefly. The small orchestra, however, is good and every now and then things take wing, notably in the ‘Oh Diogenes’ number, given first to the Courtesan with whom the Ephesus Antipholus has been dallying, and then to the company, and the wonderfully cynical ‘Sing for Your Supper’.
As the Courtesan Kalsa Hummurlund, brassy, blonde and pneumatic, is terrific while Matthew Cavendish and Alan McHale are quite funny as the Dromio twins. Not the Union’s finest revival perhaps, but still probably the best Ephesian show in town.
Antipholus of Syracuse: Aaron Hayes Rogers.
Antipholus of Ephesus: Oliver Seymour-Marsh.
Dromio of Syracus: Matthew Cavendish.
Dromio of Ephesus: Alan McHale.
Adriana: Carrie Sutton.
Luce: Natalie Woods.
Luciana: Cara Dudgeon.
Courtesan: Kaisa Hammerlund.
Aegean/Sorcerer: Marc Forde.
Angelo: Samuel Hopkins.
Duke/Pygmalion: Matt Lee-Steer.
Tailor: Daryl Armstrong.
Merchant Syracuse/Ephesus: Oliver Meredith.
Fatima/Maid: Alexia Collard.
Courtesan/Maid/ Galatea: Lizzy Connolly.
Courtesan/Maid: Emily Juniper.
Seeress: Mary Farragher.
Sergeant: Daniel Conway.
Director: Ben De Wynter.
Lighting: Charlie Morgan Jones.
Musical Director: Michael Riley.
Choreographer: Mark Smith.
Costume: Sharna David.
Assistant director: Ollie Blake.
Assistant choreographer: Iona Holland.