music by Howard Goodall lyrics & book by Charles Hart.
Jermyn Street Theatre 16b Jermyn Street SW1Y 6ST To 23 April 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat/Sun 3.30pm.
Runs 2hr 40min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7287 2875.
No mistakes in a night that musicalises Goldsmith’s finest.
Jermyn Street Theatre, a minute’s walk from Piccadilly Circus, here offers West End musical quality in material and performance, if not in scale – though that’s no problem.
In active ensemble numbers the thirteen-strong cast deftly defy the small space. And the dramatic intimacy, well-served by Samal Blak’s simple setting, with a joke music-box or two, is part of the evening’s joy.
Making a musical from Oliver Goldsmith’s 18th-century comedy She Stoops to Conquer seems an unlikely project; it works beautifully in its own right. Yet Charles Hart and Howard Goodall have judiciously simplified the story, keeping its essentials and the characters’ comic individuality.
They’ve added a sense of lives turned upside-down by emphasising that everything’s happening on All Fools’ Eve. So the night-time exterior action expands from the comedy of Mrs Hardcastle’s discomfiture to a moon-bathed romantic scene. It’s here the title number comes, apt in sentiment if (like the title) having little connection with the overall action.
Yet only a tin-eared person wouldn’t want to hear this song. Goodall’s mix of musical ease, with its rapid scale passages and brief legato phrases, under-laid by firm melodic structures, makes the score ever-pleasant and sometimes delightful.
Hart’s lyrics are literate, his rhymes well-spaced and sometimes ingenious, a match for the lithe score. And his book has wit – if Goldsmith calls a character Constance, Hart ensures we hear references to patience, prudence and Aunt Verity too.
A fine cast, transposed to a kind of 1920s tinged with Wodehouse-like mood and intrigue, live up to its demands, including the memory-testing ensembles formed from directions to travellers. Elsewhere, rural domestic life is epitomised in a comic number with bells, while in another inventive number, Tony Lumpkin gets his come-uppance in a symphony of instrumental bruisings.
Yet a slightly larger space, and more than a piano – though Harriet Oughton plays splendidly – would also suit the piece. Meanwhile, several performances stand out; Gina Beck smiles sweetly while showing Kate’s initiative, Ian Virgo handles Marlow’s various confusions with pointed comic detail. And Beverley Klein’s rural grande dame is the cream on the cake, fruitfully milking her every moment.
Tony Lumpkin: Jack Shalloo.
Bridget: Lila Clements.
Patsy: Harriet Oughton.
Diggory: Samuel Martin.
Dick Hardcastle: David Burt.
Dorothy Hardcastle: Beverley Klein.
Kate Hardcastle: Gina Beck.
Constance Neville: Gemma Sutton.
Bet Bouncer: Lauren Storer.
Charles Marlow: Ian Virgo.
George Hastings: Dylan Turner.
Stingo: Greg Herst.
Sir James Marlow: David Alder.
Director: Lotte Wakeham.
Designer: Samal Blak.
Lighting: Christopher Nairne.
Orchestrations/Musical Director: Tom Attwood.
Choreographer: Tim Jackson.
Costume: Karen Frances.
Assistant director: Josh Seymour.
Assistant musical director: Harriet Oughton.