book and lyrics by Brian Mitchell & Joseph Nixon music by Brian Mitchell.

Mercury Theatre Balkerne Gate CO1 1PT To 9 November.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat 2.30pm.
Audio-described 9 Nov 2.30pm (+ Touch Tour 1pm).
Captioned 7 Nov 7.30pm.
Post-show Discussion 6 Nov.
Seniors’ Free Talk 31 Oct 1.30pm.
TICKETS: 01206 573948.

then Derby Theatre Theatre Walk Westfield Shopping Centre DE1 2NF 13-23 November 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Thu, Sat 2.30pm.
TICKETS: 01332 593939.

Runs 2hr 15min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 October.

A would-be sharp farce with blunt teeth and pleasant music.
After a tough, triumphant pairing of 20th-century Germany plays, the Mercury allows its audience an easier-going evening with this strange little musical.

At least, it has a lot of songs. But they’re all brief, and very rarely move towards the extended routines ‘musical’ implies. Which would be fine if they were pithy comments on the action. But the action is so inane that comment on it is both impractical and pointless.

Set, for some reason, in a failing 1960s English advertising agency, the potential of the situation is lost. The boss, Fernsby, is just returning from America but what he brings back is a superficial stereotype of US confidence. There’s nothing of the country that had recently been described in Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders. where politics and commerce were seeping messages behind the consciousness – nor indeed the English scene described by J B Priestley’s long 1960s novel The Image Men.

Nor is there much sign of the way advertising was beginning a journey towards its modern mind-influencing sophistication. That’s suggested in the final number, where various scoundrels find patriotic imagery their last refuge. But it has little to do with the preceding two hours.

Which has been a clumsy farce, overtly contrived and stereotype-laden. There’s no real humour because there’s no reality, merely a series of what would be plot twists if there were a credible plot to twist. (Incidentally, Bernard Levin worked for the Mail in the 1960s, not The Times)

A very few moments hit – the millionaire’s wife inexplicably falling for the uncharismatic Fernsby yet unable to divorce her husband when his fortune fails as the alimony would be so much less. And, in a look ahead to retro fashions, the irony that a failed rebranding can be salvaged by looking backwards.

It’s a pity because the cast work hard. And because of the pleasant, individual melodies and instrumental phrasing, often helped by a scoring which includes wind instruments with guitars, bass and keyboard.

Some found moments amusing, and it might be what a section of Colchester is looking for. But it’s not something I’d shout about.

Mrs Campbell/Peregrine: Julie Atherton.
Penhall/Abramowitz: Daniel Boys.
Fernsby: Justin Edwards.
Ensemble/Musicians: Stacey Ghent, Benjamin Stratton..
Lassiter/Migraine: Mel Giedroyc.
Campbell/Donaldson: David Mountfield.

Director: Daniel Buckroyd.
Designer: Sara Perks.
Lighting: Philip Gladwell.
Sound: Tom Lishman.
Musical Director: Tom Kelly.
Musical Supervisor: Richard Reeday.
Musical Arrangers: Stephen Wrigley, Brian Mitchell.
Choreographer: Sally Napier.

2013-10-29 10:37:18

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