Adrian Fisher and Stuart Barham

Jermyn Street Theatre To 21 August 2011.
Tue-Sat 7.30 pm Mat Sat & Sun 3.30pm.
Runs 2 hr One interval.
Review: William Russell 21 August.

A near perfect little show; well-informed delight.
There is probably no need for another Compilation revue of Noel Coward songs. But the creators of this entertainment had an inspiration – combining Coward with his fellow monarch-of- all-they-surveyed in London musical theatre, Ivor Novello.

It works a treat. Coward’s reputation today rests mainly on his plays and cabaret songs. His musicals have fared less well. Novello is virtually forgotten. As a playwright that is probably no bad thing. But he was much more; he composed a seemingly endless series of hit musicals over some 30 years.

There are good reasons for them being forgotten. The plots are pretty dreadful – liners sink, gypsies have weddings and the population of Ruritania from the royal family downwards warble mightily about love, lilacs, hearts, sacrifice while waltzing away. They were also very lavish and probably would prove prohibitive to revive. But his music is another matter. Songs poured out of him.

The cast of this almost-perfect show do both men full justice. Stuart Barham provides the music at the piano, Adrian Fisher does Coward, not to the life, but justice in songs like ‘A Bar on the Piccolo Marina’, while Charles Howell, Margaret Preece and Isabelle Roeland can deliver the romantic songs, and handle the witty ones.

Fisher and Barham have devised a decent linking script with some good anecdotes, although they do not do Coward’s post-war musicals justice. It wasn’t a hit, but Pacific 1860 starred Mary Martin, re-opened Drury Lane and has some scintillating songs, as does the one he based on The Prince and the Showgirl, surely to be mentioned in Terence Rattigan’s centenary year.

Tim Reed’s elegant set transforms the Jermyn Street stage into somewhere fittingly glamorous for the great men to inhabit. The two were friends and had a lot in common, although we get little about their private lives. The title comes from Coward talking about himself and his friend.

The Jermyn Street week was done as a showcase; one can only hope this delightful little show has an after-life, reminding or informing of the glory that was Ivor and the sophistication that was Noel.

Cast: Adrian Fisher, Stuart Barham, Charles Howell, Margaret Preece, Isabelloe Roeland.

Designer: Tim Reed.
Lighting: Davy Cunningham.

2011-08-22 10:25:23

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