book by Neil Simon lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager music by Marvin Hamlisch.

Queen’s Theatre Billet Lane RM11 1QT To 30 March 2013.
Tue-Sat 8pm Mat 14, 23 March 2.30pm.
Audio-described/BSL Signed 23 Mar 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 20min One interval.

TICKETS: 01708 443333.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 13 March.

Colourful and manipulatively happy show.
This is smart work, Manhattan-style. Everything, emotions, predicaments included, is on the surface. Nothing ever delves deeper than a consciously-crafted Neil Simon wisecrack can convey. And Simon does them incredibly well. He has a laugh for every occasion, then knows exactly when to have things move on. It’s a supremely professional job that leaves everyone happy, if not fulfilled. You want fulfilment, there’s Endgame. You want happiness, there’s this.

Of course it comes with the appearance of some depth, in the form of sentimental sadness. Simon knows when upsets will have us rooting for his two characters, he an established Broadway composer, she an aspiring lyricist. Of course they get together and not only over a five-bar stave – though there’s one, filled with a decorative array of quavers scrolling ‘cello-like behind them in Nancy Surman’s spare yet colourful set.

Naturally, they quarrel. A perfect pair have to have differences and each carries an obstacle to the relationship we’re all rooting for. He’s tied to his keyboard; his music is everything. Theatre for her is a closet of cast-off clothes from past productions. She’s tied to Leon, her needy ex-lover, never seen but ever-present. There are the inevitable separations – an attempt at a first weekend together goes wrong when Vernon loses his way once outside New York and she, ever-happy but not altogether together, forces her way into the wrong house.

Matt Devitt’s production catches the warmth and humour, though Dan de Cruz has the appearance and voice of a still-excitable late teenager, missing the assurance of ate successful composer (the best, he says, though, referring to Sondheim, he’ll accept “Steve’s” OK). It makes his fall into reality and mutuality less steep. Sarah Mahony catches the happy-go-lucky Sonia, though her temper’s limited; there are brushes rather than storms between them.

Star of the show, though, is Mark Dymock’s lighting, its colours and patterns washing the stage, before creating a brilliant white space for Sonia’s big solo before steadily retuning her to the recording studio around. It’s a brilliant depiction of the more intense world to which performance can carry someone.

Vernon: Dan de Cruz.
Sonia: Sarah Mahony.

Director: Matt Devitt.
Designer: Nancy Surman.
Lighting: Mark Dymock.
Sound: Andy Smart.
Choreographer: Donna Berlin.

2013-03-14 09:04:03

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