VANITIES, 4Star****, London to 01 October

Book by Jack Heifner Music and Lyrics by David Kirshenbaum
4 Stars****

Trafalgar Studio 2 to 1 October 2016
14 Whitehall, London SW1A 2DY.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.

TICKETS: 0844 871 7632.
Review: William Russell 6 September.

Three smart girls sparkle – it’s all in the performances

Based on Heifner’s play written some forty years ago this hugely entertaining musical version stars three splendid actresses and quite the worst wigs in London. That they rise above what they have been given to wear on their heads is a tribute to their talents. Lesser players would have been destroyed.

The play, which was hugely successful although never performed here, is about three high school chums and what happens to their friendship over the years. It is pretty run of the mill stuff, but Heifner’s dialogue is entertaining and although Kirshenbaum’s score is little more than nicely pastiche of the tunes of the time – the girls’ story starts in 1963 and covers roughly the next twenty years – it serves its purpose and his lyrics are sharp and amusing.

The start is a little sticky, because good though Lizzy Connolly, Ashleigh Gray and Lauren Samuels are, playing 16 year old High School girls is a little bit beyond them. They are just, dare one say, a little bit too mature to get away with it.

However, once they are at college and then married, or not as the case may be, they rise brilliantly to the demands of their roles and the evening takes flight.

Connolly is very funny as Joanne, the virgin fated to be a wife and mother, Lauren Samuels glitters as the bitchy Mary who puts it about and becomes proprietor of a gallery selling erotic art, while Ashleigh Gray is moving as Kathy, the organising one whose post college life falls apart until she discovers she can write.

They all get big numbers to deliver, and they duly deliver. Director Racky Plews has kept things constantly on the move, and she handles the various big moments, like the ill fated reunion when mother of three Joanne gets spectacularly drunk on champagne, metropolitan Mary reveals she is sleeping with her husband, and both of them cannot work out why the would be achiever Joanne is living in a chic apartment which is not her own, with style.

American cinema has mined this friendship seam countless times and Heifner really had nothing fresh to say – the friendships shatter and then are repaired when, sadder, wiser and older, they turn up for the funeral of Mary’s unloved mother back in the town from whence they came. But he says it amusingly.

The real pleasure provided by the evening, however, is watching Connolly, Gray and Samuels deliver the goods in spite of their subsequent wigs which, while still awful, are a little better. They are sexy, funny, can sing, and handle the dialogue perfectly. What is more they are not deterred by the confines of Studio 2 where the audience is almost sitting right on top of them.

Joanne: Lizzy Connolly.
Kathy: Ashleigh Gray.
Mary: Lauren Samuels.

Director & Choreographer: Racky Plews.
Set & Costume Designer: AndrewRiley.
Lighting Designer: Tim Deiling.
Sound Designer: James Nicholson.
Musical Director: Tamara Saringer.
Wigs Designer: Richard Mawbey.

2016-09-07 09:39:43

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