book by Blake Edwards revisions by Thom Southerland lyrics by Leslie Bricusse music by Henry Mancini.
Southwark Playhouse (The Vault) Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley Street and Bermondsey Street SE1 2TF To 15 December 2012
Mon–Sat 7.30 pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 407 0234.
Review: William Russell 1 November.
Anything but a drag.
Thom Southerland’s production of this Julie Andrews vehicle – the Broadway show in which she starred was based on her last decent movie for her husband Blake Edwards – is slickly performed and beautifully staged, although at times the plot does lose focus.
Southerland has apparently tampered with the book; there seems to be rather more emphasis on homosexuality than one remembers from the film in the dialogue and the plot sometimes gets lost in the goings on.
As Victoria Grant, the down-and-out English soprano in Paris who discovers she can become a star as a man impersonating a woman, Anna Francolini rises to the challenge and her big numbers are quite dazzling, but she has been landed with a truly terrible short hair wig which sabotages her performance. She never looks like a man when pretending to be Victor, just a wee woman in need of a trip to the hairdresser.
This is a pity because it destroys the delicious predicament of the butch Chicago nightclub owner, King Marchand, nicely done by Matthew Cutts, who falls for Victor. Since Francolini is a woman all the time his falling in love with a man, shock, horror, has to be taken on trust.
Richard Dempsey as Toddy, the gay cabaret artist who befriends Victoria, has a whale of a time, although he is possibly not quite as louche as the role demands. Yet he certainly has the legs for his final appearance – why the last moment does not go to Victoria is odd given that the musical was created to showcase Andrews.
The ensemble are terrific in the dance routines, Jean Perkins is a comic delight as a series of old bags, and Kate Nelson – King’s floozie Norma – does her dumb blonde broad Chicago Illinois number beautifully. It is not a classic musical – Mancini’s score is serviceable rather than memorable – but if it had to be revived this is about as good as it gets. Except for that wig and the awful ill fitting tails the men get to wear.
Victoria Grant: Anna Francolini.
Caroll “Toddy” Todd: Richard Dempsey.
King Marchand: Matthew Cutts.
Norma Cassidy: Kate Nelson.
“Squash” Bernstein: Michael Cotton.
Henry Labisse: Ashley Knight.
Andrew Cassell: Mark Curry.
Hotel Manager/Choreographer/ Sal Andretti: Dafydd Gwyn Howells.
Simone Calisto/Waitress/ Miss Selma/Chambermaid/Renee: Jean Perkins.
Restaurant Manager/Agent/Dancer/Inspector/ Ensemble: Luke Johnson.
Cosmetics President/ Ensemble: Natalie Kent.
Prostitute/Ensemble: Amira Matthews.
Richard/Dancer/Ensemble: Matthew Pennington.
Dancer/ Call Boy/ Stage Manager/ Ensemble: Nick Stuart.
Director: Thom Sutherland.
Designer/Costume: Martin Thomas.
Lighting: Howard Hudson.
Sound: Andrew Johnson.
Musical Director: Joseph Atkins.
Choreographer: Lee Proud.
Hair/Wig/Make-up Designer: Jessica Keil.