by Frank Loesser and George Abbott
Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park.
In rep to 16 August
Runs 2 hours 20 minutes. One interval.
TICKETS 020 7486 2431
Review Timothy Ramsden 1 August 2001
Director Ian Talbot proves musicals can be a summer night’s dream in the Park
The delightful Open Air Theatre offers a rare chance to taste this musicalised Charley’s Aunt. The farce is clearly recognisable but refitted, losing one of the Oxford students in love with a pair of ripping young ladies whose maidenly modesty goes with a will to outwit the guardian who can veto their marriages. If anything, the change tightens the comedy. And thanks to the magic of improbable plotting, the action’s suddenly whisked away to Brazil (yes, where the nuts come from) for a colourful, Carmen Miranda inspired act one finale.
The music is attractive, the script witty and the production wittier still. Talbot knows when to push to excess and when to rein in; barely a moment passes without comic value.
Cameron Blakely as the cross-dressing Charley, who impersonates his own aunt for his own ends, is magnificent, waddling and stomping with masculine gait in female guise. In one of Abbott’s adapted scenes, ‘she’ sits in a roomful of women listening to girlie jokes before Blakely pulls himself up midway through his own lad’s tale, his face exploding with sudden realisation of the company.
Lottie Mayor radiates pallid elegance as his girl Amy and the younger generation are offset splendidly by Philip York as the sort of cheque-bearing dad any student would want and Christopher Godwin as Spettigue, the guardian from hell. Queuing up behind a bush of a moustache so luxuriant a decent steeplechaser would be proud to have a go at it, Godwin’s features twitch, contort and lunge at any object of his passion or scorn.
Terry Parsons’ designs adorn the evening with pastel make-believe sets from Gothic colleges to the delicate colours of the ladies’ room. Catherine Jayes and band pitch in heartily behind soloists and – this now being Oxford in Commemoration Week – an exultant student chorus.