book by Douglas Carter Beane lyrics & music by Jeff Lynne & John Farrar.
Southwark Playhouse (The Large) 77-85 Newington Causeway SE1 6BD To 21 November 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Runs 2hr 10min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: William Russell 2 October.
Gorgeous silk purse from sow’s ear
Paul Warwick Griffin’s slick production of this camp Broadway musical is unalloyed delight. It is based on the 1980 film which starred Olivia Newton John and Gene Kelly and was considered both stupendously bad and to have sounded the death knell of the Hollywood musical.
But it had one redeeming feature – the songs by Jeff Lynne and John Farrar. The musical possibilities persuaded Douglas Carter Beane to resurrect it on stage.
The plot, such as it is, tells how the muse Clio visiting earth falls in love with a mortal; by treating it with the reverence it deserves he transformed it from paste to a jewel of high camp.
The setting is Venice Beach, Clio (Carly Anderson) and her six sisters have come to town where she meets struggling artist Sonny (Samuel Edwards), tells him she is called Kira and is Australian – cue for Olivia Newton John jokes – and they fall in love.
Terrific songs, roller-skating, athletic dance routines, at least two suspiciously muscled sisters, Thalia and Terpsichore (Nicholas Duncan and Joel Burman), and some really good wise-cracks follow.
If there is a flaw it is not that the music is played very loudly indeed – this kind of disco music should be belted out at ear-splitting levels – but that the sound designer has failed to direct the sound evenly round the theatre.
The audience sit round three sides and very good lines get lost as the sound system repeatedly directs the actor’s voices to only one side of the three. This should be remedied if possible because it is a sin to miss any of the goings-on.
Carly Anderson is gloriously sexy as Kira/Clio, and Samuel Edwards suitably hunky and dim as Sonny. Nigel Barber lends a touch of gravitas as Zeus and the owner of Xanadu, the beachfront building Sonny wants to turn into an arts centre and roller disco.
Alison Jear is splendidly malevolent as the jealous Melpomene and the rest of the cast provide impeccable support. And when Clio goes back to Olympus, Pegasus appears flying round the sky – it is that kind of show.
Sonny: Samuel Edwards.
Terpsichore: Joel Burman.
Thanlia: Nicholas Duncan.
Euterpe: Emily McGougan.
Erato: Micha Richardson.
Melpomene: Alison Jear.
Calliope: Lizzy Connolly.
Kira/Clio: Carly Anderson.
Danny/Zeus: Nigel Barber.
Director: Paul Warwick Griffin.
Designer: Morgan Large.
Lighting: Ben Cracknell.
Sound: Richard Brooker.
Musical Director: Andrew Bevis.
Choreographer: Nathan M Wright.