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Posts Tagged ‘Alex Cardall’

This is the third musical I’ve seen over the last seven days, and on a way smaller scale than the other two, but I enjoyed it just as much. It’s a two-hander RomCom, a debut for its writers Jim Barne & Kit Buchan, and a tribute to those that have nurtured them.

Dougal arrives in New York City on Christmas Eve for the wedding of the dad he’s never met; he deserted his mum and moved there before he was born. The bride’s sister Robin is there to greet him. He’s a movie buff, so he’s bubbling with excitement to be in such an iconic city, and to at last meet his dad. Robin is busy, somewhat jaded and a bit unhappy, and clearly finds Dougal irritating. His hopes of a sightseeing companion for his short 36-hour visit are quashed, but he tags along as Robin undertakes wedding tasks for her sister. She begins to fall for the charms of this cheeky, chirpy young Brit and they begin a whirlwind tour of the city that becomes more touristy, more Christmasy and more romantic as the evening and night progresses. Robin is melting as the snow starts to fall, but Dougal heads to the church on his own as Robin has a very good reason to give the wedding a miss.

The seventeen songs are excellent, the lyrics particularly good at adding thoughts and emotions to the narrative. I found the song Dad very moving, a simple but lovely number where Dougal sings about what he missed by not having a dad. There’s a very original touch when they row, with accompaniment added by the band. It’s all beautifully sung, and played well by Grant Walsh’s trio. I loved Alex Cardall’s characterisation of Dougal; you fall for his charms within minutes of meeting him and by the end you adore him. Tori Allen-Martin navigates Robin’s melt really well, and is a very authentic New Yorker, who you also grow to love. Tim Jackson’s staging and Amy Jane Cook’s design bring an intimacy and a flow and it fits this theatre like a glove.

A lovely show. Well worth the trip to Northampton. Surely to have a life beyond this short run, but catch it there before the end of November if you can.

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It’s eight years since the Menier transferred their superb revival of this show to the West End, so enough time has lapsed for me to want to see it again, though with a tinge of sadness in the week its book writer Neil Simon died. The Watermill’s revival is in its customary actor-musician style, with a touch of updating for good measure.

Based on a Fellini film, the adaptation by Simon, with music by Cy Coleman and lyrics by Dorothy Fields, tells the story of dance-hall hostess Charity and her search for love. It starts with her being dumped, and almost drowned, by then boyfriend Charlie, before a one-night stand with Italian film star Vittorio and a two-week infatuation with nerdy accountant Oscar. It’s one of the few musical comedies without a happy ending.

The wonderful Gemma Sutton plays Charity with a combination of dippy charm, naivety, gullibility and eternal optimism, more vulnerable than usual, and she’s sensational. Her fellow hostesses try to inject some realism to prevent her exploitation, but her rosy specs are irremovable. Even though they are ‘taxi dancers’ (present day lap dancers), there’s a strong suggestion that ‘clients’ can pay more for additional services, which must have been a bit shocking when it premiered fifty years ago, though its also suggested Charity is more innocent than the rest.

The story seems a bit thinner this time around, particularly in the first half, but the score is packed with great songs – Big Spender, If My Friends Could See Me Now, There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This, The Rhythm of Life – and they are sung and played very well. As usual, they work wonders with the small space. Diego Pitarch’s design is all black, white and red, with heart-shaped arches that light up and a small video screen at the back to signpost locations like Central Park. The costumes are more contemporary than 60’s.

The rest of the cast is excellent, with an auspicious professional debut from Alex Cardall as Oscar, and another from Tomi Ogbaro as the bass playing head of the hippy dope-smoking Rhythm of Life Church. In Paul Hart’s production, they all play instruments, in brass-dominant arrangements, and the hostesses as showgirls moving whilst playing saxes and trumpets prove irresistible.

Another treat at the lovely Watermill.

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