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Posts Tagged ‘Andrew C Wadsworth’

This musical by Frank Loesser came ten years after his classic Guys & Dolls and is the only other one of his seven shows that have stood the test of time. It seems to attract star names – Matthew Broderick in the 1995 Broadway revival and Daniel Radcliffe in the 2011 Broadway revival. This less starry but hugely entertaining revival is in the lovely Wiltons Music Hall, London’s last.

Window cleaner J Pierrepont Finch reads the book that gives the show its title and sets about using every trick in it to get a job and rise through the ranks. He gets the job by namedropping, then gets promotions through humility, sycophancy and clever mirroring the President’s background and interests, all the while outsmarting his nephew Bud Frump. He ends up leapfrogging the President himself to become Chairman and it ends with a hint of White House ambition, which is impeccable timing for a 56-year-old show! It’s a good score, with some well known numbers like I Believe In You and Brotherhood Of Man, played well by an nine-piece band under Ben Ferguson. Loesser’s lyrics are sharp and witty and there’s a very funny book by Guys & Dolls collaborator Abe Burrows plus Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert.

Director Benji Sperring brought a great sense of fun to the very different Toxic Avenger last year at Southwark Playhouse and he does the same here, bringing three of that show’s terrific cast too. Wilton’s multi-level stage is used to great effect in Mike Lees’ design, with a two-story ‘corporate wall’ backdrop with elevator doors on the bottom level and the band on top. His colourful costumes make you smile. Marc Pickering is terrific as Finch, with a cheeky grin and glint in his eye, illuminated after every coup. His Toxic Avenger colleagues Hannah Grover and Lizzii Hills are excellent as his love interest and the President’s bit on the side respectively. It’s another show, like Promises Promises, also at Southwark last year, with a Personnel Manager (!) and Matthew Whitby is outstanding in this role. Daniel Graham does a fine turn as the spoilt brat nephew with a propensity for tantrums and Richard Emerson gives three great cameos, despite the dodgy wig in the third. It’s great to see such a seasoned musical performer as Andrew C Wadsworth impressing as JB. Geri Allen, Maisy Bowden and Nuwan Hugh Perera make up this small but very talented cast.

It isn’t up there with Guys and Dolls, but it’s worthy of revival. I last saw it in Chichester twelve years ago, but I missed the Walthamstow Rose & Crown Theatre production three years ago. I can’t recall another London production in my theatre-going lifetime. This was only the fifth performance so it was a touch ragged (particularly the scene changes) and the broad style won’t be to everyone’s taste, particularly more conservative musical theatre lovers, but I thought it was great fun in a great venue.

 

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I was lucky to be working in the North-West in the summer of 1986 when this show had it’s world premiere. With the music of Howard Goodall’s first show The Hired Man still ringing in my ears, off I went to Oldham Coliseum. The cast were a bunch of then unknowns, many of who went on to become musical theatre royalty – Maria Friedman, Jenna Russell, Clare Burt, Andrew C Wadsworth….. I loved the show and the following year I was on the Olivier Awards panel when it re-opened the Playhouse Theatre in London, substantially re-cast. I was expecting to lead the campaign to nominate it as Best Musical, but it was a different show and for some reason had nothing like the impact it had in Oldham. I’ve never entirely understood why.

It was 24 years before its second London outing, this time at Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre (in a room above a pub in Walthamstow), and it proved to be a delightful chamber piece. So here we are another three years on and it’s the third in the Union Theatre’s Howard Goodall Season, with a production whose musical standards may well be the best. It sounds gorgeous.

Set in the the second world war in the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), the ten ‘girlfriends’ are carrying out admin duties, parachute packing and tea making. We have just two airmen representing the RAF and one of them is caught in a love triangle with best friends Amy and Louise (the other one is trying hard to get laid). The former is toff Guy and the latter Welsh boy Gareth (co-incidence). Everything is told in song – there’s next to no dialogue – which often makes it feel more of a song cycle than a musical. The lack of a good book is its flaw (according to Goodall, Richard Curtis no less added to his research notes with ‘a rambling inventive script’) but the music is glorious.

The vocals here really are beautiful, in solos and ensembles with overlapping melodies. You don’t often here ten women’s voices in harmony and it’s a lovely sound, but the mens contributions, equally good vocals, provide some necessary colour and contrast. The accompaniment of two keyboards, winds and double bass under MD Freddie Tapner ( a professional debut!) is also excellent. The singers and players all do full justice to Goodall’s score and they look like they are having the time of their lives. Bronagh Lagan’s simple staging, with inventive movement and choreography by Iona Holland, suits the piece well. Nik Corall’s design focuses more on costumes than set and you know you’re in the forties by the girls hairdos alone!

It’s great to see this year’s Sondheim Student Performer Award winner Corrine Priest, who made an excellent contribution to the society’s ‘God’ revue, making such a terrific impression in the leading role like Amy, and Perry Lambert is an equally impressive the other leading lady Lou. Both of the boys, Tom Sterling and Michael Ress (a real Welshman, thankfully!), have exceptional voices and act brilliantly. There isn’t a weak link in this young, hugely talented cast.

Though I missed the first show because of my travels, this has been a fabulous Howard Goodall season, so I will end by placing my order for 2015…….Dear Sasha & Howard, the London premiere of Two Cities, please. Thank you. Love, Gareth.

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You’d be forgiven for thinking the proscenium arch which helps create the Criterion Theatre in the blitz was a permanent feature of this theatre. This Noel (Me & My Girl) Gay show, set onstage and backstage at a wartime radio show, is so ‘at home’ here in Tom Rogers design.

I was never that keen on Me & My Girl (too twee for my taste) and the most recent outing of this show in the West End was mediocre fare. The Watermill has become such a trusted musicals friend of late, that this didn’t put me off (as it didn’t Copacabana last year) and how right I was. Director Caroline Leslie’s first musical for the Watermill is as good as any that have gone before in their illustrious recent history.

The radio show has a new producer, keen to enforce the rules about what can and can’t be broadcast. The MC / comic / scriptwriter regularly flouts them with his sauciness and double entendres. The ventriloquist doesn’t turn up, which means the producer has to become performer. The guest star is a Hollywood hearthrob, old flame of the MC’s girlfriend, whose arrival threatens that relationship. Oh so simple but with a very funny book by Abi Grant and some fine tunes.

As always here, the actors double-up as musicians, so we get lady saxophonists and an eleven piece ukulele band; the musical standards under MD Paul Herbert are outstanding. The Grosvenor Girls give us those classic forties harmonies and look gorgeous in liberty print frocks and period hairdos and we have Amy the forces sweetheart. There’s a comic number, Ali Baba’s Camel, with everyone dressed in arab robes and fez’s and the song Run Rabbit Run! The smile never left my face.

Many of the lines are corny beyond belief and the double entendres are often familiar, but when they are delivered by Gary Wilmot they are absolutely delicious. He’s the archetypal music hall entertainer who has exceptional comic timing and bucketloads of charm. His hapless sidekick Wilfred is played to perfection by Julian Littman. Andrew C. Wadsworth morphs brilliantly from ‘Can’t Do ‘grump to a stage-struck and unlikely star. Anna-Jane Casey (for it is she!) is of course as fine a romantic lead as you could wish for and her chemistry with Wilmot is key to the show’s success.

This is my ninth Watermill musical and the fifth consecutive one at their lovely home base. It has now become as much of a summer fixture as the Proms, the Globe and the Open Air Theatre. As the show’s best tune says – they’re publishing the sun.

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