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Posts Tagged ‘Fenton Gray’

This is the archetypal Broadway 50’s musical comedy. Ella, at the  Susanswerphone messaging service does much more than take messages (….NO, this is 50’s Broadway….) – she’s a confidante and agony aunt and provides wake-up calls and instructions & advice from Santa. The main story revolves around her help for a playwright fast going off the rails, with a farcical sub-plot of a police investigation of the activities of the answering service itself. It’s one of those shows where you can leave your brain at the door and get lost in the fun and charm of it all. You even get a couple of standards for your money – Just in Time and The Party’s Over – but the song Bells are Ringing (for me and my girl) that you can now hear in your head isn’t from this show!

In recent years, the pocket-size Union Theatre has given us a trio of Sondheims and a trio of new musicals, a couple of all-male G&S operettas (with a third in the pipeline) and now a second Broadway musical comedy revival to follow its excellent Pyjama Game. There’s not much of a set, just a period switchboard and a few other props. They use the space sideways this time, which makes for a wider playing area. The costumes are good (though Adam Rhys-Charles really must press his first act suit – you can see everything in the three-row Union seating!). Peter McCarthy’s fine arrangements (particularly for Just in Time) and his small band made a big sound worthy of a big band.

The choreography of Alistair David, aided by the sideways configuration, is superb and the company dance sequences are particularly thrilling. There are some excellent performances – Corinna Powlesland is spot-on as Susan and well matched by Fenton Gray as her small-time crook boyfriend Sandor and there’s even a Strallen in the cast, this one called Sasi (how many of them are there and do all their names begin with S?). Gary Milner is an excellent leading man, but it’s the star turn (and for once I really mean STAR) from Anna-Jane Casey which takes your breath away. She combines innocence, naivety, kindness and cheekiness with bucketloads of charm and sweeps you away on a tide of euphoric smiles. Not only can she act, but she dances as if on air and sings beautifully. This really is one of those perfect performances you catch only occasionally. Delicious!

I’d love to think this will have another life, as the ‘sold out’ signs have been up at the Union for some time. If you’ve been, you now how I feel. If you haven’t, may your luck change – and you’d better book for Iolanthe now; I am.

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