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Posts Tagged ‘Geri Allen’

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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