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Posts Tagged ‘Jack Butterworth’

From the moment the cast tap danced down the aisles onto the stage to Puttin’ on the Ritz, I was in musical theatre heaven. The Mill at Sonning’s Christmas musicals have become a treasured tradition in a very short period of time and waiting two years for this was agony, but it was worth the wait.

The show was made as a film in 1935 and only got on stage ten years ago with the world premiere in the UK, spending 2.5 years in the West End, winning the Olivier Award for Best Musical. When I saw it, I wasn’t that keen; I thought the production was too conservative, like a museum piece, with a wooden lead performance from Tom Chambers (https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/top-hat). This first revival, directed by Jonathan O’Boyle, is much much fresher.

British producer Horace Hardwick brings Broadway star Jerry Danvers to perform in London, where he meets and falls in love with fellow American Dale Tremont. The trouble is she thinks he’s Horace, and is not prepared to entertain a relationship with her friend Madge’s husband. Things become farcical when Jerry & Horace visit Madge in Venice, where Dale has already gone. Dale rushes into marriage with Italian dress designer Alberto before the truth is revealed, but the marriage proves to be invalid and it all ends happily.

Jason Denvir’s art deco design and Natalie Titchener’s costumes are gorgeous. Ashley Nottingham’s choreography is fresh and vibrant with some terrific tap dancing and fabulous ballroom dances for Jerry & Dale. Jack Butterworth shines as Jerry, with Billie-Kay as his love interest, and Paul Kemble is excellent as the much put upon and bashed about Horace. We don’t see much of Tiffany Graves, a favourite of mine, in the first act but she commands the stage as Madge in Act II. There’s a fine Italian comic caricature from Delme Thomas as Alberto, and a delightful set of comedy disguises from Brendan Cull as Horace’s loyal valet Bates.

Irving Berlin’s score includes such gems as Isn’t it a Lovely Day, Cheek to Cheek, Lets Face the Music and Dance and of course the title song (with White Tie and Tails!) brilliantly played by Chris Poon’s hidden band, which I was shocked to discover was only a trio (including him!).

Matthew White & Howard Jacques’ book is it’s weak spot, it’s a touch long, but its a delight nonetheless, as good as anything on a West End stage.

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