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Posts Tagged ‘Nova Skipp’

I saw a preview of the Broadway production of this show in 2012, with soon to be West End bound Matthew Broderick and the recent Broadway / West End star of The King & I, Kelli O’Hara. I predicted a big hit, but it only ran for 15 months and never crossed the Atlantic, so its down to Upstairs at the Gatehouse to give us the first London look, as they did with Nine to Five fifteen months ago, which is now getting a West End outing.

It’s actually a Gershwin compilation musical, like Crazy For You, with a fairly daft but funny book by Joe DiPietro based on material by P G Wodehouse & Guy Bolton. It’s the days of prohibition and bootleggers are using the Long Island seaside mansion of Jimmy Winter’s mother to stash their booze while the family aren’t in residence. Twice married Jimmy embarks on a third with Senator Evergreen’s daughter Eileen, an exponent of modern dance, and goes home for his honeymoon, so the bootleggers have to don disguises and pose as staff. From here, just about everyone falls in love with someone so that we have four couplings by the end, almost two-thirds of the characters!

Director John Plews and choreographer Grant Murphy work wonders in the small space and Chris Poon’s band sounds way bigger than a sextet, doing full justice to Gershwin’s songs and incidental music, also pinched from his back catalogue. The score includes standards like Someone to watch over me, Let’s call the whole thing off, ‘S wonderful, Fascinating rhythm and the title song of course. The musical standards are as high as the dancing ones, and you can’t help getting swept away by the energy, enthusiasm and sense of fun.

Alistair So is a real find, an outstanding romantic lead with a great voice. His leading lady was ill, so assistant choreographer Amy Perry stepped in. She obviously knew the dances, but had to learn the songs and carried her script. She’s a performer too and her vocals were excellent. A really triumphant stand-in performance. Charlotte Scally is a hysterical delight as squeaky Eileen, her contemporary dance sequences bringing the house down. Then there are two terrific veterans of musical theatre just as at home on West End stages – David Pendlebury as Cookie and Nova Skipp as the senator’s sister Estonia. It’s as fine a supporting cast as you’d wish for.

It might not have Broadway production values, but I think I had a lot more fun above a pub in Highgate than at the Imperial Theatre on Broadway at a fraction of the price. Try and catch the last few performances if you can.

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London seems to have more Christmas shows than ever this year, so here’s the antidote – a lovely home-grown new musical without the tiniest fragment of tinsel in sight. Tom Lees & Ray Rackham, London Theatre Workshop’s Artistic Directors, have written, produced, directed and MD’d a hugely impressive show.

Apartment 40C is in New York City and newly graduated Eddie & Katie discover it has been leased to both of them. The fighting doesn’t last long before they agree to share it, and more. Their older selves Ed & Kate, now successful lawyer and journalist respectively are still living there when they arrive at a turning point in their relationship. The even more mature Edward & Kathryn, now divorced, meet back at the apartment where their son has been living at another turning point in their lives.

The show moves back and forth in time between these three life-changing moments and as it does you unravel the story for yourself; I very much liked the jigsaw effect this creates. There are often more than one pairing on stage, with an occasional glance between an older and younger self. The space doesn’t need much of a makeover to pass for an apartment and given the resources of this small company there’s a real authenticity to the set-up. I really liked Tom Lees songs and arrangements, played by himself on piano, with others on cello and violin, and Ray Rackham’s book and lyrics tell the couple’s story well.

They’ve got a uniformly excellent cast. Alex James Ellison & Alex Crossley (an impressive professional début) invest Eddie & Katie with youthful energy and optimism. Drew Weston, who seems to be a new arrival from Australia, and Lizzie Wofford, particularly impressive playing older than her age, are both outstanding as Ed & Kate (four years ago, before her training at Mountview, Lizzie was a terrific Mrs Lovett in NYMT’s Sweeney Todd https://garethjames.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/nymt-sweeney-todd). Peter Gerald & Nova Skipp provide both maturity and musical theatre experience as the mature Edward & Kathryn.

I’m not sure why they chose to set this in NYC, given that its a new British musical – perhaps it seems more plausible there? I’m also not sure how we get from a (controlled rent) apartment to an owned one, but these are minor points in a major achievement. If you are interested in musical theatre or sick of Christmas fare, or both, you really shouldn’t miss this lovely show.

 

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