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Posts Tagged ‘Sasi Strallen’

The Union Theatre’s pre-eminence as the home of  musical theatre continues with this very welcome revival of a preposterous & implausible but delightful & charming 60’s American homage / spoof of the golden age of 30’s film musicals.

In the first act, we’re on the stage of a broadway theatre where final rehearsals are underway for that night’s opening of a show starring the legendary Mona Kent. Stage struck Ruby arrives by bus from Utah and gets to replace the chorus girl whisked away by a rich punter. Newly enlisted sailor and songwriting wannabe Dick (from the same town in Utah!) then turns up and gets a song accepted by predatory Mona and falls in love with Ruby. Fellow sailor Lucky arrives looking for Dick (!) and falls in love with fellow chorus girl Joan. The demolition of the theatre means the show can’t open but the sailors have a plan – and we’ve only been going 50 minutes!

In the second half, the show must go on, so it’s staged on the navy ship, Mona is seasick so Ruby gets her big break and a star is born. We end with the triple wedding of Dick & Ruby, Lucky & Joan and Mona with the ship’s captain, an old flame…..and we’ve only been going another 50 minutes in real-time and only a day in stage time!

It has an excellent score beautifully sung and played well by just two pianos (MD: Richard Bates) and there are some very funny lines. Kirk Jameson’s revival, with excellent choreography from Drew McOnie, is pitch perfect, balancing the tongue-in-cheek parody with romantic charm. They are lucky to have a stunning cast. It’s great to see Rosemary Ashe on the fringe and she’s every inch the Broadway diva with a booming voice and terrific comic timing. Gemma Sutton and Catriana Sandison are both superb as the girls and Daniel Bartlett and Alan Hunter equally superb as the boys. Ian Mowatt and Anthony Wise provide fine comic cameos as the ship’s captain and theatre director respectively. In an outstanding ensemble there’s another Strallen, Sasi (exactly how many are there?!) and two impressive professional debuts from recent Arts Ed graduates Matt Gillett and Joshua Tonks.

It’s a delightful, charing and funny evening that is unmissable for any lover of musical theatre.

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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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