Jerry Herman's second most famous flop, second only to the wonderful Mack and Mabel, this is an odd odd piece. It's like a panto or children's tv show version of an absurdist play, imagine Sesame Street taking on Pirandello choreographed by Fosse and you might come close. I could blather about how odd the whole thing is all day but instead I'll just review the elements.
The ensemble cast is impressive, large! At times when they are all on stage together they can look cramped but it is lovely to see such a bunch of talent on stage. I'm guessing they must be making a loss on this, looking at the size of the cast and orchestra. The set is nice, it captures the postcard romanticism that the show oozes. The large orchestra makes a grandiose sound, probably the best this little theatre has heard for a long time!
Betty Buckley plays the lead role with a relaxed confidence that only comes from starring in a plethora of hits and flops. She is a big star for such a small venue and if I didn't know better I'd imagine she had been conned. "Betty darling, it's a wonderful venue, right on The Strand" much like the imagined conversation John Leguizamo might have had when he played there.
Stuart Matthew Price has a lovely singing voice, fact, he was outstanding in the Southwark Playhouse Mack and Mabel but he certainly isn't a young romantic lead. His immediate lover Katy Treharne (incidentally a doppelgänger for a young Debra Stephenson) is perfectly pleasant it's just a shame she didn't have more material to play with.
Palestinian Billy Elliot, Ayman Safia plays the mute, personally I don't like mimes, clowns etc but my friend who accompanied me does and assured me he was rather excellent. Certainly his bum has been the topic of much discussion on various forums and he certainly wiggles his posterior around as if playing up to this in act 2.
The evil bankers (boo hiss) were all fantastic, I could have watched them be dastardly all evening. Really all of the actors were doing their best with very little. Stop press, I didn't even hate Paul Nicholas!! I grew up out of London so was subjected to his production company touring tacky versions of popular shows with him miscast in the lead in each. This led me to be anti-Nicholas but in this he was very charismatic, maybe sewer man in his niche!
This was directed and choreographed by celebrated choreographer Gillian Lynne and choreographed it was! Not one line of dialogue escapes a flourish or a shimmy. My personal favourite moment was the finale which seemed to be a tick list of every musical theatre dance cliche in existence! It finished with a kick line!
Overall this piece is like the majority of the audience who attended it, antique. Definitely more of a collectors piece than a must see show.
Thinking about it on the way home I thought that if they had treated it as an absurdist play and done something clever with it then it could have been a powerful statement on memory and loss of beauty but as it stands it's just odd and incongruous.