Posts Tagged ‘Dorothy Reynolds’

This Julian Slade / Dorothy Reynolds show shouldn’t really work in 2017. A frothy concoction from 1954 with twee music, a preposterous tale involving a piano with magical properties and visitors from Planet Z and characters that could be in a living museum. Yet it does. Somehow it makes you smile, you find yourself laughing with it rather than at it, and at times you giggle uncontrollably.

It begins with a graduation, as Jane & Timothy leave university, with a plan to meet in the park the following week. He’s under pressure to get a job and is despatched to meet various uncles, and she’s under pressure to find a husband, with a party arranged to forward this plan. A tramp pays them to look after his piano, which they discover makes people dance uncontrollably. They decide to stay with the piano, a mute companion and each other, though they are pursued by the police and the government, who want to stop all this fun. Add in spies (one an uncle), the attempted blackmail of a government minister (uncle) in an Egyptian-themed night club and the arrival of the spaceship from Planet Z (with uncle) and you have the ingredients for a cheesy but tongue-in-cheek and infectious romp.

Designer Catherine Morgan has fitted out the Union with fake turf and put the band onto a sort of bandstand, and Mike Lees has provided excellent costumes. Bryan Hodgson’s nifty staging is complimented by some very witty choreography by Joanne McShane. It’s an excellent cast, many of them recent Guildford graduates. Lowri Hamer and Laurie Denham are charming leads, with the former in fine voice, but the latter sometimes too quiet. James Gulliford and Francesca Pim are also a fine pairing as friends Nigel and Fiona. Tom Norman and Stephen Patrick have a cracking scene together as dancing PC and Inspector, the latter also shining as the night club manager. Maeve Byrne almost steals the show twice, as nightclub performer Asphynxia and a woman from outer space.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to see it again, for the third time in twenty-one years, so I didn’t book at first, but I’m glad I changed my mind. Great fun.

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Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to see this on the same day as Love Story, though I booked this first. Initially, the contrast of silly and frivolous with the afternoon’s deeply moving was too much, but I have to say it won me over – largely because of a superb ensemble which sang Julian Slade & Dorothy Reynolds 1957 score gloriously.

It’s a sort of Carry On In The Channel, set in Jersey and another fictitious and very isolated channel island called Terhou (sounds more South Pacific than English Channel) which gets few visitors and likes it that way. The arrival of heiress Geraldine escaping the paparazzi (in 1957!) is initially welcome as it solves the problem that they’ve run out of young ladies to be Independence Day Queen (you can only do it once) but eventually causes havoc when the island’s Lord Paul Postumous (!) foolishly brings her suitor Jack and journalist Ivy back from his brief trip to Jersey. Lord Paul’s nephew falls for Geraldine, Lord Paul for journalist Ivy and all of the island girls for Jack. Oh, and there’s a sub-plot romance between the more mature Miss Catermole and Mr Potter the bailiff – and it ends with three happy couples; obviously.

It’s silly stuff but it’s got a score as light as air and this cast sing it terrifically – solo, in pairs & groups and most brilliantly as an ensemble – with solo piano accompaniment from James Church. There’s no set to speak of (it’s performed on the set of the Finborough’s other current play) but Stewart Nicholls’ manages to make it work, marshaling 17 performers in this tiny space, also with a light touch. Daft and frothy, but a lot of fun in these more than capable hands. The evening was made surreal by the reunion of a group of friends in the audience who had put on the show so long ago that not all of them could remember which part they played – but remembered enough to occasionally sing along!

These lost musical evenings at the Finborough really are indispensable.

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I wasn’t convinced I wanted to see this daft and somewhat twee show again, having seen a major revival 15 years ago, but blogs by the West End Whingers, Ought to be Clowns & Web Cowgirl convinced me to give it another try.

You’re presented with a scroll as you enter the auditorium for the degree ceremony which constitutes the first scene. There’s much jolly bonhomie from the actors in character as they show you to your seats – this could be completely naff, but they get away with it. What unfolds is without doubt the silliest book of any musical ever, but with lots of tongues in cheeks, you do get wrapped up and whisked away in a cloak of infectious silliness and nostalgic charm for a period you didn’t even live through!

Graduates Jane and Timothy’s journey involves a magical piano, a nightclub called Cleopatras and a flying saucer! The traverse staging, on Astroturf inside a bright yellow curtained space with a band at one end, is very effective and the performances are excellent throughout. Given it’s an opera company – Tete a Tete – the musical standards are high.

Salad Days takes you to another time and another world of musical theatre. Somewhat sickly songs like ‘Oh look at me, I’m dancing’  and ‘We’re looking for a piano’ ought to make you squirm in 2011, but somehow they make you smile. It doesn’t change your life, it’s memory will fade, but it was fun and worth a second look.

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