Tag Archives: Christopher Hewitt

42nd Street

42nd Street

★★★★

Upstairs at the Gatehouse

42nd Street

42nd Street

Upstairs at the Gatehouse

Reviewed – 13th December 2019

★★★★

 

“we are swept along by the sheer feelgood factor built into the show, and the absolute precision and fluidity of this all-singing, all-dancing cast”

 

Based on the novel by Bradford Ropes, and the 1933 film of the same name, “42nd Street” is a Jukebox musical of sorts. There were barely five songs in the film, so the show ransacks composer Harry Warren’s and lyricist Al Dubin’s stockpile of numbers they had written for other films at around the same time. Whilst this is a bonus, there are moments when it appears obvious that these musical numbers were not written for this show, and they feel shoehorned into Michael Stewart’s and Mark Bramble’s whimsical and high-spirited script. But this is easily forgiven as we are swept along by the sheer feelgood factor built into the show, and the absolute precision and fluidity of this all-singing, all-dancing cast.

The show focuses on the efforts of celebrated but tough director Julian Marsh to mount the ‘greatest musical on Broadway’ during the Great Depression. He needs a hit and he needs the money, so he hires fading diva, Dorothy Brock, because of the investment pouring from her sugar-daddy. Meanwhile, out-of-town Peggy gate-crashes the auditions stealing hearts, and then the spotlight. An accident takes Dorothy out of the show and the rest is beautifully predictable and heart-warmingly uplifting.

The defining moment of the plot, just before Peggy steps in to save the show, occurs just before interval when the director cancels the performance and urges the audience to collect their refund at box office. A clever theatrical device that sets up the second act; but one that also reflects this particular production. Stylistically it is a show of two halves. Initially the pace is a touch laboured, lacking the light-hearted approach needed to do justice to the throwaway comedy of the dialogue. There are sparks, but the fire doesn’t quite catch. But, boy, the second act comes into its own, as do the cast. “42nd Street” depicts a bygone era, before reality celebrity and social media, when talent was what made a star. And Katie and John Plews have assembled a star-studded team. Each a triple-threat, they work together as a synchronised unit with barely a foot or a note out of place. Simon Adkins’ choreography could easily quickstep down Highgate Hill into the West End.

The show belongs to them all, the ensemble and principals alike. Kate-Anne Fenton’s Peggy is a light under a bushel, humble yet unafraid to be coaxed into living her dream. She is well complemented by the heartthrob voice and looks of Rory Shafford as Billy Lawlor. Tamsin Dowsett pitches just right the understated hamminess of Dorothy Brock, whose broken ankle fractures her career but heals her broken heart. Pulling the strings, though, is Alex Wadham’s commanding performance as the tough yet tender Julian Marsh. Still, the generosity of the leading players leaves the doors wide open for the minor characters to steal any scene they can. Charlie Burt is a ball of energy who lights up the stage, eclipsed only by the dynamic chorus trio of Helen Rose, Jessica Wright and Samantha Noël; their close-knit harmonies strikingly evocative of the period. An age brought even closer to us by Emily Bestow’s razzmatazz fashion parade of costume, and the array of well-known and well-loved showtunes, including ‘Lullaby of Broadway’, ‘We’re In The Money’, ‘Dames’, ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’ and the eponymous ‘42nd Street’.

A little slow off the starting line, we forget by the time we’ve reached the rousing and moving finale. And the show is only at the beginning of its run. Like Marsh says to the blossoming Peggy as she’s seconds out from her Broadway debut; “You’re going out a youngster, but you gotta come back a star”, this show will undoubtedly grow into a sure-fire hit.

 

Reviewed by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Darren Bell

 


42nd Street

Upstairs at the Gatehouse until 26th January

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Nice Work if You Can Get It | ★★★★ | December 2018
Bad Girls The Musical | ★★★ | February 2019
Strike Up The Band | ★★★★ | March 2019
The Marvelous Wonderettes | ★★★★ | April 2019
Flat Out | ★★★★ | June 2019
Agent 14 | | August 2019
Pericles, Prince Of Tyre | ★★★ | August 2019
Working | ★★★★ | September 2019
A Modest Little Man | ★★★★ | October 2019
I Do! I Do! | ★★★½ | October 2019

 

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Twang!! – 4 Stars

Twang!!

Twang!!

Union Theatre

Reviewed – 13th April 2018

★★★★

“strong, lively and highly entertaining performances”

 

Everyone has grown up with the story of Robin Hood and his merry men. He takes from the rich and gives to the poor. He heroically fights, shoots arrows, and can parry with his sword like a pro. Or so we have always thought … In the current adaptation of Lionel Bart’s 1965 spoof musical Twang!! Robin Hood has been reduced to nothing more than a weak and feeble country bumpkin, due to having – as the title suggests – ‘lost his twang’. The show notoriously was a flop when it first came to the West End fifty years ago, however, it has recently been spruced up and reworked by Julian Woolford, giving it a more modern twist and playing on its pantomime-like shenanigans and musical theatre pizzazz with tongue firmly placed in cheek. A complete hoot, this is a riotously camp romp in the woods (or Sherwood forest to be precise), and they know it! Don’t be expecting the likes of a brooding Kevin Costner, think more Bob Fosse, with plenty of men in tights and slapping of thighs.

After rescuing runaway, Much (Joe Rose), from the clutches of the dastardly Sheriff (Christopher Hewitt), Robin Hood (Peter Noden) welcomes him to Nottinghamshire and into his band of merry men. But something is strange about this place. Life in this county is all a song and dance. Literally. Everything is better as a musical, so the merry men tell, or rather, perform with a series of pirouettes, high kicks and jazz hands, for Much. They are more chorus boys than brutish bandits. Things are looking a sorry state for their leader of the pack. Robin has lost his ‘twang’ and can’t be the hero he used to be. Can the beauty and charm of Maid Marion (Kweeva Garvey) help? Held captive by the villainous Prince John (Lewis McBean), can Robin find his courage again to rescue Marion? With the help of his boys, and Marion’s feisty waiting ladies, it’s certain that good will win out.

If someone who cannot stand musicals described why, this production of Twang!! probably includes each and every one of those reasons. It’s cheesy, silly, brash and bursts into song for no reason. But where this new adaptation is clever, is that it embraces it. They know they are a musical cliché, and with the clever one-liners and musical segments that reference well-known Broadway shows, there are plenty of in-jokes for the theatre luvvies in the audience. Not that this alienates the rest, mind you. It is still clear that they are making fun of the genre on a very wide, and obvious, level. Yes, the overall story is rather slight and none of the songs are memorable, however, the strong, lively and highly entertaining performances from most of the cast makes up for it. You have to get into the spirit of proceedings, but once you do, it’s a gay old time.

 

Reviewed by Phoebe Cole

Photography by Anton Belmonté

 


Twang!!

Union Theatre until 5th May

 

 

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