Tag Archives: Henry Brennan

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

★★★★

Union Theatre

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Union Theatre

Reviewed – 8th October 2019

★★★★

 

“a spectacularly over-the-top production and a monumentally good time”

 

Whilst originally a Broadway show (based on the novel by Anita Loos) starring Carol Channing, it’s Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell’s killer pairing in the iconic 1953 film adaptation that’s kept this story live and kicking in the musical canon. Even if you haven’t seen it, you’re sure to be familiar with the glorious fuchsia-scarlet clash in Miss Monroe’s absurdly decadent number, ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’. Much like most of Marilyn’s back-catalogue, the play’s plot isn’t quite besides the point, but it’s third to the big showstopper numbers, and whoever has the daunting task of filling her inimitable shoes.

Lorelai (Abigayle Honeywill), a small town girl with a penchant for diamonds, has her eye set on a sugar daddy to provide her a life-time supply of the sparkling little gems. When her deep-pocketed fiancé (Aaron Bannister-Davies) catches wind of her sordid past, she feels certain that he’ll break off their engagement, so she immediately goes in search of a wealthy replacement, with the help of her friend and ‘chaperone’, Dorothy (Eleanor Lakin).

Honeywill is a perfect Marilyn type: white blonde, strikingly beautiful and a small hip wag away from charming most anyone out of their life savings. Presumably, though, she doesn’t want to be accused of merely playing Marylin rather than the character herself, so in an act of defiance she’s taken on this Lina Lamont-type nasal squeal. Whilst it proves comic at times, it’s not sustainable, particularly when singing. Honeywill has a beautiful singing voice and she can’t resist giving it her all, but she ends up sounding schizophrenic, swapping between a bold, sometimes husky tone to an insufferable screech, and back again.

The principals are all perfectly cast. Lakin’s Dorothy is brilliantly mocking and tongue-in-cheek, and Freddie King, playing Henry Spofford, finds an endearing balance between being charmingly artless and just plain charming. The chorus is brimming with triple threats, and it seems they’ve been as carefully cast as the main characters.

With the amazing Sasha Regan once again directing, the production is quite spectacular. With such a small stage, and the accompanying piano (Henry Brennan) and drums taking up a good chunk of it, it seems dangerous to have so many high-kicking, split-leaping, almost gymnastic dance numbers with a cast of eighteen. But choreographer Zak Nemorin seems determined to present the high production value that this show deserves, regardless of whether the drummer gets disturbingly close to getting kicked in the face on several occasions.

Justin Williams has cleverly pared the set right back so at least there are no tables and chairs for the chorus to break their necks on. Instead, a scarlet red carpet runs dramatically down the back wall and all the way to the front, preparing us for the big number we all know and love. Unfortunately, ‘Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend’ falls a little short when the time comes. The lighting (Hector Murray), though otherwise beautiful executed, on this occasion blacks out the red back-drop and simultaneously washes out Lorelei’s pink gown. The song itself is a little quiet and the only occasion during the entire production when I remember thinking the band could do with a couple of muted trumpets. This is the only disappointing number, and really only because the ‘53 version is so vivid.

What with the set not providing much atmosphere, the costumes (Penn O’Gara) certainly make up for it, with gorgeous silhouettes aplenty and fringe for days.

There’s an amazing amount of songs packed in (music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Leo Robin), and to ensure they’re all covered, the plot in the second half gets a little lost. But as I said, no-one’s here for a gripping twist, or an emotional think piece. We’re here for a spectacularly over-the-top production and a monumentally good time, and ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ delivers in spades.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Mark Senior

 


Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Union Theatre until 26th October

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Around the World in Eighty Days | ★★★ | August 2018
Midnight | ★★★★★ | September 2018
Brass | ★★★★ | November 2018
Striking 12 | ★★★★ | December 2018
An Enemy of the People | ★★ | January 2019
Can-Can! | ★★★★ | February 2019
Othello | ★★★★ | March 2019
Elegies For Angels, Punks And Raging Queens | ★★★ | May 2019
Daphne, Tommy, The Colonel And Phil | | July 2019
Showtune | ★★★★ | August 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Showtune

★★★★

Union Theatre

Showtune

Showtune

Union Theatre

Reviewed – 10th August 2019

★★★★

 

“It’s a delight to see such a young cast take on Herman’s music”

 

Tough week? Life getting you down? Then hurry along to the Union Theatre in Southwark for some musical therapy. Showtune, a two act tribute to the music and lyrics of the perennially upbeat Jerry Herman, will give you The Best of Times, and (I) Promise You A Happy Ending in this lively revival of Paul Gilger’s Jerry Herman fest. Produced by Sasha Regan, Showtune takes place in a charming auditorium underneath some railway arches. It is an intimate space that produces a surprisingly big Broadway sound, and you will be impressed by the skilful direction and choreography of Luke Byrne that permits a cast of ten to sing and dance without falling into the laps of the front row.

There is lots to like in this ninety minute medley of songs from Herman’s hit musicals. The music includes several from Mame, Hello Dolly!, Mack and Mabel, Dear World, and La Cage Aux Folles. The cast manage all these in a performing space that is crammed full of the flotsam and jetsam of a rehearsal room, complete with a suggestion of a dressing room, and of course, a grand piano. Somehow the cast work around these obstacles to keep the audience’s attention firmly focused on the singing, and yes, even a tap dancing number (Tap Your Troubles Away). In these endeavours they are ably supported by the talented Henry Brennan, pianist and musical director. It’s a delight to see such a young cast take on Herman’s music, and while the singing is at times a little uneven, special mention must be given to Aidan Cutler for his poignant sound; and to Alex Burns and Ella-Maria Danson for their spirited singing duel in Bosom Buddies. But the whole cast brought off the complicated ensemble numbers with verve and nerve — and was rewarded by an appreciative audience.

Showtune reminds us that Jerry Herman’s heartfelt songs are the perfect antidote for our stressed out modern lives —and if some of the lyrics hark back to a more old-fashioned age (It Takes A Woman from Hello, Dolly! for example) — it is also Herman’s inspiration to give us an opportunity to see two men sing a tender duet to each other (Song On The Sand from Cage Aux Folles). There is enough flexibility in Herman’s work to ensure that a compilation musical like Showtune has many years of successful revivals ahead of it. Enjoy this one.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Jamie Scott-Smith

 


Showtune

Union Theatre until 24th August

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
It’s Only Life | ★★★★ | June 2018
Around the World in Eighty Days | ★★★ | August 2018
Midnight | ★★★★★ | September 2018
Brass | ★★★★ | November 2018
Striking 12 | ★★★★ | December 2018
An Enemy of the People | ★★ | January 2019
Can-Can! | ★★★★ | February 2019
Othello | ★★★★ | March 2019
Elegies For Angels, Punks And Raging Queens | ★★★ | May 2019
Daphne, Tommy, The Colonel And Phil | | July 2019

 

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