On the digital press night, the #LDNtheatrebloggers are invited for an evening of musical entertainment pre and post show. It kicks off by participating in and learning a dance routine from the show which takes place on the actual stage with the chance to feel what it is like to be on a West End stage. From the stalls, the talent on show is surprising and naturally leads to the thought that blogger/critics are really failed actors, present company excepted of course.
Based on the film from 1988, this Broadway musical finally makes its West End transfer after premiering on Broadway in 2005. It tells the story of an experienced conman Lawrence who operates with charm on the French Riviera, seducing and extracting money from rich widows, most of them from Surrey. He meets Freddy on a train and takes him on as a partner in wriggling out of a con that got too clingy. Their cordial relationship is interrupted when an American soap opera queen Christine appears and the two decide to battle it out to see who can get $50,000 off her.
This is an above par though run of the mill west end musical. It is competent, entertaining, with perfectly pleasant music, watchable choreography and family friendly comedy. The music has a jazzy, big band slant with Nothing Is Too Wonderful To Be True as the highlight and it is instantly hummable. There isn’t much surprise in the plot or its ending which disappoints. The story does provide plenty of comedic opportunities and Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound fully exploit them as a double act. Their relaxed demeanours also allow occasions to address the audience and improvise to great effect. Lindsay is an excellent actor, to the point where he can act like singing without sounding like it and Hound’s wavering American accent can at least have a tenuous legitimacy that he is the man of the world and master of accents.
But it is Samantha Bond who stands out among the cast as the divorcee chasing after Lindsay’s characters to support his “charity” work. She has a great stage presence and instantly brings an elegance, beauty and class to any scene. Katherine Kingsley as Christine is energetic and has a great voice though limited by the material itself.
The lavish set brings out the essence of the sunny and glamorous Riviera. The showy grand staircase beautifully opens out to become a cellar and there are other good uses of mechanisation in the set. A little touch of a balcony banister rising up on the side of the stage just so Lindsay can lean on it nonchalantly is well done.
An after show chat with the cast rounds off a great night out at a West End musical. This is an undemanding, feel good and entertaining production which will not disappoint.