This gorgeous new production of the classic musical is worth taking a chance on seeing if you can.
Always entertaining, Frank Loesser’s musical is my go to musical for cheering me up. With its catchy songs, memorable characters and humour there is a reason why it has stood the test of time in many ways and this new production directed by Nicholas Hytner is perfect in so many ways – particularly in terms of its energy, vibrant performances and simple and classy staging.
A story of love, romance and of course gambling, the story follows the fortunes of two very different couples. On the one side you have Miss Adelaide a performer and Nathan Detroit a man who enjoys gambling more than the idea of settling down, While Sky Masterson and Sarah Brown meet under different circumstances as Sky is challenged to take her to Havana as part of a bet. While the plot is not the most complicated you will find – it does a charm and enduringness about it, particularly when the script has not been reimagined in any noticeable way (except for an unexpected moment in which Sky is pulled in for a kiss on the dance floor surrounded by male couples at an attempt to add a contemporariness to the story). The script is good natured and filled with humour that you can’t fail to be swept into the world of gambling and romance.
With a choice of immersive tickets or choosing to be seated surrounding the set, Nicholas Hytner’s production is actually effective in ensuring that different locations are portrayed – even with a limited props, thanks to Bunny Christie’s smoothly thought out transformative stage that has the promenading audience moving around with ease (although in places I would imagine this can be distracting) . However, the only problem is with having a stage that transforms so much – the choreography feels a little bit constrained, which is a shame as there are plenty of lovely moments for big dance numbers. Elsewhere, I loved the colour and vibrancy of the neon lighting that hangs above directing people to each location, while the costume designs by Bunny Christie and Deborah Andrews is equally colourful and outlandish – but suits the characters perfectly – it all feels authentically New York.
All of the immersive aspects (and this is coming from me from where I was sat) are nicely incorporated into the show and it is wonderful to see how the cast engage with audience, before during the interval and at the end of the show. It never distracts from the story and is subtly placed to when you aren’t expecting it.
Praise should also be given to the orchestrations of many of the classic songs that are very memorable and in turn discovers hidden depths to songs that I have never considered before. In particular, ‘Adelaide’s Lament’ has a poignancy and sadness to it that I have never found before, while ‘My Time Of Day’ might be a whole new favourite song from the musical thanks to this gorgeously haunting arrangement.
With this production, there is plenty of talent (and chemistry) on display from the cast. Celinde Schoenmaker as Sarah and Andrew Richardson as Sky have a beautiful simmering chemistry that really makes you invest in their developing relationship, helped along by their gorgeous rendition of ‘I’ve Never Been in Love Before’ – while the contrasts between their characters and how they help each other develop as individuals is nicely shown. Meanwhile, the comical aspects of Daniel Mays and Marisha Wallace as Miss Adelaide are brilliantly played out and you can tell just how much enjoyment they are finding playing these characters. Cedric Neal is perfectly cast as Nicely-Nicely – with his rendition of ‘Sit Down You’re Rockin’ The Boat’ really proving to be a highlight and a reminder that this character is really underused.
Overall, a wonderfully vibrant production that will put plenty of smiles on the faces of audiences coming along to the Bridge theatre for a visit.
By Emma Clarendon
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