Review Round Up: Betty Blue Eyes, Union Theatre

We take a look at what critics have had to say about this revival of George Stiles and Anthony Drewe’s musical.

Broadway World: **** “This is a show with a huge amount of heart which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. The humour is peppered throughout and although there are the big laugh moments, some of my personal favourites were the myriad of witty little chuckle worthy moments. With more puns than a Christmas cracker factory, the show delivers everything it needs to do and more.”

The Arts Desk: *** “On her return to in-house productions after the long covid break, Sasha Regan has directed another crowdpleasing musical revival at a venue that specialises in finding shows audiences may have missed first time round – the same composers’ “Honk!”, for instance, some six years ago. Whether this particular mix of charm, nostalgia and comfortingly familiar comedy tropes leavened by a strong, if not hit-laden score, will bring back its loyal audience remains to be seen. I suspect they, like me, may look forward to something rather more meaty.” 

Southwark News: “All things considered, I enjoyed watching Betty Blue Eyes. The production was fun, light-hearted and silly, it had the audience smiling and laughing throughout.”

Everything Theatre: **** “The music and songs are sure to cause a smile to erupt. Whether it be the frantically yet deliciously chaotic “Pig, no pig” or the rousing “Fair shares for all”. But there are also wonderfully tender moments such as “Lionheart”, in which a flashback to the horrors of an air raid evokes emotional depth not expected in such a show. It’s certainly a musical treat that leaves you humming the tunes on the way home.”

London Theatre1: *** “Thankfully, the show strikes a balance between playing to the gallery and recognising the intimacy of the performance space. Kasper Cornish’s choreography is remarkable, with the big ensemble numbers involving song-and-dance with very tight turnaround spaces for the actors.”

West End Best Friend: **** “The full supporting company matches the energy of the two leads and helps to ensure smooth transitions between scenes. Movement within this show feels easy despite clearly being intricately directed and choreographed by the creative team. The moments of dance in particular that slip in from characters that feel unexpected are very pleasing to watch. Kasper Cornish’s choreography succeeds in adding a lot to what makes this show so enjoyable.”

Lost in Theatreland: **** “Despite the odd mismatch of space to show, it’s difficult not to smile from beginning to end. Betty Blue-Eyes is one of Stiles and Drewe’s finest works, the subject matter matching their comic, song-based sensibility, and the wry bittersweetness of Ron Cowne and Daniel Lipman’s book preventing it from ever feeling twee or trivial.”

Musical Theatre Review: *** “But there is plenty of good stuff in there too: Kasper Cornish’s choreography in getting most of the well-drilled 19-strong cast on that cramped stage for the big production numbers like ‘Another Little Victory’ is little short of miraculous; the energy and enthusiasm can not be faulted; and there are some fine performances, notably from Sam Kipling as Gilbert – his ‘The Kind of Man I Am’ warms the heart – and George Dawes in the dual role of farmer and policeman. His dancing and acting has an oomph that makes his contribution stand out.”

Fairy Powered Productions: **** “This very English story is full of ridiculous characters and situations, and Ron Cowen and Daniel Lipman’s book fizzes with great lines and laughs. Add music and lyrics by Stiles and Drewe and the show positively sparkles. As ever, Stiles and Drewe’s work adds multiple layers to the characters and plot, stirring the heartstrings as the music sweeps you along, nowhere more than in the Chilvers’ contrasting numbers – A Place on the Parade, where they both dream of a bright future, Nobody, Joyce’s defiant shout at the world, and The Kind of Man I Am, Gilbert’s gorgeous ballad accepting himself as he is. Sasha Regan directs with great heart and skill while Kasper Cornish’s choreography fits more onto the tiny stage than should be possible.”

Once A Week Theatre: “There’s a big heart and a lot that’s smart behind this 2011 musical from George Stiles and Anthony Drewe. The story, based on Alan Bennett’s A Private Function, is full of quirky humour and quaint touches. But the strength of this revival comes from director Sasha Regan allowing space for quiet; Regan makes room for simple pleasures and tender moments.”

Musical Theatre Musings: **** “This production is a timely reminder of how the ingenuity needed to adapt a large-scale musical to fit the space and budget of fringe theatre can really bring the story and characters to life.”

Reviewsgate: ** “As the first in house production at the Union, which has been the home to some fine musical revivals in the past, it deserves a welcome but as a version of the Bennett movie it was in 2011, and is still, an end of the pier show which, at times, one wishes on could push over the end. The band under Aaron Clingham does justice to the score even if some of the singers do not. Betty, however, manipulated by Georgia Boothman, is a delight and a rival to Miss Piggy in the porcine glamour stakes.”

All That dazzles: **** “While it may feel too big for the small space it is in, it does an impressive job of cramming everything in so it doesn’t lose any sense of grandeur and is a great testament to why smaller spaces such as The Union Theatre are so vital and integral to the industry and should never be disregarded or overlooked. A truly spectacular cast and clever direction brings new life to a show that already boasted wonderful writing and marvellous songs. Guaranteed to make you snort with laughter, this utterly charming production is never boar-ing.”

Betty Blue Eyes continues to play at the Union Theatre until the 22nd April.

%d bloggers like this: