Thursday, June 23, 2016

MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS – London 2016: A Theatre Review

The Plot: Laura Henderson is a rich old lady who decides to buy an old London theatre and, now named the Windmill, to open it with musical revues where the girls get undressed.

The Cast: Tracie Bennett is a witty and strong Mrs. Henderson and has in Ian Bartholomew the perfect match; together they give the show a much needed energy. Emma Williams gives the right amount of innocence to the role of Maureen and shines with “If Mountains Were Easy to Climb”; as the guy who loves her, Matthew Malthouse never has the chance to really shine. Graham Victor has some fun as Lord Cromer, but Alexander Delamere, as the comic Arthur, fails to bring the house down with his jokes. Samuel Holmes has a good time in the role of the gay singing and dancing Bertie.

The Score: This is a lukewarm score, pleasant to the ears but without songs that will linger on our heads (Jerry Herman would be perfect for this material). There’s no excitement and the opening number fails to grab our attention. But, nevertheless, it’s a pleasant melodious score, plus most of the songs have a sense of the period the action takes place, the 30/40s. The best numbers are the beautiful “What a Waste of a Moon”, whose staging reminded me of SINGIN’IN THE RAIN “You’re My Lucky Star”, and the true showtune “Anything But Young”. Two of the songs sound musically out of place, “Innocent Soldier” (it reminded me of MISS SAIGON) and the emotional “If Mountains Were Easy to Climb”.

The Show: Although the Stephen Frears’ movie starring Judi Dench had the feeling of a musical, it wasn’t exactly a musical; but I could easily imagine it as a stage musical. It seems I wasn’t the only one and now, more than 10 years later, director and book writer Terry Johnson made my dream come true. Unfortunately, it isn’t up to my dreams and, although the show has its good moments, on the whole it lacks excitement and emotion. The first 15/20 minutes failed to impressed me as the action drags in a couple of long and uninteresting musical numbers (“Everybody Loves the Windmill” and the title song). For me the show only comes really alive with the funny scene where everyone has to become naked. I believe the choreography by Andrew Wright pays tribute to the era, but it’s uninspired and a little twist here and there could have helped; for example, the lame “Rubens and Renoir” could benefit from a little naughtiness. In conclusion, this has the feeling of an old show (and I love old shows) that should have got an energy shot; but at least the cast make it watchable.

Cast: Tracie Bennett, Ian Bartholomew, Emma Williams, Alexander Delamere, Matthew Malthouse, Samuel Holmes, Graham Victor, Katie Bernstein, Lizzy Connolly, Lauren Wood, Liz Ewing
Creative Team: Music by George Fenton & Simon Chamberlain • Lyrics by Don Black • Book by Terry Johnson • Choreography by Andrew Wright • Directed by Terry Johnson
Photos: Paul Coltas, Nobby Clark, Tristram Kenton, Alastair Muir
My Rate: 4 (from 1 to 10)

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