Book by Joe Masteroff, Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick
Directed by: Stephen Mear
Venue: Minerva Theatre
Date: Thursday 16th June 2011
This was an excellent production of an above average musical. As we’re not great fans of musicals, I haven’t rated it that highly, but I don’t want to imply any lack of professionalism or talent on the part of the performers – they were all top-notch, and managed some amazing dance routines on a very cramped stage. The singing was excellent too, and other audience members were clearly enjoying themselves enormously; at the post show, several had seen the show at least once before.
The story is the familiar one of two people who think they don’t like each other gradually realising they’re in love and getting together. It’s done via letter-writing through a dating service, so although they work together every day, they don’t know who they’re writing to until an arranged meeting which leaves one of them still in the dark. Around all this is wrapped the story of a shop which sells all sorts of potions and creams to beautify women, and the characters who staff this shop. There’s some good songs, including one which uses Ravel’s Bolero as part of the tune, and a fair bit of comedy, although I found I didn’t laugh as much as the person behind me, who clearly loved the show.
Set: circular tiled pattern on floor, echoed by circular curved wheel structure above with globe lamps. The backdrop of a street perspective is screened by another curve, this time windows with a central door. The windows also have elaborate curved patterns on them, with bird images and coloured bottles on shelves creating a stained glass effect. The words above the shop door were “Maraczek, Parfumier”. The shop front was on a revolve, and there was another counter-revolve outside that, so the location could be changed pretty quickly, but from the post-show I gathered the cast needed a lot of practice to be able to walk on them. Most of the action takes place inside the shop, but we also visit a hospital room and Amalia Balash’s flat. The band was split between left and right balconies. The setting is an American version of a European city in the 1930s. The accents used were mostly American, as this fitted better with the dialogue, although the names were middle European and the prices shown were good old LSD! Such is the magic of theatre that we didn’t particularly mind.
I particularly liked Annette McLaughlin as Ilona Ritter, the good-time girl shop assistant who finds one man who’s disgracefully unfaithful and another who’s more the marrying kind, and Steve Elias as Ladislav Sipos, the only married shop assistant who has some of the best lines. His comment about the anonymous letter – next time, I’ll name names! – was really funny. But there were many good performances, though sadly, no more chances to see them as no transfer has been arranged. Shame. This was a good start to the season at the Minerva though, so if the rest are up to this standard we’re in for an excellent summer.
© 2011 Sheila Evans at ilovetheatre.me