None of the actors on the stage looked comfortable at last nights second instalment of 5pounds of Repertory Theatre, Sally...the musical. Precisely because it was a musical and the cast and director Celeste Cody were exposed to the challenges of the genre. It's understandable as well, because even the most talented of musical theatre performers can look out of their depth and treading water with material they are uncomfortable with. What this cast did have however, was the courage and the through line of character and plot to present to the audience the story of Sally, a young girl working as a dishwasher at the Alley restaurant who is thrust into the spotlight posing as a famous Russian dancer.
What is most distracting in this production however, is not the singing from the actors, for this can be somewhat overlooked and forgiven in the quest of the happy ending, but more so the creative vision and direction of this piece. Written in 1920 it was considered a classic of the time, a princess musical, with a touch of Ziegfeld follies thrown in for measure. There was and still isn't anything absurdist, vaudevillian or farcical about the show and yet for this 90 minute adaptation that's all we were served up. Celeste Cody, in her program notes suggests that "Sally is a tale of people pretending to be someone other than themselves or somewhere other than they are, which is essentially what a musical is designed to achieve." I would invite her to embrace the notion that a musical is designed to have real characters depict truthful moments in genuine stories.
Performances from Freya Pragt and Tom Molyneux capture the comedy of the piece successfully and Jason Cavanagh's performance of Blair Farquar had a lovely balance of nervous excitement and tender longing for Sally. Special mention to musical director David Bramble who's accompaniment and smooth vocals captured the style of the period.
Whilst adaptations can enhance an original, as was the case in 5pounds first instalment Pygmalion, unfortunately on this occasion it just doesn't hit the mark. If there were less songs and more script then it would be a play with music and everyone would be far more comfortable. Unfortunately, however, this is not the case and as a musical it falls a fair way short of what's required for the genre.
Sally! The Musical
The Owl and The Pussycat Theatre