BWW REVIEWS: The Boys From Syracuse, The Union Theatre, Friday 4th October
Written by Rodgers and Hart back in 1938 simply because a musical had never been based on a Shakespeare play before, 'The Boys From Syracuse' is the musical telling of The Comedy of Errors, packed with fun, mischief and playful tunes.
After the original Broadway production 75 years ago, it was predicted that it would become the greatest musical comedy of its time. It's full of clever intertwining stories of misidentity, similar to the ever popular film 'The Parent Trap'. But unlike the teenage twins meeting in a posh American camp, this story resides in Ancient Greece where flogging your spouse and getting beheaded for being in the wrong city was the norm.
Of course Rodgers and Hart's music must hold a lot of credit to this musical's popularity, with tunes that I had no idea I recognised; I found myself humming away to 'Oh, Diogenes', 'This Can't be Love' and 'Dear Old Syracuse' hours later on the tube. The cast managed to modernise every song in their portrayals of their characters, and the wonderful melodies weren't lost. With many younger audiences having worries that they won't like older musicals there is definitely no fear at all about enjoying this classical show.
The Union Theatre itself is a small intimate space, enabling the audience to feel fully involved throughout. With both the main characters and dancers weaving in and out of the audience there were moments when I thought I was going to get a black eye, but that's probably just me being paranoid. I was not expecting the dancing to be so full of life and energy. With such a small space to be playing with, it was magnificent to see the cast all enjoying every single move and step.
The cast as a whole were strong and thoroughly entertaining; casting the twins must have been a difficult job; but both sets of twins were perfectly picked. Dromio from Syracuse (Matthew Cavendish) and Ephesus (Alan McHale) were a joy to watch, never letting a single joke go unnoticed by the audience. Oliver Seymour-Marsh (Antipholus of Ephesus) had the audience in the palm of his hands during the song 'The Shortest Day of The Year', as did AaRon Hayes Rogers (Antipholus of Syracuse) in 'Dear Old Syracuse'.
With so many new shows taking the spotlight in theatre at the moment this production was a nice reminder of the history of musicals and some of the classics that are not as well acknowledged as they deserve to be. I recommend this small production to theatre lovers of every genre, you will leave your seat remembering exactly why you began watching musicals to begin with.