BWW Review: 110 IN THE SHADE, Ye Olde Rose and Crown Theatre
Starbuck, one of those all-American hucksters, who, like Lyle Lanley in Springfield, would roll into one horse towns and charm the locals, pitches his wagon on the plain and transforms a community. In the midst of a drought, no shtick plays like the one that promises to Make America Rain Again, but not everyone is taken in. But not everyone needs to be, because it soon turns out that what Starbuck is selling is not so much the dream, as the capacity to believe in dreams.
Sexual intercourse began
In nineteen sixty-three
(which was rather late for me) -
Between the end of the "Chatterley" ban
And the Beatles' first LP.
The show revels in an innocence and optimism which would be swept off Broadway three years later by Cabaret, but is in no way diminished as consequence - indeed, one might say that the most radical artistic expression of 2017 is the simple portrayal of cynicism-free human kindness.
Laurel Dougall's Lizzie Curry is all OCDish pulling at buttons and crippling low self-esteem, defined by a fatal combination (amongst the girlishly blonde pigtails and gingham dresses) of plain looks and a clever tongue. She's stuck, self-sabotaging her aching desire for an ordinary family life. Daniel Urch, initially all but twirling his moustache in cartoonishly villainous style as Starbuck, recognises a fellow bright spark, friendless beneath the burning sun, and packs a whole self-help manual into a song as he tells Lizzie that she's as pretty as she wants to be - and he gets a quick lay in return. Meanwhile, strong silent type, Sheriff File, played with a straight back and plenty of psychological scarring by Nick Wyschna, is slowly coming round to realising that his life, like the ranches, needs cleansing and a fresh start.
The songs, by the writers of The Fantasticks (42 years on Broadway) may lack an 11 o'clock number, but, inflected with country rhythms, they are never less than pleasing on the ear and offer the cast plenty of opportunities for close harmony vocals, always a thrill heard up close. Amongst the best are "Everything Beautiful Happens At Night" (see what I mean by the innocence of 1963?) and the tour-de-force, "Little Red Hat" showing off the splendid comedy chops of Julian Quigano and Rebecca Withers. The music, as ever at this venue, is under the assured hand of Aaron Clingham and Kate McPhee works wonders with the choreography.
Along with the Union Theatre, The Olde Rose and Crown gives the lie to the old adage that theatre is "writing in the air", once performed, vanishing never to be seen again. There's a rich history of musicals available to those with eyes to see and imagination to stage, and revivals like this one show that there's plenty of mileage in bringing them back. Of course, I'd like to see more new musicals too - and both theatres named above pull their weight on that score - and maybe some old British shows peppered amongst the Broadway hits, but one can't complain.
Now, where's my red baseball hat, my list of dodgy promises and the roadmap to Hicksville USA?
Photo David Ovenden.