BWW Review: REPUTATION, The Other Palace
It's 1935 and Freddy Larceny is makin' it big in Hollywood. He's a New York grifter who's come a long way (they do, don't they?) He's keen to protect his spotless reputation - and has plenty of bulging brown envelopes on hand with that very purpose in mind.
But, natch, his success isn't quite all his own work and when he fashions a screenplay out of first time novelist, Michelle Grant's, thriller thinking she's just some girl to whom he can say no, Larceny finds that he might have bitten off more than he can chew.
There is much to admire in this new musical - not least that it is a new musical! But there are flaws too - more of which later.
The songs are very pleasing. Alick Glass (like our heroine, a first time writer) can spin a catchy tune and has clearly spent some time listening to Sondheim, as his rhymes weave in and out of the melodies, popping up in unexpected places, displaying rare wit. With Warren Wills at the piano and a touch of country here, a divaish showstopper or two there and wrapped up in some splendid harmonies was plenty enough to keep the ears fully satisfied through the two hours.
The eyes too. Choreographer, Tamsyn Salter (who also delivers an amusing cameo), makes best use of the tight studio space and the costumes were impressive too, Miss Grant's bias cut gown at the end as much of a standout as any song.
The cast can sing and dance (perhaps not always in perfect time, but we're not Craig on Strictly are we?) and give it their all.
Jeremy Secomb is our villain, looking and speaking uncannily like short-lived Trump shill turned CNN pundit, Anthony Scaramucci (but singing much better than The Mooch).
He sets the tone and is our narrator, but Maddy Banks (Michelle) is the star of the show, her vocals and acting perfectly pitched for the room and the part, especially on "I Nearly Had It All". We rooting for the sparky girl from Wisconsin from the get-go.
But... why is a whip smart looker like her throwing her lot in with dull-as-ditchwater lawyer, Archie Bright? Ed Wade does his best with the part, but it's so underwritten that credibility - even in an old school musical like this - is stretched beyond breaking point. He's not even good at his job, a late macguffin coming to his rescue. It really is the most unlikely romance since Rock Hudson and Doris Day...
That's the main flaw of course, but back with the positives, Priscille Grace gives us a beautiful chanson. "Raindrops", the Parisian college girls, led by sensible Somerset deb, Mary (Lauren Ingram), are soon hitting the high notes in the dorm again and we're ready for another wallow in Secomb's Noo Yawk patois.
So, lots to admire, but you do come away wishing that Miss Grant had hooked up with the crook and not the lawyer - at least she'd have married someone with the wit to joust with her and the drive to get films made. And I'm not sure we're supposed to be pondering that as we look on a distressingly shrunken Oscar in the final scene!
Photo - Donato