'When Midnight Strikes' at the Finborough Theatre

The old millennium is in its dying moments and the new millennium is about to begin as a group of friends, lovers and ex-lovers gather in a Manhattan loft apartment on New Year's Eve. As the plot develops, relationships and friendships also witness their dying moments while others develop new beginnings as past mistakes collide with new resolutions. Add to this a bright, tuneful and witty score by composer Charles Miller and librettist/lyricist, Kevin Hammonds and you have the ingredients for a highly enjoyable musical - which is precisely what is currently on the menu at the London fringe venue, the Finborough Theatre (until September 29). When Midnight Strikes, cleverly directed in the theatre's tiny but highly atmospheric space by Fenton Gray, is a sheer delight.

Despite some laboured dialogue in parts and a certain lack of subtle sub-text in others, Kevin Hammonds' Book is generally witty and engaging and at times quite moving, while his delicately constructed lyrics are perfectly adorned by Charles Miller's highly melodic score. The songs not only work perfectly within the piece, advancing the plot and developing character but also stand out in their own right, leaving the listener wanting to hear them again. The varied song list includes a number of great upbeat chorus numbers, such as "Smoke Em If You Got Em"; some beautiful ballads, such as "Let Me Inside" and "Like Father, Like Son"; a deliciously haunting number to end act one, "Little Miss Perfect"; and - perhaps the best of them all - a "character anthem" for a maid who has aspirations of being a star entitled "Never Learned To Type".

Amongst an all-round excellent cast, there are a few who stand out particularly: Stephanie Flavin and Nicholas Moorhead as Jennifer and Chris, the couple whose marriage disintegrates before the audience's eyes during the course of the New Year's party; Lorraine Graham as maid and erstwhile actress, Josefina; Nancy Baldwin as the neighbour who comes in to complain about the noise and is forced to join the party because she's locked herself out of her own apartment!; Bradley Clarkson, who oozes with charm and delivers his solo with a relaxed ease, as the mystery stranger; the always terrific Susan Raasay as the sexy lush, Zoe; and Emma Hatton, as Twyla (Jennifer's sister and Chris's lover), who blows the audience away with her vocals on the song "You Know How To Love Me".

Hopefully this show will have a life beyond this production - it is a genuinely classy, fresh, articulate musical with a score that leaves you wanting more. For more information visit: www.whenmidnightstrikes.com

Photo: Back Row (Left to Right): Bradley Clarkson, Shona White, Nicholas Moorhead, Stephanie Flavin, Ben Enwright, Nancy Baldwin; Middle Row: Alan Winner, Hannah Lindo, Emma Hatton, Miles Western; Front Row: Susan Raasay, Lorraine Graham

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