This massive off-Broadway hit, which has had international success since its first outing in 1996, is the first show at the previously named Tabard Theatre in Turnham Green. More a review than a musical, with book and lyrics from Joe DiPietro and music by Jimmy Roberts, it’s a fun night out providing plenty of laughs. With a sketch show feel and an eye on contemporary mores, the songs provide a “world wind tour” through many stages of love – from first dates to divorce – and makes for perfect fringe theatre material.
The production is a UK premiere of sorts – it’s a new version of the show – and director Charlotte Westenra does a fine job conveying a fresh feel to both additional and familiar songs. If the recent numbers are a touch predictable (focusing on technology), they’re funny enough. Picking out situations everyone can recognise means DiPietro’s lyrics often have a stand-up comedy feel. And seeing the jokes a mile off can become tiresome. But Westenra deals with potential pitfalls well: she uses a light touch, steering clear of cynicism, and rapid costume changes to create an informal atmosphere. There are heartfelt songs to change the pace, but the emphasis is on entertainment and the 80 minutes zip along.
The production is aided by a top-notch quartet who bring out a lot from each number. In alphabetical order, Dominic Hodson, Laura Johnson, George Rae and Naomi Slights all deliver a variety of accents, ages and characters that mean they impress with each number. Do the boys have an edge? Playing two old men towards the end might mean they take the prize. But there’s enough battling of the sexes in the show itself – and all four impress with their acting. Even better, the production is a chance to hear perfect singing without amplification – a truly welcome change that I love.
Until 30 November 2019
Photo by Savannah Photographic