A CurtainUp London Review
By Reece George
In the original, Bobby is a successful, single man living in New York City. He is celebrating his 35th birthday, whether he wants to or not, surrounded by friends who are married couples. As he goes to blow out his candles and make a wish, Bobby realises he may be missing something, a wife. Through a series of scenes where Bobby is invited around to each of the couple's homes, they inevitably get onto the topic of conversation about why Bobby is still single? After seeing how his friends are as married couples, Bobby starts to question himself and whether or not marriage is for him after all ( Link to an actor musician production on Broadway).
Whilst keeping most of the original dialogue, Elliott has transformed this musical by changing just one simple attribute of a few of the characters: their gender. Bobby, the central male character becomes the female Bobbie (Rosalie Craig). Bobby's girlfriends; April, Kathy and Marta are now Andy (Richard Fleeshman), a handsome yet ditsy flight attendant, Theo (Matthew Seadon-Young), a lovable geek and PJ (George Blagden), a British hipster who is too cool for the uptown scene. Lastly, anxious bride-to-be Amy is turned into bridegroom, Jamie (Jonathan Bailey). But Paul, Jamie's husband to be (Alex Gaumond) remains male, which means that this musical gets its very first gay couple, adding yet another contemporary element to this game changing production.
Floating through doors from one frame lit scene to the next and dressed in bright red to match her fiery locks, Rosalie Craig is charismatic and endearing as Bobbie. Her voice soars with humanity in her breathtaking performances of "Marry Me a Little" and "Being Alive". "You Could Drive a Person Crazy" has been re-imagined as a barbershop-style number with silky harmonies being performed with class by Fleeshman, Seadon-Young and Blagden.
Mel Giedroyc brings all of her famous quirkiness and impeccable comedic timing to the role of yo-yo dieting, brownie-loving Sarah. Jonathan Bailey's Jamie is the perfect balance of neurotic and adorable. His solo number, "Getting Married Today", is by far the most zany number of the show and it is sprinkled with hilarious surprises that are pure genius. Watch for Daisy Maywood's entrance as the presiding minister. In the role of sharp-witted Joanne, Patti LuPone is showstopping. LuPone showcases her warm-toned vocals with elegance in "The Ladies Who Lunch".
What makes this production stand out are the superb talents of its creative team. From the moment the curtain goes up, Ian Dickinson's sound design immerses the audience within the hustle and bustle of New York City. In "Side by Side by Side", Liam Steel's choreography is full of energy, yet is still performed with great precision. Bunny Christie's design captures chic apartment life in the Big Apple, with intimate boxes their framed surrounds neon lit (Lighting by Neil Austin) to form compartments that are fully furnished in grey, allowing the focus to be maintained on the cast at all times. The addition of Chris Fisher's slick illusions, make for a hauntingly beautiful realisation, the procession of visualisation of Bobbie's future during the orchestral "Tick Tock".
Marianne Elliott, who directed the award winning The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time (coming back to the Piccadilly Theatre in November for five months), has delivered an inspired revival. Stephen Sondheim saw its first preview and is reported to have given it his blessing. This show carries a powerful message that will resonate with its millennial audience, please Sondheim fans and visiting Americans and leave a lasting impression on London's West End.
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Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by George Furth
Directed by Marianne Elliott
Starring: Rosalie Craig, Patti Lupone, Mel Giedroyc, Jonathan Bailey, George Blagden, Ashley Campbell, Richard Fleeshman, Alex Gaumond, Richard Henders, Ben Lewis, Daisy Maywood, Jennifer Saayeng, Matthew Seadon-Young, Gavin Spokes,
With: Michael Colbourne, Francesca Ellis, Ewam Gillies, Grant Neal, Jaimie Pruden
Orchestrator: Oran Eldor
Design: Bunny Christie
Choreographer: Liam Steel
Musical Supervisor and Conductor: Joel Fram
Lighting Designer: Neil Austin
Sound Designer: Ian Dickinson for Autograph
Illusions: Chris Fisher
Orchestrator: David Cullen
Running time: Two hours 45 minutes with an interval
Box Office: 0844 482 5151
Booking to 30th March 2019
Reviewed by Reece George based on 17th October 2018 performance at the Gielgud Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue London W1D 6AR (Tube: Leicester Square)
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