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LETTERS TO EDITOR
A CurtainUp London Review
My One and Only
by Lizzie Loveridge
A new production with Janie Dee and Tim Flavin as the leads -- Edythe Herbert, cross channel swimmer and film star and Captain Billy Buck Chandler, candidate to be the first man to fly direct from New York to Paris -- was a big success at the provincial Chichester Festival Theatre before arriving in the West End. Songs like " 'S Wonderful", "Strike Up the Band", "Funny Face", "Nice Work If You Can Get It" and "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" are reasons to see the show even if the plot is not. Though the choreography for the ensemble numbers does not have that slick Broadway quality the tap sequences are excellent -- especially "High Hat", a number danced with tails, canes and toppers in the great Astaire tradition.
Two scenes are reminiscent of the West Yorkshire Playhouse's successful production of Singing in the Rain. One, called a Movie House, features a silent film called, "White Baggage of the Casbah" that's been made specially for the show and stars My One and Only's pair of lovers. The other is on a beach where after a plane crash, Billy and Edythe find themselves stranded on an island with a lone palm tree. Life on the island "S'Wonderful" away from Edythe's manager-villain. A channel opens up on the stage, is filled with water at the edge of the sand. Edythe and Billy dance what starts as a sand dance but end up in the water, splashing the first few rows of the audience and, in sheer exuberance, end up sliding in the water on their fronts.
Janie Dee, scooped all three British acting awards in 1999-2000 for her role in Alan Ayckbourn's Comic Potential, here has a chance to show off her singing and dancing skills. Tim Flavin, repeats the excellence of his starring role in that other Gershwin compilation musical, Crazy for You I liked Jenny Galloway's doughty Engineer Mickey, Richard Lloyd King's charismatic Mr. Magix and the ever present Rhythm Boys, even though there seems little reason for them to be there.
The plot is simple enough. Edythe is being forced against her will to comply with the wishes of Prince Nikki (Hilton McRae) who doesn't behave like a prince but like a frog. The evil Russian has some compromising photographs of Edythe. Billy's efforts to be the first man across the Atlantic are aided by his sidekick Engineer Mickey. Edythe and Billy fall for each other on first meeting but are thwarted by the evil prince. Edythe runs away to Morocco. Billy is airwrecked there and rescues Edythe from the white slave trade. His reaction to the compromising photographs is a good natured reaction is to say, "Oh Nice!".
The main set is an art deco cinema with authentic looking trim on the doors and proscenium arch. One particularly effective scene has a train, full of flappers, puffing into view. The Moroccan scene is draped with fabric and pretty Moroccan hanging brass and glass lamps. The luxurious white coats, Club Havana showgirl outfits and Rhythm Boys, angel suits all add to the authentic 1920's look.
A really good musical is more than the sum of its parts. While Gershwin fans were obviously having a great time, My One and Only seemes to have the ingredients but to lack something. Maybe we sense that the lyrics do not really fit the musical and that the whole has been contrived rather than born.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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