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A CurtainUp London London Review
The Sunshine Boys


As an actor no one could touch him Ė as a human being no one wanted to touch him. — Willie Clarke
The Sunshine Boys
Rebecca Blackstone as Miss MacKintosh and Danny DeVito as Willie Clarke (Photo: Johan Persson)
Neil Simonís 1972 comedy The Sunshine Boys, about a vaudeville act who detest each other and are persuaded to come out of retirement for a final TV show, comes to Londonís Savoy Theatre as a vehicle for veteran comic actor Danny DeVito. It is a disappointing first act although Adam Levy works hard as Willie Clark (DeVito)ís caring nephew and agent. When after a long wait we eventually meet Willieís erstwhile partner, Al Lewis (Richard Griffiths) we find the gargantuan Griffiths is dwarfed by the role and has trouble keeping his American accent going. Maybe the New Jersey accent was more difficult than he anticipated.

In the first act, the audience laughter from behind sounded canned Ė surely it couldnít have been but like Queen Victoria, we were so unamused, it seemed that way. The director may have been able to improve things because by all accounts those who saw it later in the week leading up to the gala opening were less disappointed.

The second act is better because it recreates the pair's comedy show but the humour is largely of the Carry on Nurse variety and pretty dated, unless you find iy hysterical to watch Danny DeBVito looking up a nurseís skirt. Later the two men survey their future and realise that they may be seeing more of each other than either of them intended and will be locked together in an enmity and rivalry, in their version of Hell. For this play to work there has to be the idea that there once was a connection between the two vaudevillians and although DeVito is credible, Griffiths is rather quiet and gentlemanly.

DeVito works hard and succeeds as the hyper, cantankerous and resentful Clarke. He is at his best verbally sparking with Adam Levy as his really kind nephew and agent Ben. We see Willie in his pyjamas, living in Hildegarde Bechtlerís scruffy hotel suite trying to answer the phone when the kettle whistles. Willie Clarke has never forgiven Al Lewis for pulling out of their double act 11 years ago and leaving him impecunious and desperate for any acting work of which there is precious little. Richard Griffiths is very well turned out and rather gentlemanly but unconnected.

For those who want to see Danny DeVito live on stage, this will deliver. Sorry to rain on your parade Sunshine Boys!

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The Sunshine Boys
Written by Neil Simon
Directed by Thea Sharrock

Starring: Danny DeVito, Richard Griffiths, Adam Levy
With: William Maxwell, Peter Cadden, Nicholas Blakeley, Rebecca Blackstone, Johnnie Fiori
Design: Hildegarde Bechtler
Lighting: Neil Austin
Sound: Ian Dickinson for Autograph
Music: Adrian Johnston
Comedy consultant: Jos Houben
Running time: Two hours 20 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 0844 871 7615
Booking to 28th July 2012
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 12th May 2012 performance at the Savoy Theatre, Strand, London WC2R 0ET (Tube: Piccadilly Circus)

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©Copyright 2012, Elyse Sommer.
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