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Victor/Victoria

© Annabel Vere

It's remarkable to think that Southwark Playhouse only staged its first musical last January: less than two years on and it's no joke to say that the intimate venue stands as London's foremost destination for musical revivals in a 2012 where an Olympics-wary West End has rather lost its nerve.

The director responsible for most of these is Thom Southerland, and following 'Parade' and 'Mack & Mabel', it looks like another sellout smash is on the cards with his adaptation of Blake Edwards, Henry Mancini and Leslie Bricusse's oddball 1995 musical about sexual shenanigans in '30s Paris.

Waspishly funny, with a couple of killer numbers, 'Victor/Victoria' is nonetheless a wildly hokey affair, detailing failed soprano Victoria's utterly improbable reinvention as Victor, Paris's number one female impersonator.

What turns it into something very special here, though, is Anna Francolini's ego-free, huge-hearted turn in the title role(s). Throwing herself into the melee with impeccable physical and comic timing, and not a jot of vanity, it's a big enough performance to dominate the largest of stages: in the tiny Playhouse it's like having a million volts shot up your spine. Huge credit too to Lee Proud, whose scorching choreography is the equal of anything you'll see on the West End.

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