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Promises, Promises

  • Theatre, Musicals
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Time Out says

This 1968 Burt Bacharach musical has not aged well

Re-creating Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Neil Simon’s swinging ’60s Noo Yoik musical in Southwark Playhouse was never going to be easy, and Bronagh Lagan’s production of ‘Promises, Promises’ – a tale of sexual and workplace politics in mid-century Manhattan – feels not only out of place, but out of touch.

Not too dissimilar to the rudderless hero Chuck Baxter, in fact, so desperate for a promotion he allows his insurance company executives to use his apartment for their extramarital affairs. Chuck only has eyes for cafeteria girl Fran – who just so happens to be boss Sheldrake’s bit on the side.

From the off, jokes fall flat. ‘Get some new records,’ says the leering Kirkeby, one of the execs using Chuck’s place, ‘it’s not easy being sexy to Lithuanian folk music’. Or, in one of Chuck’s asides, ‘I’m sick of all this trash in my apartment – and I’m not too happy about the garage either’. You half-expect a rimshot. In truth, the only reaction was the poor chap coughing behind me, who sounded like he was drawing his last breath. In the moment, I felt shades of envy.

The second half lifts somewhat. Alex Young is a riot as devilish flirt Barbara, feeding off a crowd hungry for laughs, and there were moments when she had us in the palm of her hand. ‘Nothing gets past you, does it,’ she coos to the hapless Baxter.

The big moment in the hit 1968 production was always Bacharach’s Grammy-winning ‘I’ll Never Fall In Love Again’, which closes the show here. It’s a spirited effort, and diminutive Daisy Maywood, as the jilted Fran, gives big, ballsy performances here and throughout that hinted at something better. But in the end, ‘Promises, Promises’ delivers precious little to get excited about. 

Written by
Josh Mcloughlin

Details

Address:
Price:
Jan 13, 14, 16, 17 preview £14, Jan 18-21, 23-28, 30, 31, Feb 1-4, 6-11, 13-18 £25, concs £20
Opening hours:
Jan 13, 14, 16-21, 23-28, 30, 31, Feb 1-4, 6-11, 13-18, 7.30pm, mats Tue, Sat 3pm
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