‘A handbag? A handbag?’ Gyles Brandreth titters before breaking into song. Is this Oscar Wilde or Noël Coward doing a party piece impression of him? ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is given new voice in Douglas Livingstone’s musical.
‘A musical?!’, Dame Edith Evans might have exclaimed. But this diluted interpretation does suit an audience already used to giving Wilde’s witticisms and aphorisms a life of their own.
Livingstone’s book and Adam McGuinness and Zia Moranne’s score are classy and character-led. Flora Spencer-Longhurst sparkles in Cecily’s joyful Charleston number ‘Wicked!’ and Miss Prism (Susie Blake) and Dr Chasuble (Edward Petherbridge) cause much hilarity with their reverent courting in ‘It all Began in a Garden’.
Samal Blak’s design, in which gardens grow out of suitcases, is imaginative and stylish and Brandreth makes a regal Lady Bracknell. It’s not exactly ‘My Fair Lady’. But even Wilde would have admired the new-found silliness
in this light-hearted musical.
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The music lifted the play to a new level and was not overbearing. Congrats to the musicians as well as the actors and I hope you go all the way to the West End!
Saw this tonight. Thought it was wonderful. Thought the entire cast were wonderful and forgot that Lady B was in fact a man within seconds of her arrival. The score and clever lyrics add a totally new and great dimension to the original play. Well worth a visit and surely a West End run beckons!
Agree with previous reviews . Was a bit apprehensive before going - as you say it could have gone either way, and musicals aren't really my thing. But a great show, good music presented skillfully with a light touch
I went last night with my 9 year-old. We both absolutely loved it! Would've bought the CD if there was one. Hope they'll bring one out. I don't like a lot of musicals to be honest, but this was charming, light, warm compared with the original play and the music and dancey bits (not full-on chorus line or anything, but plenty of movement) were properly funny. They can really sing too, and you can hear the words properly and still get the jokes even when they're sung, which I wasn't sure would work. Been to the Riverside before but not to Studio 3, which is quite intimate - lovely for this sort of thing. Completely forgot that Gyles Brandreth was a man by the end - he's definitely the most likeable Bracknell I've seen, and I've seen 4 now. Very dishy young ones - Jack, Algie, Gwendolen and Cecily, full of cheeky glances and natty moves. Prize for funniest song goes either to Cecily or to Miss Prism and Chasuble. Love to know what others think. Or maybe Jack and Algie's number 'On the Spree'. Very informative programme too, not just a bunch of adverts. They give an age guide of 11, but a keen theatre-going 9 year old is fine for this I reckon, especially if they know a little bit about it beforehand.
With some of Wilde's best lines, and a series of humourous songs well presented, it made a most enjoyable and amusing evening. Being an intimate place gave the actors plenty of scope for giving their audience the full view of their expressions.