Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Cut to the Chase at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch
07 March 2011

Make it another old-fashioned,please,” - coming right up, the first show of the new Queen's season, a gloriously enjoyable musical, giving the lie to those who moan that they don't write them like that any more.
Of course writer Stephen Wyatt has chosen his collaborators wisely – Cole Porter and Molière, though Pick Yourself Up is by Molière only in the sense that last year's hit “Forum” was by Plautus.
There are so many show-stoppers – my favourite from a thoroughbred field the Don't Fence Me In quartet – that you wonder how the plot can progress. And the 17th century stock characters are replaced by familiar stereotypes from the song-and-dance stage.
This is Bob Carlton's unique Cut to the Chase company, so the impressive dance band we hear in the overture is made up of the actors in the show, many of them familiar faces in this house.
The new boy first, though.
Greg Last plays a mean trombone and an even meaner hood – one of the two hitmen employed by Joe Hatchetface Tamales [Simon Jessop]. His partner in organised crime is the excellent Matthew Quinn [bass and guitar].
The Fred and Ginger of the Trocadero, East 47th, are Tom and Ruby [Elliot Harper and Natasha Moore] – both rising to the considerable challenge of hoofing, singing and slapstick, and both very watchable performers.
It's Tom - “terrible dancer and hopeless husband” - who becomes the reluctant shrink, donning a ridiculous false beard to effect a cure for lovelorn trumpeter Gloria [Sarah Scowen]. With a second opinion from the object of her affections, Harry [Jared Ashe, clarinet and sax].
A hit with the audience was Allison Harding's floozy Tallulah, who gave a breathtaking masterclass in musical comedy character work, proved a stylish drummer, and also spectacularly revived a couple of lesser known Cole Porters: Most Gentlemen Don't Like Love and Find Me A Primitive Man. The other revival was entrusted to Tom Jude's superbly characterized fiddle-playing maestro – The Leader of a Big-Time Band.
Rodney Ford's set – built as ever in the Queen's own workshop – caught the style exactly. The band-stand seemed to take up most of the performance area, but then, impressively, glided smoothly back on a truck, with screens sliding in to represent the street [hydrant, trash-can, lamp-post !] and Joe's mansion [lovely thirties fauna motif here].
Times are hard at the Trocadero ...” - tell us about it, we might reply. But this superb extended revival, directed by Matt Devitt with Julian Littman in charge of the music, shows no sign of recession. It never puts a foot wrong, presses all the right feel-good buttons, and makes a superb pick-me-up for these difficult days.

this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews

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