Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Little Waltham Drama Group


Elizabeth von Armin's Twenties novel about the restorative properties of the Italian sunshine has been filmed twice, and last year re-emerged as a musical.

This charming 2003 Broadway version by Matthew Barber got what may well be its UK première on the tiny Little Waltham stage last week.

Director Mags Simmonds gave it a convincing sheen of authenticity; the first act is all anticipation, in the second we escape to the wisteria and sunshine – a gorgeous backdrop by Liz Willsher - in the entertaining company of a quartet of ladies unable to resist a month in Heaven.

Susan Butler, as Lottie, the instigator of the invitations, shared her enthusiasm with the audience as well as with her contrasting counterpart, the “disappointed Madonna” poignantly played by Victoria Rossiter. Their travelling companions were brilliantly characterized by Kim Travell as the glamorous, flapperish Lady Bramble, and June Franzen as the formidable Mrs Graves, making the most of every line, every laugh in a memorable performance.

The husbands – Gordon MacSween's humourless lawyer and Brian Corrie's salacious novelist – make the journey to San Salvatore too, to be thawed by the warmth of the Riviera. The maid Costanza was a hilarious Linda Burrow; Ken Little played the doting “Tonio” whose attentions help the “grey sisters” to reveal their hidden depths.

The themes of loss, regret, revelation and reconciliation are lightly touched on, and the whole fairytale confection was a delightful divertissement for the last night of April.

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