CHRISTINE THE MUSICAL
CTM Productions at the Headgate Theatre, Colchester
"My name's Christine" – that title number stays with you, a tuneful reminder of a very impressive little musical.
Little not in terms of ambition or theme but a bijou, boutique chamber work with nothing between the singers and their audience.
That title number did get a reprise at the end, as our call-girl/model poses for that iconic shot, a poignant contrast with the wide-eyed [almost] innocent girl from the Sticks whom we meet at the top of the show.
Laura Wyatt plays her straight, but with a glance and a half-smile skilfully suggests the naiveté and the sexual allure which will ultimately engineer her rise and fall.
A characterization nicely contrasted with Angie Diggens' knowing Mandy; she has one of the best numbers in a strong score – He Would Say That – with the jury as backing vocals and a saucy sax obbligato. The two girls duet deliciously in the witty Famous Like Her.
The other stand-out performance comes from Phillip Wilson as the socialite osteopath Stephen Ward, with his sketch pad and his black polo neck [all the costumes were carefully chosen to evoke those distant swinging sixties]. He too has a great number with Keeler – Style, with top hat and cane, and his tragic downfall is expertly handled.
The colourful characters in this sordid story include Adrian Bolton's genial Pops Murray, Peter Drew's Russian spy, and of course war minister Profumo himself [an eleventh hour stand-in from Roger Hearne] who only appears late in the piece, but has a highly emotional musical mea culpa – "What Man ?".
On this tiny stage even a pocket musical will be a challenge. But we did manage a mirror-ball, and a kick-line, stand-up comedy and a full-scale orgy [all in the best possible taste]. Having the tabs across for every scene change was tedious, but it did enable us to enjoy the inspired device of the Hack [superbly played by Kevin Topple] – chorus to this history. Not only did he fill in the detail of the narrative, but he reminded us that this affair saw the cosy relationship of press and powerful men begin to fall apart.
I liked the unplugged intimacy of this performance – only the Wodka number cried out for a bit more kitsch and a real production number. But I can imagine it having a future with a real band, a bigger chorus and [at the risk of sounding like the sad old men in Murray's cabaret bar] actual topless dancing.
Tony Franchi's musical catches the mood, and the musical idioms, of the Sixties perfectly. It is directed with a sure touch by Lindsay Lloyd [assisted by Vicky Tropman]; John Chillingworth oversees the music from a keyboard in the wings. The book [co-written with Marion Wells] wisely concentrates on the carefree, hedonistic years, when this teenager from Slough gets lucky, then unlucky, and, as the Hack has it, brings down a government before she's even old enough to vote.
Snatches of the numbers, and a synopsis, are available on the show's website.