Wednesday, October 08, 2014


Cut To the Chase at the Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch


Mary Redman joined the Press Bench for the red-carpet gala opening ...

Ken Ludwig, the writer with “Showbiz in the Blood”, created this popular spoof that premièred on Broadway in 1989. It's a thoroughbred farce with plenty of extracts from grand opera as Tito Merelli, an over-pampered Italian tenor, tries to avoid an unwanted singing engagement in a luxury hotel, his fiery wife and three enthusiastic female fans.
The first star on stage is Mark Walters' colourful and gilded to within an inch of its life French Baroque hotel suite set, against which the women's mouthwateringly delicate, embroidered glitzy frocks (all made in house), emphasise their every movement.
And there's plenty of movement on stage since Director Matt Devitt has gone for oodles of energy and pace, all punctuated by satisfyingly noisy slamming of the many doors. As all good farces should have.
Fred Broom is a chunky, self-absorbed Pavarotti-style tenor with sharp comedy skills and a fabulous singing voice. Greg Last as the trainee hotel manager is equally gifted with a superb voice, even picking up a perfect a cappella cue. His love interest is the attractive daughter of the opera manager played by the beautiful and very human Sarah Scowen but they don't get together until much later as she's busy chasing Tito.
As Tito's luscious Italian wife Sarah Mahoney makes the most of this showy role while Georgina Field's ripe Julia would welcome Tito to her bed and Christine Holman's Diana is a zany platinum blonde.
Two more masters of physical, verbal, dancing and singing comedy masters are Sean Needham's Saunders whose temper is tested by all the things that go wrong around him and the rapturously silly Steve Simmonds as the Bellhop providing comic relief for the comedy all around him.
Such fun, and thoroughly entertaining, the show runs until October 25. Beg, borrow or steal a ticket!

and I penned this for The Public Reviews

Cut to the Chase on cracking form in this riotously funny revival of Ken Ludwig's back stage farce.

But as the stunning set by Mark Walters and the Queen's workshop reveals, we're not in the wings, or the green room, but a shamelessly tasteless suite – blue and pink, dripping with gilt moulding – of a hotel in 1930s Cleveland, Ohio.

Not much of a view from the big window, but lots of identical, stoutly built doors for the manic comings and goings which give the show its energy and its panache.

The suite is reserved for Il Stupendo, Italian opera star Tito Merelli, slated to give his Otello at the opera house next door.
But he is late, tired, briefly dead and then locked out and on the loose. The intrigue involves jealousy, unrequited love and mistaken identity, as doormat factotum Max blacks up for an unexpected début on the lyric stage. Fortunately, or un-, Tito always travels with two costumes in his baggage …

Think Comedy of Errors with Moors for Dromios, Noises Off with two tenors for three burglars.

Joining a fantastic company of Cut to the Chase regulars is Fred Broom, who makes a wickedly comic Tito, relishing every moment as lover, luvvie and hen-pecked husband. Signora Merelli is played by Sarah Mahony, perfectly pitching the accent and the outrage.
Seasoned farceur Sean Needham is the harassed General Manager Henry Saunders – some marvellous physical moments, and he “loses it” with some style when his gala seems doomed; there follows a beautifully played duologue in which he persuades young Max to step in …

Max – frustrated opera singer and fan of Merelli – is Greg Last, following his impressive lounge singer with an equally brilliant opera star, saving the day for Saunders, stealing the show and getting his girl with a final phrase – Vien Venere Splende – from Otello's big love duet. The singing is superb too – the showpiece Verdi duet is wonderfully done by Broom and Last, and even the bellhop – a cheeky camp cameo from Steve Simmonds – gives us a snatch of his Barber.

Georgina Field – elegant in her thirties gown, as are all the ladies – is the birdlike grande dame Chair of the Guild, who can't wait to meet Tito, an infatuation shared with Sarah Scowen's Maggie and Christine Holman's seductive soprano Diana. Satisfaction all round, we hope, as the action climaxes with ingenuous double entendre, Max pops his cork and there's a beautifully choreographed double coupling.

Typical of Matt Devitt's impeccably paced production, crammed with delicious moments: the bath bubbles, the photos, and the chase music rustled up by room service...

this piece first appeared on The Public Reviews

production photograph: Mark Sepple

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