And even I, on record as not being exactly keen on musicals, had to be impressed with Mark Bramble’s staging and the energetic hoofing.
Michael Stewart and Mark Bramble’s book is not exactly the greatest script ever to hit the boards - the characters are underdeveloped, dialogue often dire and the story thin - but the Busby Berkeley-esque spectacle is tremendous. And a host of Harry Warren classics (“We’re in the Money”, “Lullaby of Broadway”, “Keep Young and Beautiful”, “I Only Have Eyes For You”, “Shuffle Off To Buffalo” to name but a few) lifts the mood.
Set on Broadway in the 1933 Depression, this is a creaky Noises off behind the scenes with showgirls (and boys) tapping their way from the breadline to chorus line and from backstage to the tearoom. But when the curtain is up, it’s all about the glitz and glamour with Roger Kirk’s superb costumes, lighting by David Howe and sets by Douglas W Schmidt.
The CamMac of 30s New York, Julian Marsh (convincingly played (and sung) by international recording artist and musical theatre stalwart Dave Willetts) is putting on a show backed by kiddie-car tycoon Abner Dillon (Bruce Montague who boasts over 200 TV credits) who insists that his fading diva lady love Dorothy (Marti Webb - Olivier Award nominee, multi solo album recording artist and perhaps best known for Tell Me On A Sunday written for her by Andrew Lloyd Webber) takes centre stage despite not being able to dance.
Her fractured ankle is goofy ingénue Peggy’s big break. Just up from hicktown looking for fame and fortune, she stumbles into the chorus and beyond. Jessica Punch (Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, West End) shows a fantastic pair of heels and the voice ain’t bad either.
James O’Connell (model, dancer, choreographer and video performer) is stand-out as lead hoofer and love interest Billy but it is the incredibly talented ensemble/swing that, without putting a foot wrong, executes choreographer (who also plays dance captain Andy) Graeme Henderson’s complex and extensive routines with great pizzazz.
Add a great live orchestra under the sparkling baton of Gareth Williams (and good sound engineering properly balancing the music and singing all too often missing in other recent musicals and emphasising the thunderous incessant tapping) was the icing on the cake for a feel-good evening.