For a self-confessed fan of musicals, it is a rare treat to discover something new – and such is the case with Spend, Spend, Spend. The story of Viv, a woman who won a fortune on the Pools and then lost it again is an unusual subject matter for a musical – but it works.
Craig Revel Horwood’s production started at the Watermill in Newbury last year and it is a very accomplished piece of work. Slick, cheeky, characterful and packed with energy, it is a long way from what you might expect from his ‘Strictly’ persona – but it is clear that he knows how to shape a good musical.
I am not yet won over by the idea of using actor-musicians (a trademark of Watermill productions) but they integrate their instruments into the action seamlessly. There are a few balance issues when the actors come into the auditorium (a trombone next to your ear tends to drown out any other sounds) but otherwise the musical performances are all excellent.
Central to the success of the evening are the performances of Karen Mann and Kirsty Hoiles as the older and younger Viv. They carry the show with great warmth and humanity – plus they both have great voices. It is also very pleasing to see a musical where the central role is reserved for a more mature female performer! Credit also to Greg Barnett who makes much of his role as Keith – Viv’s second husband.
Overall this is a lesser-known musical given a top-notch production. It has much to commend it – I might even go again.