When Stephen Fry and Mike Ockrent re-wrote the book of Me and My Girl, no one could have predicted the huge success it would become.
It premiered at Leicester Haymarket Theatre in 1985, starring Robert Lindsay as cockney Bill Snibson and a young Emma Thompson as his girl Sally Smith. The show broke all box office records, and transferred to the Adelphi in London for eight years, going onto Broadway and winning numerous awards.
With music by Noel Gay and lyrics by Arthur Rose, songs including "The Lambeth Walk", "Leaning on a Lampost" and "The Sun Has Got His Hat On" became classics of the musical theatre repertoire.
But now the show is back, this time directed and choreographed by Tim Flavin, prior to a planned West End revival courtesy of producer Charles Vance. So how does it measure up to its internationally successful predecessor? Well, like leading character Bill, who suddenly finds himself heir to a fortune, it's a bit of a poor relation.
The sets are two-dimensional and cheap, some of the costumes are the actors' own clothes, and the show could really do with an extra 10 performers in the ensemble to fill the stage, which at the Birmingham Alexandra is not exactly vast.
Hal Fowler puts in a lot of effort as Bill, handling the songs brilliantly, the comedy well and the dancing less so. Louise English's Sally is pleasant but lacks the spirit the role demands, although she works well with Fowler and makes the character a likeable enough lass.
It's Joan Savage and Gerald Harper who steal the show as Sir John Tremayne and the Duchess Maria, both seasoned performers who carry off their roles with aplomb.
This Me and My Girl needs a lot more money putting into it, new sets and a larger cast if it's to meet the standards of the West End musical audience. And for a long-awaited revival of such a successful and popular show, that's just a shame.
- Elizabeth Ferrie