It might have had a change of musical director, the elements might be conspiring to dampen the atmosphere, but the tidal wave of exuberance that typifies Kilworth House Theatre productions is just as strong as ever.
This beautiful, stylish open-air venue, tucked away in the grounds of a sumptuous country house hotel in Leicestershire, maintains its enviable track record of summer productions with the Lambeth Walk musical Me and My Girl.
Originally written in 1937, it got a shot in the arm with a West End revival in 1985 that starred Robert Lindsay and Emma Thompson, and a newly crafted book courtesy of Stephen Fry. Sensibly, it is this version that Kilworth is using, although there’s no escaping the fact this is a thoroughly dated show.
Therein, of course, lies much of its selling power, attracting those with rosier-tinted views of nostalgia to a hit-filled score that also includes The Sun Has Got His Hat On and Leaning on a Lamppost.
But that is hardly doing justice to director Mitch Sebastian and the highly accomplished creative and performing team that have put the production together.
Yet again, Sebastian combines the role of director and choreographer with stunning effect, weaving subtle and not-so-subtle song-and-dance routines seamlessly into the action and conjuring up a delightful succession of theatrical images and visions that use the setting to its full advantage and linger in the mind long after the last revellers have Lambeth Walked back to their cars. Neil Ditt is a fine ‘cheeky chappie’ in the central role of Bill Snibson, the Cockney coster unwittingly elevated to the peerage in this silliest of plots. He’s charming, sings and acts with equal charisma, and holds the whole thing together admirably. There are a host of strong supporting characters too, such as the would-be seductress Lady Jaqueline (Kirby Hughes), a marvellously sneering butler Charles (Alan Pearson) and a hilariously over-the-top set of ancestors who romp through the family history with chorus-girl camp.
David Howe’s elegant lighting helps create some fabulous moments while Garth Hall’s on-stage band – always a highlight – add immeasurably to the charm and liveliness of the evening, making this an addition to Kilworth’s canon to be treasured.