The first thing to say is: it's a dream partnership. Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound… tear up the stage… Jerry Mitchell's glorious staging, and David Yazbek's delightful score (with audaciously witty lyrics)… it all looks absolutely fabulous, and fabulously old-fashioned… Lindsay combines a distinctly modern edge with the anachronistic suavity… In fine contrast, Hound is all cuddly gormlessness… genuinely and forgivably funny. And you can certainly extend the politically incorrect compliments to Kingsley's gorgeous man-eater… and to John Marquez's dimly entertaining caricature of a corrupt French policeman… Peter McKintosh's design in particular… are virtually Broadway standard, the inevitable criterion in these circumstances, and Howard Harrison's lighting is pretty good, too. The dancers are fantastic, and the band, under Matthew Brind's musical supervision, top notch.
Robert Lindsay and Rufus Hound bring charm and verve to their roles… But it's Katherine Kingsley who steals the show… Jerry Mitchell's lavish production occasionally seems torn between warm-hearted traditionalism and a savvy, almost postmodern delight in furtiveness and "nudge nudge, wink wink". There's plenty of razzle-dazzle yet also a wry knowingness… Clever twists define Jeffrey Lane's book and especially David Yazbek's witty lyrics. But Yazbek's music is less satisfying. It rollicks along appealingly without sticking in the memory. Yet with Samantha Bond and John Marquez providing nimble support… there's a cluster of cherishable performances. Lindsay has the ability to switch between elegance and tetchiness in an instant… But it's Kingsley who best embodies this escapist show's blend of sunny entertainment and classy delivery.
…it is a highly entertaining show, rather than a great one… The effect is witty, and the lyrics are sharp… there is a fizzing on-stage chemistry between Robert Lindsay… and Rufus Hound... Lindsay, a superbly charismatic and versatile actor, combines charm and wit with just a hint of menace, while exuding effortless star quality in every neat move he makes… He has the perfect foil in Rufus Hound, who somehow manages to be both grotesque and endearing as the slob of a rival con man… Jerry Mitchell's production has an admirably light touch, and he choreographs with panache. There are strong supporting performances… It's a highly entertaining and slickly staged show, and those who purchase tickets won't feel they have been fleeced – even at West End prices.
…it is a prime, and highly pleasurable, example of the musical as escapist fantasy and source of fun… Subtle it isn't… the whole show is a throwback to an earlier age… Jerry Mitchell's production and Peter McKintosh's sets and costumes also usher us into a world of impossible glamour tinged with an element of self-mockery that stops the show descending into kitsch. You see this perfectly in the performance of Robert Lindsay as Lawrence… Rufus Hound is suitably coarse as his antic sidekick without stealing the show… Katherine Kingsley, as the conmens' Midwestern mark, positively glows with innocent sensuality, and dances superbly… It's not a show that extends the boundaries of the form, but one that simply, and happily, takes us back to the all-but-lost era of musical comedy.
…it's their co-star Katherine Kingsley who nicks the show from under their noses. When Kingsley is on stage… Jerry Mitchell's production comes into full focus… You see how good this smart, enjoyable but disposable musical can be when it's performed with real aplomb. Kingsley sings with effortless power and performs with comic vitality… What's lacking is the vaudevillian rapport between the leading men to lend this silly, twisty story the extra oomph it needs. Despite a big backing ensemble who dance and sing brilliantly… a trace of English reserve lingers. So the characters' self-knowing quips about the show's fictionality are clever rather than hilarious. This musical first appeared in America in 2004. Here, in its British debut, it's good fun. Played with even more conviction, it could be great fun.
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