Open Air Theatre
Where: West End
27 July 2001 WOS Rating: Average Reader Rating: Reader Reviews: View and add to our user reviews You can forgive a lot on a beautiful summer's evening in Regent's Park's Open Air Theatre, unquestionably the capital's most magical venue. And, I'm afraid, you'll have to forgive a lot with this year's new musical, Where's Charley.
When I use the word new in the context of the Open Air, I mean of course new-old. First seen on Broadway in 1948 and last seen in London in 1958 (with Norman Wisdom in the lead),
Where's Charley reaches back to 1892 for its source, Brandon Thomas' quintessentially English farce, Charley's Aunt.
This is a tale of students with servants, women with chaperones and young men harmonising about their salad days at Ivy-covered, sepia-toned Oxford. It's twittishness times twenty, and somehow it just hasn't dated as well or as sympathetically as, say, a really rollicking Gilbert and Sullivan revival. But, while George Abbot's book detailing marriage contracts and finagled fortunes is hard to digest according to 21st century appetites, it's Frank Loesser's lyrics which sound particularly old-fashioned and inane - comparing a lover to a frightened "starling" in order to rhyme with "darling" springs to mind.
The cast also seem uncomfortable - and slightly under-rehearsed - with this ill-fitting production, directed by
Ian Talbot. There are no real stand-out performances, although Cameron Blakely as cross-dressing Charley is rambunctious enough, wringing laughs from his fictional aunt's deflection of aging suitors and repetition of the one-liner "Brazil, where the nuts come from".
Elsewhere, the males of the company are pretty uniformly lacklustre and certainly outperformed in the vocal department by their female counterparts, of whom
Lottie Mayor as Charley's love interest Amy fares best at capturing the prim ladylike bemusement of the era without grating at the same time.
Carping aside, there are some real treats to be found here. "Make a Miracle", in which Amy and Charley contemplate their romance in the face of exhilarating turn-of-the-century technological process, is very sweet. And "Once in Love with Amy" remains a lovely and irresistibly hummable tune, enhanced visually here by Blakely's lively tap routine.
Nevertheless, in the memorability stakes, the score's poverty is stark compared to last year's Open Air revival, G&S's
The Pirates of Penzance, which returns this summer with a new cast. Where's Charley also loses out to Pirates for good fun and sheer exuberance.
Still, when the weather's fine and the venue weaves its spell, forgiveness comes easier. If you lower your expectations and follow the advice dispensed in one of the show's numbers, "you'll like it more the further back you stand".
Terri Paddock Related Content
Score Comment Date While 'factually' correct in some of the production's shortcomings, I thought the WOS review was hard on the overall level of entertainment. Without a good Charley, the show would certainly flounder. However, Cameron Blakely is terrific and, once you relax into the old fashioned style of the setting, it is a thoroughly enjoyable evening. - USER: Whatsonstage.com 08 Aug 01 Good old fashion show. The time just flew by.
Charley (Cameron Blakely), John Conroy,
Christopher Godwin give excellent performances.
- USER: Whatsonstage.com 04 Aug 01 Utter rubbish. Twitish little Englismen prancing around singing about salad days and sounding like the world's worst barbershop ensemble. Charley was very good but he and the rest of the cast were given such dreadful, uninspiring material that you wonder why the Regents Park Theatre bothered to put it on.
- USER: Whatsonstage.com 27 Jul 01 I agree. Great venue, shame about the show. still and all, you'd have to pay me to stay away from Regenat' Park during the summer. Everybody should go just fo rthe experience. Divine - USER: Whatsonstage.com 27 Jul 01
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