Fringe powerhouse The Finborough Theatre and one-man musicals machine Thom Sutherland have teamed up again to give us another European premiere of a Rogers & Hammerstein show that proves to be even more of a delight than State Fair. Itfs got nothing to do with Shakespearefs R&J; itfs a simple onstage-backstage love story, but you get a real baddie and a second love story for your money. Clearly itfs not in the Oklahoma / South Pacific league, but itfs a decent show and therefore astonishing that itfs taken 27 years to be seen here. It didnft take long to sweep me away. Designer Alex Marker has cleverly reversed the usual theatre configuration and integrated both audience and cast entrance doors and the spaces above them into the set. Therefs some terrific staging, including scenes of the show-within-the-show lighting men from both above the stage and looking down from the stage which are inspired, and therefs a brilliant surprise entrance. The chorus numbers are delicious Busby Berkley miniatures staged with tongue slightly in cheek looking back 50 years very affectionately. The singing and acting are first class. Laura Main and Robert Hands are great romantic leads. John Addison was so menacing he brought a believability to the bad-guy character which could easily have been a caricature. Jodie Jacobs was so spot in every way she could have time-travelled from the 50s for the evening. Dafydd Gwyn Howells (wonder where hefs from?!) and Anthony Wise also impressed as Company Manager and Lighting Man respectively. The musical standards are outstanding with MD Joseph Atkins alone playing the whole score on his upright piano. Charming and irresistible, I hope that, like State Fair, it gets a second outing . Wefre so lucky to have theatres like the Finborough, Landor and Union putting on musical productions of this quality and people like Thom Sutherland to present us with opportunities to see rare gems like this. Ifd say GO GO GO, but itfs probably sold out by now! - Gareth James
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