The show, devised by Kernan and written by Dick Vosburgh, narrates the life of the New York composer, who was born in 1885 and, during an extensive career, collaborated with the likes of Oscar Hammerstein and PG Wodehouse on a range of film scores and musicals, probably the most famous of which was Show Boat.
Given the strength of Kern’s catalogue, it’s small wonder that each of the four singers in the cast - accompanied by Dominic Barlow (also musical director) on piano and Tom Mansi on bass - has a chance to shine.
At the end of Act One, the number amalgamating “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man” and “Bill” from Show Boat, performed jointly by Angela Richards and Sheri Copeland, is artfully arranged and beautifully sung. In Act Two, another duet, “A Fine Romance”, is delivered with character and wit by Richards and Glyn Kerslake, and it’s nicely followed by the quartet, “Who”, displaying the performers’ harmonising abilities.
In addition to the high quality of the singing, the actors milk the material for its comic value. In “My Husband’s First Wife”, for example, Richards, employing her low drawl and impeccable timing, has many in the audience rolling in the aisle with her explanation of the virtues of the apparently perfect predecessor she can’t live up to. Other highlights include Jamie Golding’s amusing delivery of “She Didn’t Say Yes”, Copeland’s sweetly touching “Remind Me” and Kerslake’s rousing rendition of “The Last Time I Saw Paris”.
David Lee’s choreography is simple but stylish - although it does feature one of my pet hates, tap dancing without tap shoes – and does the job well given the King’s Head’s limited space. In addition, Chris Davey’s lighting provides the right atmosphere for the songs.
Kern Goes to Hollywood takes a while to warm up – the second act is much more enjoyable than the first – but, by the end of the evening, most of the audience are tapping and singing along, so the company must be hitting the right notes.