Captivating, yet also with meaty themes, That Old Feeling at the Mill at Sonning has a wonderfully upbeat message, that even when you’re over 60, life can still hold great adventure. It’s a thought the audience here certainly seem to appreciate throughout this feelgood musical.
Widower Ron’s family think it’s time he was put out to pasture. In particular, his bossy daughter-in-law Bette (a nicely observed performance by Shona Lindsay) wants to see him step down from running the family business, sell the family home and move into ‘a nice little flat’. This convenient plan is not to be. Ron’s friend Horace (Geoff Aymer) tricks him into coming along to a dance club where Ron meets and is dazzled by vivacious divorcee Bernie. Whether the family like it or not, love enters the old chap’s life - and turns it upside down. It also forces the younger members of the family to confront of some of the issues bedevilling their own lives.
The songs that thread through the show, written by Richard Harris and Denis King, are super and, importantly, every one moves the story on. Each of the cast has their own special numbers, too – and all acquit them excellently. But it is Col Farrell as Ron, who dazzles the most with his nifty dancing and engaging voice in numbers such as “Beautiful” and “Bernadette and Me”.
The set design by Eileen Diss cleverly works for the many locations of the story while still giving plenty of room for Joseph Pitcher’s lively choreography to have full rein. In fact the show has good production values all round.
Alvin Rakoff has directed a strong piece of theatre which balances the witty script with the important underlying issues of the story perfectly, and with the strength of performances of an excellent cast, particularly Eileen Battye as the sharply funny, but sometimes brittle, Bernie, the production is one of the best I have seen at this renowned producing theatre.