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The Kissing Dance

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Adapted from Oliver Goldsmith’s 18th-century comedy She Stoops to Conquer, Howard Goodhall and Charles Hart's The Kissing Dance combines a comedy of errors - a young suitor (Ian Virgo) fooled into thinking the manor of his potential father-in-law is an inn - with Goodhall's melodic writing style, presented for this outing in the form of a pastoral score.

There's a lot to get in the small space of the Jermyn Street including a 13-strong cast, reduced slightly from the original 1999 National Youth Music Theatre staging. Virgo and the superb Gina Beck return to the piece having appeared in the NYMT production, with well-cast and unquestionably capable additions, Beverly Klein and David Burt highlights, alongside Jack Shalloo as the clown with a heart.

The actor musicianship gives the production an interesting edge; a flute, clarinet, saxophone, violin, xylophone and even a triangle joining the band during proceedings, but their appearances may be too fleeting, things left feeling a bit thin when the piano alone was accompanying. The often rigid actor/orchestra barrier was broken down further still with number of the cast competently taking on duties at the piano.

Having re-imagined the village of Nonesuch forward from the late 1700s to an Edwardian setting, Lotte Wakenham's production hasn't quite shed the feel of a costume farce, powered wigs et al - it is here the trouble lies. The performances are strong across the cast and they execute the comedy well, but by the time the second half has descended into a hazy whodunit, The Kissing Dance felt like it was trying to cover too much ground.


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