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The Sunny Side of the Street

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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A spattering of pink has exploded inside the little black box that is Jermyn Street Theatre, signalling the onset of a musical tribute to award-winning lyricist Dorothy Fields and copious amounts of girliness. The aptly named Dottie’s hairdressers is the setting for this revue show, where employees and customers provide a loose narrative for performances from Fields’ oeuvre.

As characters run through hits such as "I’m In The Mood For Love", "The Way You Look Tonight" and "If They Could See Me Now", they address the gamut of Fields’ favoured subject matters: the thrilling, idiosyncratic and painful nature of relationships; attempts to weather the various storms that life rains down upon us; and, above all, a kind of wide-eyed hope and optimism exemplified by the show’s title, The Sunny Side of the Street.

Director Tim McArthur’s production comprises stripped-back performances of Fields’ works, with a piano (played by musical director Sarah Travis) being the only instrumental accompaniment to the vocal performances. This works to good effect for the solo numbers, where personality and characterisation are given the chance to come to the fore – as in the nudge-nudge wink-wink sauce of "He Had Refinement", as well as the solemn desperation communicated by "April Fooled Me". But this is at a loss to the bigger show tunes which noticeably lack the dash and swell of a swing band and as a result are never quite able to fulfil their showstopping potential.

In accordance, the ensemble pieces feel as though they are missing something, which must in part be down to some rather lacklustre nods to choreography. Having said that, what The Sunny Side of the Street really hangs on is the singing, and what the performers lack in dance coordination they make up for in close harmonies. Performances are commendable all round, with stand outs coming from Rosemary Ashe with her tongue firmly in cheek for Lady Needs A Change, and the spirited Shona White’s moving rendition of Make The Man Love Me.

Yet this back to basics revue of Fields’ musical numbers feels a bit like a merry-go-round of a rather limited set of topics – love, loss and a sunny disposition – making it one for enthusiasts only.

- by Stephanie Soh


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