Salad Days is one of those musicals that shouldn't work on paper, but really does in practice. A pleasingly bonkers romp through a tale of a magical piano that makes those who hear it dance uncontrollably, complete with aliens, dodgy nightclub singers and overbearing mothers, this production, returning to Riverside Studios, is a laugh and a half that you won't forget in a hurry.
Set in traverse and with direct (if extremely gentle) audience interaction taking place from the start, this is a remarkably open and friendly production, chock-full of brilliant songs, including the seriously catchy "Oh Look At Me, I’m Dancing" and the nicely poignant "The Time Of My Life". Quinny Sacks' choreography is sharp and spirited and if there are moments when things flag a touch, there are plenty of terrible jokes and funny lines to counteract this. "What sort of steps were you using?" asks PC Boot’s boss, to which the confused policeman replies: "Miscellaneous?" Safe to say, he’s dancing again shortly after.
As romantic interests Timothy and Jane, who come across the piano in Hyde Park and agree to take care of it for a month, Leo Miles and Katie Moore play it totally straight, skilfully mixing beautiful harmonies with excellent dancing. Miles’ lines are particularly sharp in the duo’s dance duets, while Moore’s crystal-clear vocal is a joy to listen to.
A tip-top ensemble supports and propagates this crazy tale with commitment and elan. Kathryn Martin is great fun as everyone from a stumbling model to a greedy, dirty nightclub singer, while Tom Millen excels in a number of dance styles as the hapless PC Boot. Luke Alexander provides strong support as the posh Nigel and Mark Inscoe skilfully juggles many roles, including that of the mysterious Uncle Zed, whose back story turns out to be even more bizarre than you might have first imagined. Unsurprisingly...
While it's a tad confusing to start with, you soon learn to just surrender yourself to every (increasingly ridiculous) twist and turn in this show, no matter how bizarre things get. You might not put up with it for any other show, but Salad Days is definitely worth the effort.
- by Miriam Zendle