Betty Blue Eyes is a lot of fun, if you take and appreciate it for what
a nice brassy old-fashioned Broadway-style musical, the kind we're told
they don't make anymore.
book to music
to staging, you sense what is surely a conscious and deliberate effort
not to advance the art form an inch, but just to provide the proverbial
Good Night Out. And on that unsurprising, undemanding comfort-food
level, it's a complete success.
on the 1985
film A Private Function, written by Alan Bennett, it tells the story of
a Yorkshire chiropodist and his social-climbing wife in the royal
wedding year of 1947. Snubbed by the village aristocracy, they take
revenge by stealing the pig the toffs were illegally raising for a
royal wedding feast, only to run afoul of the rationing authorities
Cowen and Daniel Lipman tell the tale with efficiency and humour,
allowing appropriate spots for the songs by George Stiles (music) and
Anthony Drewe (lyrics), which are amiable but mainly forgettable.
title song has
a sweet melody, if you overlook the fact that it's a love song to a
pig, and the big brassy number, 'Nobody', has real Broadway razzmatazz
energy (and more than a passing resemblance to Kander and Ebb's finale
directs the plot scenes fluidly and acknowledges the retro flavour of
the show by staging every song with the performers stepping away from
each other, facing front, planting their feet apart and blasting at us
in full Ethel Merman mode.
Stephen Mear's biggest dance number is a flashback Lindy Hop, complete
with big band and Andrews Sisters clones, though elsewhere he shows
some wit by inserting Their Royal Highnesses into one number, alluding
to Les Miserables in another, and quoting Michael Jackson (about forty
years too early) in yet another.
plays the mousy hero with appropriately modest charm, though the
performer, like the character, is repeatedly overpowered by his wife,
as Sarah Lancashire takes no prisoners with 'Nobody' and generally
dominates every other number she's in.
Emery is droll
as the dotty mother-in-law and Adrian Scarborough funny as the
mock-villain rationing enforcer, while Jack Edwards gets to sing the
title song with a straight face. Oh, and the robot pig is very sweet.
just set in 1947. Stylistically, it's a contender for the best musical
of 1947. And that's not really a criticism.
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- Betty Blue Eyes - Novello Theatre