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 The Theatreguide.London Review


Blonde Bombshells of 1943
Hampstead Theatre Summer 2006

Blonde Bombshells is a modest little comedy-with-music that aspires to nothing more than a pleasant summer evening's entertainment. It delivers what it promises, so if that's all you're looking for, you'll have an undemanding and unchallenging good time.

If the title sounds vaguely familiar, you may be thinking of The Last of the Blonde Bombshells, a TV film from about six years ago, in which Judi Dench tried to reunite the all-girl dance band she had played in during the 1940s. Invited to do a stage version a few years later, author Alan Plater chose rather to write a new play, a day in the life of that dance band.

The plot, such as it is, has the band leader desperately needing some new players for a big gig that evening, and forced to take the only four people who show up - a schoolgirl, a nun, a rich bitch and a draft dodger willing to play in drag to stay out of the army.

They each audition and surprise her and us by being able to play and sing just fine, and the rest of the play is made up of rehearsals and backstage banter, leading up to the big show itself.

The cast all sing and play at least one musical instrument as well as acting, and there are plenty of 1940s-era standards like Don't Sit Under The Apple Tree to provide much of the pleasure. Indeed, the big gig at the end of the show, when the band really gets swinging, is so much fun that you'll wish it went on longer.

One might suspect Alan Plater of doing some heavy research, since I doubt if there's a single joke, bit of banter or repartee that is less than 63 years old, but the groaner quality is part of the fun. I do suspect that in casting, musical versatility was rated higher than comic ability, or that director Mark Babych does not have strong comic instincts, since the old gags would have scored better if delivered with a bit more zing.

If you don't suppress your critical instincts in the service of having a good time, you might notice that the characters are all written and played as near-cartoons, and that the amateurs learn the band's repertoire and develop stage polish with remarkable speed.

But do suppress those instincts, expect no more than a couple of hours of fun, particularly enjoy Claire Storey as the swinging nun, Rosie Jenkins as the slumming patrician and Elizabeth Marsh as the band leader, and Blonde Bombshells will deliver.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review - Blonde Bombshells - Hampstead 2006