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 The Theatreguide.London Review

The Lady Or The Tiger
Orange Tree Theatre       Winter 2009-2010

This slight and amiable musical was premiered at the Orange Tree in 1975 and has been revived every decade or so, the current version proving a thoroughly enjoyable holiday bauble.

The book by Michael Richmond and Jeremy Paul is, of course, based on Frank Stockton's faux-Arabian Nights tale, in which a princess's lover is punished by being placed before two doors.

Behind one is a tiger who will kill him, behind the other a beautiful woman to whom he will be wed. The princess knows the secret, but which door will she point him toward?

The adapters wisely did not try to make too much of this puzzle story, playing most of it for light comedy and reducing the cast to four - King, Princess, Lover and combined Narrator and Everyone Else.

The songs by Michael Richmond and Nola York will not cause Andrew or Stephen any sleepless nights, but they're light and bouncy, and wholly appropriate to the show's modest fringe-y feel.

The title song has a catchy Latin beat, while a couple of others have the unmistakable sound of 1950s pop, and for those who are Panto-starved, there's even a singalong.

The wittiest number, 'Gold,' follows the Princess as she bribes a string of officials to tell her the secret, and only her big dramatic climax ' What Would You Do?' is disappointingly flat, though it does lead to a funny dream duet for the lady and the tiger.

Andrew C. Wadsworth does much to establish and sustain the show's light and happy tone by playing the Narrator/Everyone with his accustomed charm and ease, and with no more camp than is absolutely necessary.

But the big discovery is Riona O'Connor, a real star-in-the-making who can charm and twinkle and be funny and do a decorous bump-and-grind when asked, and also belt out a song so her voice bounces off the walls of the (admittedly small) theatre.

Howard Samuels is droll as the melodically mad-as-a-hatter monarch and Eke Chukwu attractive as the hero, though his singing is prone to wandering about in search of the right notes.

Playing a variety of instruments and occasionally singing, Greg Last and Tom Sellwood double as the entire orchestra and backing chorus.

Director Sam Walters knows every inch and quirk of this theatre space and is a master of staging in-the-round, and with Carole Todd's choreography, keeps everything moving with just the right delicacy and spirit.

Never more than it claims to be, an undemanding Fun Night Out for the holiday season, The Lady Or The Tiger delivers fully on its promises.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review of  The Lady Or The Tiger - Orange Tree Theatre 2009