Finborough Theatre Autumn 2010
The B-level work of A-level
artists can be more interesting and successful than the A-level work of
Rodgers and Hammerstein's 1953
musical is not among their best, but by any standards but their own it
is a thoroughly entertaining light musical typical of the period, and
this sprightly fringe production shows off all its virtues and limits.
There's nothing actually wrong
with Me And Juliet, just the sense that both creators were in a minor
Hammerstein's book (one of his
rare originals) essentially just moves the plot of Oklahoma to a
theatre's backstage - chorus line girl chooses stage manager nice guy
over stagehand bad boy, and bad boy gets very angry.
The structure and lyrics to
the opening song, 'A Very Special Day', come out of the same
perky-heroine cookie cutter as 'Cockeyed Optimist' and 'It Might As Well
Meanwhile the best song in the
score, 'No Other Love', is set to a melody Rodgers wrote as background
music to a TV documentary two years earlier, and some of the other
tunes, notably for 'The Big Black Giant' and 'It Feels Good', sound like
Still, 'No Other Love' is a
good song, the pastiche numbers for the musical within the musical
(the one the characters are putting on when not involved in their
romantic triangle) are witty, and it's all quite pleasant in its modest,
somewhat generic way.
And that may be the biggest
disappointment 1953 audiences felt - the show ran a year, which by
R&H standards amounted to a flop - the sense that this was a generic
little musical that anyone could have written.
Some of that generic quality
is evident in this production, with none of the performers able to give
more than type-characterisations or to put their individual stamp or
personality into the roles or songs. Everyone is fine and no one is
Honours do go to director Thom
Southerland for inventively fitting the musical (originally with a cast
of 74) into the Finborough, and for generating a nice sense of the on-
and offstage division in the characters' lives - it is fun, for example,
to see them stand chatting in the 'wings' and then turn on the flashing
smiles as they go 'onstage'.
Much credit also to
choreographer Sally Brooks, who creates pocket versions of big
production numbers for the inner musical that evocatively hint at a cast
of 74 while never seeming cramped on the tabletop-sized stage.
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Review of Me And Juliet - Finborough Theatre 2010