dir Steven Dexter
book/lyrics Barry Harman • music Keith Herrmann
Above the Stag, Vauxhall • from 15.Mar.19
Originally produced on Broadway in 1988, but writer Harmon has given this musical romantic comedy a twist with this production at London's Above the Stag. Like the National Theatre's acclaimed gender-swapped new production of Sondheim's Company, this show is now staged with an all-male cast, which adds some intrigue and resonance to its tangled plotlines.
The show is actually two musicals linked through a yearning for real love. The first act is The Little Comedy, set in early 20th century Vienna, where Valentin (Jordan Lee Davies) has become bored with his wealthy lover, and the playboy Alfred (Blair Robertson) is tired of a string of empty affairs. They meet when they're both pretending to be poor: Valentine posing as a butcher and Alfred as a poet. And they struggle to maintain the deception on a weekend in the country at a fleabag guesthouse far from the luxuries they're used to.
The second act is Summer Share, set in present-day New York as two couples go on holiday together in the Hamptons. Sam (Alex Lodge) and Jeremy (Ryan Anderson) are long-time friends who bring their husbands (Davies and Robertson) along with them. But over one long evening, Sam and Jeremy wonder why they never got together, and they begin to think that tonight might be the night something happens.
|Davies & Robertson|
It's this element that brings Summer Share to particularly vivid life, as it adds a swirling range of emotionality to all four of the characters, making the songs much more intensely engaging and darkly moving. By contrast, The Little Comedy feels almost gimmicky, with its jaunty tone and lavish costumes. Although making these men gay does add a certain zing to the premise, which intriguingly echoes fake dating app profiles.
|Lodge & Anderson|