Some of these big shows don't stand up to close analysis. Here the sophistication of the book and lyrics by the inimitable Charles Hart and Don Black provide an always witty play which happens to be set to music. That's how it feels even though Andrew Lloyd Webber writes the music first and his lyricists have to fit round him, poor things. It is to their credit that it doesn't feel that way around at all.
Under the impeccable and detailed direction of Trevor Nunn, who did the overblown West End and Broadway originals, the actors here often make the choice to speak the lyrics. Dangerous this, as one could ask: ‘What was the point of setting them to music in the first place?' I think they get away with it in striving to prevent the melodies from getting in the way of the storytelling.
Beautiful, charming, charismatic, expertly comedic and with an emotional range to span the Atlantic.
Sorry guys, but Trevor was of the opinion that no British musical theatre actor could cut the mustard and instead he turned to a young American actor he'd auditioned for A Little Night Music on Broadway, but who he deemed too young for the role there, importing him instead, a year later, for this.
Readers – don't sulk. Go and learn from Michael Arden as to just why this happened. You'll be the better for it. Arden has arrived, catch him while you can, connecting so totally to the material he wrings every ounce from as if it were the Henrik Ibsen so parodied in the plot. Beautiful, charming, charismatic, expertly comedic and with an emotional range to span the Atlantic. Oh, he also sings with virtuosic control, colour, power and tone.
Michael Arden is mesmeric. He is partnered in an always elegant, stylish but piercingly earthy and truthful Rose Vibert of Katherine Kingsley – she's a Brit. Together they are a transatlantic antidote to the slush this could have become. Dave Willets is a revelation as the third member of the ménage, a silver fox star to be taken seriously and perfectly cast.
Dominic Tighe (Central trained) lends beautifully observed, sympathetic support as hunky Hugo – the bit on the side. It's worth the ticket price alone for the orchestrations of the great David Cullen – an aspect I loved.
Runs until 26th September 2010