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Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Thing About Men - Landor Theatre - Friday 18 May ****

Finally, a musical. On a Friday night and “press night” too, this is more like it. As we entered the Landor there was a tangible sense of relief as we ordered the first of many vodka and tonics of the evening. The Landor has never let us down and we were aching to climb the stairs to the first floor performance space to be whisked away to some alternate reality where melody, rhythm and rhyme are more important that the EU, hitting a top C is more significant than the return of the Drachma and being able to dance whilst singing and pretending to be someone else is the ultimate achievement that Angela Merkel will never know.

For once we decided to have dinner in the friendly buzzy bar on the ground floor and I am so glad we did as it was delicious. We never watch what we eat at weekends, as our ever expanding waistlines attest, so it was mouth-watering fish and chips for me and I even ate the salad. I’m still waiting for the weather to break so I can start my post-Christmas diet. Anyway I digress, back to matters theatrical.

I have already written a more formal review of this show for What’s On The Fringe, so I will post a link when it’s published (here it is - Whats On The Fringe review). In the meantime I’ll just ramble on here in my usual uniformed manner.

This 2003 “musical comedy affair” has book and lyrics by Joe Pietro and music by Jimmy Roberts, the team responsible for the off-Broadway hit “I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change”.

The opening song reveals the dilemma our protagonist faces. Peter Gerald’s cuckolded advertising executive Tom is a man who is too self-absorbed to realise the ridiculousness in his outrage at his wife Lucy’s five week fling with artist Sebastian, when he admits to at least three affairs himself, including an ongoing one with a colleague. Taking umbrage he moves out of their large suburban home and follows John Addison’s cash-strapped Sebastian to a bar and, using the assumed name Milo, makes him a financial offer that he can’t refuse to move into the spare room of his messy urban loft. There follows a series of almost farcical situations where Tom ensures that neither Sebastian nor Lucy discover Milo’s true identity.

Peter Gerald is tremendous, centre stage for much of the show, it his journey that engages the most and as his life of unfulfilled dreams is revealed, our initial disdain for this needy attention seeking man with dubious morals is transformed and we see echoes of John Addison’s sexy exciting but hopelessly idealistic boy-man, Sebastian. Kate Graham is outstanding as Lucy, we can totally empathise with her and understand why Tom’s behaviour and lack of interest has made her fall for attentive, hunky Sebastian.

The USP of this great little musical, sparkling with snappy dialogue, witty one-liners and tuneful, if ultimately a little unmemorable, songs is the supporting cast of 22 characters and a Greek chorus. All of these roles are tackled with sensational comic effect by Steven Webb and Lucyelle Cliffe. If ever there were two major musical comedy stars about to burst into all our consciousnesses it is Messrs Webb and Cliffe. From sushi delivery men to snotty maitre-D’s and Hispanic cab drivers to country and western singers, they grab every opportunity and manage to steal every single scene in which they appear.

As the story progresses, Sebastian and Tom, initially unlikely flatmates, never mind soulmates, eventually find that they have more in common than either of them could have believed and Tom and Lucy rediscover the source of their love for each other.

Director Andrew Keates has inspired this terrific cast to give us world-class performances.  With musical staging by Cressida Carre and musical direction from Joanna Cichonska, these three Mountview Academy alumni have created something truly special. The three piece band of piano, reeds and cello manage to sound remarkably lush. The set, designed by Martin Thomas, of gorgeous gilded doorframes surrounding matt grey doors and boxes of varying sizes that illuminate, gives us a true sense of place and time. I also have to mention Philippa Batt’s fabulous costumes, especially those of bored, trophy wife Lucy. Kate Graham gets to change for virtually every scene including slipping on a pair of glittering stilettos with gravity defying heels that have to be seen to be believed.

From the tasty food and friendly bar staff to the wonderful beer garden and the trad-jazz band playing as we left, The Landor already has to be a contender for the best pub in the world. Add to this an upstairs room in which is created some of the most exciting musical theatre in London and the result is Nirvana.

Booking until 9 June 2012, The Landor does it yet again, don’t miss - The Thing About Men

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