Billed as a “Musical Comedy Whodunit”, set in 1959 in a Boston theatre on opening night of a new musical, the untalented and unpopular leading lady is murdered during curtain call. Lieutenant Cioffi a stage struck cop with showbiz aspirations arrives and discovering the entire company has guilty secrets, making each one a potential suspect, quarantines them all in the theatre until the crime is solved.
What follows is two hours of pure joy as the funniest of scripts is punctuated with classic Kander and Ebb songs performed with absolute conviction by an extraordinarily talented 19 strong cast.
In normal circumstances they are accompanied by a 5 piece band but unfortunately the Landor, along with the similarly afflicted Southwark Playhouse, falls foul of what will henceforth be known as the great South London drummer shortage of 2012, so the first act is percussion-less and the trumpet player doesn’t put in an appearance at all, but I will admit to enjoying myself so much that it takes me about 45 minutes to even notice the depleted musician’s corner.
Jeremy Legat is a dream as Cioffi, part Columbo, part Danny Kaye. His deadpan delivery of lines belies masterful comic timing and he sings and dances with a twinkle in his eye and a sparkle in his step. His budding romance with understudy Niki, played with delightful faux innocence by Bronwyn Andrews, is beautifully understated.
Stealing every scene with the most gloriously hammy overacting imaginable is Bryan Kennedy as director Christopher Belling, a snide comment never far from his sharp tongue, eyebrows raised as he takes credit for every success and apportions blame elsewhere for every failure.
A sub-plot involving the show’s once married writers, Georgia and Aaron, is skilfully handled by Fiona O’Carroll and Leo Andrew, as neither wants to admit that they are still in love with the other. The audience are rooting for a reunion of this likeable pair with gorgeous voices and winning personalities.
As the evening progresses the quarantined company use their enforced imprisonment to work on their show but further foul deeds are committed and Cioffi edges ever closer to unmasking the killer and falling in love with Niki.
Despite the magnificence of the leads, what makes this production so special is the ensemble. You will not believe the fabulous song and dance routines that this large cast perform in this tiny room. All credit to them, director Robert McWhir and choreographer Robbie O’Reilly, who manages to sneak in a couple of nods to Bob Fosse in his use of chairs and white gloves. Beneath half a gold proscenium arch with a solitary gold Doric column and a red curtain, a Broadway bound show comes to life before our eyes.
One tiny quibble is Buster Skeggs’ costume as long suffering producer Carmen Bernstein. The slacks and leopard print chiffon blouse ensemble don’t so much conjure up 1950’s Boston as 2012 Torrevieja. A minor detail though that may have something to do with this being a final preview.
If you fancy some light relief from the Olympics, I guarantee you will leave the Landor with aching sides from all the laughter and sore hands from all the applause. You will also be singing “Show People” for at least 24 hours. A fabulous production of a wonderfully silly witty show full of memorable songs written by titans of musical theatre and performed with total sincerity by an engaging supremely gifted cast.
Booking until 1 September 2012, two hours of pure joy - Curtains