Peter McGarry is an experienced,
independent professional theatre critic who has agreed to
review Talisman Theatre productions.
Peter is free to express his opinions for good or ill. The
Talisman Theatre has no control whatsoever over the content
of these reviews and will not comment publicly on what he writes.
It's big, it's bold, it's loaded with lavish
dance routines and slick scene changes. And it all fits neatly
on to the Talisman stage.
This minor miracle is down to the sheer ingenuity of director
Stephen Duckham, choreographer Sally Jolliffe and set designer
John Ellam. They have turned a Broadway musical comedy, little
known over here, into a pulsating theatrical experience.
The joy of this show is that it can be enjoyed at various
levels - as a jokey exravaganza, as a fitting tribute to the
artistry of composers Kander and Ebb, or as an engaging Christie-type
whodunnit with traditional plea not to give away the plot.
But similarities to Dame Agatha end there because this is
a delicious mix of sharp-edged humour and sparky observation
of a world on the other side of the stage curtains.
Apart from one glaring weakness, the production exudes quality
through the dry, lugubrious camp comedy of Steve Smith as
the director of a show girding its Boston loins to break into
the big time. He savours the best lines and makes every one
a winner while energetic Sally Jolliffe, having shaped some
splendid dance routines, injects zany magnetism as the exuberant
momma figure of the show within.
Unfortunately, a key role as an investigating policeman torn
between his job and his theatrical fixation fails to ignite
in Des McCann's uninspired portrayal which, in the words of
the show, does lack lustre.
But the cross-section of experienced players and young newcomers
generally works well, giving us fine vocal work from Michael
Barker and Amanda Dodd and astute comedy from Ashley Spall
and an eye-catching Sophie Higgins who also performs a stunning
At face value, the show hits a high note of entertainment.
We can also enjoy Kander and Ebb's cheeky satirical nod towards
other, better-known musicals and mainstay characters.
It's a little over-long, particularly in a final front-of-curtain
dualogue, but undeniably this is a brave and delightfully