Firstly, we should clear up a few things:
1) It’s not a musical, it’s a ‘romance that just happens to be sung’, ie, it consists almost entirely of recitative, and that song (‘I will wait for you’), which enjoys several reprises throughout the show.
2) It’s very French.
3) We haven’t seen the film, but for the curious, it is available in its entirety on youtube.
The story itself might be described as banal and sentimental, but we are never meant to become emotionally involved, thanks to Knee High’s addition of Australian cabaret artiste Meow Meow, playing ‘La ‘Maitresse’, which means ‘teacher…..or mistress. Not mattress’. She brings up all the French clichés for us so we don’t have to and interrupts the action with her crew of three of the most lackadaisical sailors you’ve ever seen. With banter, gorgeously laid back dancing, and some audience participation, they imbue the proceedings with chic detachment.
We would praise the set, but there isn’t one, as such. The bare walls are adorned with simple props, whilst a pair of gantries serve as both interior and exterior sets. Scene changes form part of the action with the sailors helpfully moving both props and actors as needed. The pacing is relentless like the music – the best example being the dance hall scene where the lights go out and immediately the revellers are in the street picking themselves up off the pavement.
The cast are generally excellent – we have already singled out Meow Meow and her ‘friends’ for praise, and we felt that Carly Bawden as Genevieve and Dominic Marsh as Cassard had a certain je ne sais quoi in their acting and singing.
The show ended with a reprise of the ‘Di Gue Ding Ding’ song attached to a very catchy routine which had the audience dancing into the street.
This was the penultimate preview. We noted with interest a board outside containing twitter and facebook quotes…….is this Cameron Macintosh’s response to bloggers who review previews ?
[update 31.3.11 – oops, just found out that Meow Meow is not Australian, as she reveals in an interview with Official London Theatre]