Richmond Theatre, London
Upon arrival at the Richmond Theatre for the opening night of Radio Times: The Musical several actors dressed in period 1940s costumes greeted me; and a foyer emblazoned with equally fitting war-time posters which, coupled with the timeless elegance of the theatre itself, set the scene perfectly for the Blitz based musical comedy Radio Times.
Tom Rodgers’ set is exquisite: a beautiful, simple, clean, elegant, and effective design that suits the production beautifully and sits perfectly in the Richmond Theatre. The musical featuring the music of Noel Gay is a joyful few hours of light entertainment. The company is made up of fifteen actor-musicians who sing, dance, and play their way through every number. Accordingly the ensemble is tight and each number executed with flawless style and precision – you have not lived until you’ve seen 15 actors dressed as a marching band playing instruments whilst tap dancing! Even if the quaint period style of the score doesn’t appeal, you cannot fail to be impressed by this company who deliver (with such joy) a host of production numbers, which cover everything from a 15 piece ukulele number to a kazoo filled production number featuring a dancing camel.
Admittedly the show doesn’t really come into it’s own until the second half (which is blissful). Abi Grant and Alex Armitage’s book is a little lack lustre - particularly at the beginning - and dwells too much in parochial nostalgia to have a wide audience appeal. There are however some lovely moments in it, and the script is at its best when sending up the nostalgia and style of the period.
Garry Wilmot as Sammy Shaw is cheery and enjoyable enough on stage but much like the show, doesn’t really settle into it until the second act. Sara Crowe as Olive James on the other hand is vocally weak and sadly dwarfed by the considerable talents of the supporting cast. Her performance as Olive is lifeless and even during her curtain call, struggles to crack a smile. Conversely Vivien Carter as Amy Chapman is an utter delight delivering charm, warmth, presence, and a rich vocal. Both Carter and Christian Edwards as Jeeps are impossible not to watch. The real star of the show is John Conroy as Heathcliffe Bultitude who exudes a rare and infectious energy, which permeates throughout the cast and the audience; he is a delight to watch throughout.
Radio Times is a sweet evening of good old-fashioned entertainment, which is ably performed by this fifteen strong cast of actor-musicians. The musical numbers and instrumentalists are exceptional but the production is let down by a weak book and miscast principals. Nonetheless Radio Times is an enjoyable, if a little quaint, evening of theatre.
This production runs until 10 November 2012.
For more information: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/radio-times/richmond-theatre/