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Theatre Review: No Way To Treat A Lady - Landor Theatre ✭✭

No Way To Treat A Lady
Landor Theatre
Review by Duncan Brown


24th January 2014: Robert McWhir and The Landor Theatre has a commendable history of reviving neglected shows along with intimate productions of large-scale musicals. The little-known No Way To Treat A Lady most definitely falls into the former category with a cast of just four performers, although in this case I'm not sure this production will do much to enhance either the show's or theatre's reputation.

The musical, with book, music and lyrics by Douglas J Cohen, is based on William Goldman's best-selling 1964 novel and subsequent 1968 film, starring George Segal. It is described as "a musical comedy thriller about a publicity crazed actor and the endearing detective who persistently pursues him."

My main problem with the show is that it is neither funny nor dark enough and so just feels stranded somewhere in between in spite of its Sondheim-like pretensions; Sweeney Todd, this is not.

The musical is set in 1970 but unfortunately the writing feels dated rather than period. Similarly the score, ranging through jazz, love ballads, waltzes, patter songs and the occasional homage to Sondheim, with a distinct 70s tinge, is largely forgettable with one or two exceptions.

The main weakness of this production however is, regretfully, the casting, with the exception of Graham Mackay-Bruce. This show demands four outstanding triple threat performers, with multiple larger than life characters/aliases and accents for two of them, with great comedic flair along with an awful lot of (too many?) songs and dance routines. Only then could this piece have any chance of taking flight.

Mackay-Bruce plays Detective Morris (Mo) Brummell, in an impressive return to the stage, pitching just the right level of Jewish mommy's boy vulnerability to gain our sympathy and singing with a combination of warmth and frustration in the opening "I need a life". He really is endearing as his journey unfolds, from his first tentative steps towards romance to his eventual fame as the detective who cracked the case, won the girl and finally stood up to his over-bearing mother. His experience and presence shines through.

Simon Loughton as Christopher (Kit) Gill, the "unsuccessful actor but successful murderer" lacked the charisma and experience to pull off such a tour de force role, despite throwing himself into his different characters and (largely convincing) accents. The tango number, in spite of plenty of room for once on the Landor stage, was disappointing, as was "Once more from the top" which felt like too big a song for him, struggling with range and unconvincing in the choreography.

Kelly Burke as Sarah Stone, gradually draws out a very reticent Brummell and has some touching scenes as their relationship blossoms in spite of having to "double date a psycho" and also provides us with the highlight of the evening in "So much in common" where she and Judith Paris have real fun bonding much to Brummell's amazement. If all the numbers were as strong as this one, it would be a very different show (and review). However, often she struggles vocally with range and an obvious break, particularly in "One of the beautiful people".

Judith Paris as both mothers and multiple other cameos attacks them with relish, shining as the archetypal Jewish mother, but again lacking a strong singing voice to carry all her songs, often resorting to speak -singing

A four strong band, led by Musical Director Nicholas Chave, plays well but lacks musical coherence and, as is so often the case in this venue, threatens to overpower the singers at times.

2 stars ✭✭

LISTINGS:

TUESDAY 21 JANUARY – SUNDAY 9 FEBRUARY 2014
THE LANDOR THEATRE
70 Landor Road, London SW9 9PH
Performances: Tuesday – Sunday at 7.30pm, Sunday matinees at 3.00pm
Tickets: £20 (£18 previews)
Box Office: 020 7737 7276 | www.landortheatre.co.uk



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