Review - The Kissing Dance

MARCH 30TH 2011.

This was my first experience of the Jermyn Street Theatre which has acquired an enviable reputation for producing some excellent small scale music theatre productions. It’s a useful space although, like most similar spaces, hampered as to height and choice of entrances for the cast. This necessitated some slightly awkward to-ing and fro-ing through the L-shaped auditorium but this was, fortunately, kept to a minimum.
THE KISSING DANCE is Howard Goodall’s musicalisation of SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER. He neatly encompasses the many strands of a complex play aided by Charles Hart’s often witty lyrics. However I wish I could be more enthusiastic about the music which often seems to add little to the play. There are many pleasant tunes but few which stick in the mind in the way that parts of THE HIRED MAN or his recent choral score ETERNAL LIGHT do. Occasionally the musical temperature rises as in the fiendishly complicated Act 1 finale or the beautiful duet for Marlow and Kate in Act 2 but these moments are too few. The show feels like a very long evening and some judicious pruning needs to be undertaken if the show is going to have a future in a bigger venue.

The original Restoration period of Goldsmith’s play was updated to the Edwardian era. In such a small venue this seemed a sensible decision as trying to negotiate small entrances and acting area in full wig and gown would have been nigh on impossible for the large cast.
There are occasional moments in Lotte Wakeham’s production which smack uncomfortably of drama school shows with slightly forced jollity and enthusiasm. (There was also an extremely busy and distracting lighting plot which included a particularly ill judged moon projection which, due to being projected from the floor, constantly shone on the actors rather than the night sky behind them.) Fortunately this feeling of restless blocking lessens as the evening progresses and Wakeham is aided by an extremely strong cast of principals.
Gina Beck gave an absolutely lovely performance as Kate Hardcastle - She is blessed with a beautiful singing voice and looks gorgeous onstage and had just the right mix of spirited and loveable qualities.
Ian Virgo was a hilariously conflicted Charles Marlowe see-sawing desperately between tongue tied admirer in front of ladies of his own class and obnoxious roaring-boy when with serving wenches. The scenes of mistaken identity with David Burt’s increasingly apoplectic Mr Hardcastle were wonderfully and hilariously toe-curling.

Beverley Klein added yet another lady of a certain age to a gallery which includes her unmatched Mrs Lovett and scene stealing Old Lady (with 3 buttocks) in the RNT’s CANDIDE.
Dylan Turner and Gemma Sutton made much of Hastings and Constance and Jack Shalloo managed to tread a fine line in his portrayal of Tony Lumpkin and created a lovable rather than merely terminally annoying character.
An interesting evening worth seeing for an excellent cast but the actual piece needs some ruthless work if it is to be considered for future larger scale productions.


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