Christmas Review


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The Melrose Avenue Theatre Company in association with the New End Theatre present

It Had to Be You

Carol Lawson and Anthony Green in It Had to Be You


by Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna


Directed by Michael Monks


New End Theatre


23 Nov – 24 Dec 2010






A review by Carmen Nasr for EXTRA! EXTRA!

My first festive outing of the season transports me to the snowy Christmas Eve skies of New York City, a place, they say, where people go to fall in love. The glittering skyline of an urban metropolis is possibly the ultimate and most uniform setting of choice for romantic comedies in recent times, and the New York City skyline silhouette that adorns the set of Melrose Avenue Theatre Company’s It Had to Be You, from the opening seconds clearly guides expectations towards a faithfully genre abiding production; and in this it does not disappoint.

Reminiscent in narrative and content of the ‘screwball’ romantic comedies of 1930s Hollywood, a genre defined by rapid quick fire dialogue, rather farcical comedy and generally a female-dominated courtship, It Had to Be You is a modern love story from veteran romantic comedy writers Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna. It’s Christmas Eve and struggling, unlucky in love and out of work actress Theda Blau, finds herself alone. Instead of spending the night in warm and festive cheer, she faces yet another disastrous audition. So when she crosses paths with handsome and successful producer/director Vito Pignoli, she is determined to change her fate. Hell-bent on finding a man to love and success in her career before the night is through and Christmas arrives, Theda goes to increasingly unconventional, eccentric and ridiculous measures in an attempt to make her dreams come true.

Romantic comedy, as a genre is known to function on the conflicting pulls of fantasy and realism, and the character of Theda Blau is virtually the embodiment of this feature. The role provides moments of genuine and moving emotion, alongside ludicrous episodes of almost psychotic proportions. Carol Lawson however, handles this challenge with effortless talent and expertise. She gives the role an endearing credibility without sacrificing any of its eccentric sparkle, and is absolutely the highlight of the production. Anthony Green as love interest Vito Pignoli unfortunately does not meet the same standards. It is hard to articulate the reasons why the performance was somehow lacking in authority and credibility, but it may be partly down to a sometimes unconvincing narrative logic from Taylor and Bologna. For example, the inconvenient incidents that prevent him from leaving Theda’s apartment are not entirely convincing obstacles, especially when Green’s performance communicates such intense disgust and exasperation at Theda’s increasingly bizarre behaviour.

Michael Monks directs a production that is dutiful to the conventions of its genre and in this sense does it justice. The moments in which Lawson’s Theda Blau flings herself across the stage while acting out her self-penned Russian melodrama are genuinely laugh-out-loud, and effectively capture the wit that appears to be  central to Taylor and Bologna’s comedic style. Instead of overdosing on festive trappings, Monks skilfully uses Christmas motifs to highlight the lack of love and luck in Theda’s life. A forlorn and undecorated little Christmas tree is the only merriment to be seen in her apartment, and when a nostalgic Christmas jingle softly plays on the radio, you can’t help but hope for Theda and Vito to fall helplessly in love under the snowy New York sky. Yet in an age of popular culture saturated with decades worth of romantic comedies, plot lines have lost their potential to grip the audience in the suspense and thrill of the chase, and on the whole, It Had to Be You falls prey to this.

Melrose Avenue Theatre Company presents a production that ticks all the boxes that have made romantic comedies such a commercial success for almost a century, yet in an age thirsty for originality and innovation it regrettably falls short. 


Box Office: 0870 033 2733


New End Theatre
27 New End, Hampstead, London NW3 1JD

7:30pm Tue – Sat and 3:30pm Sat and Sun

£22.50/£19 Concession






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