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A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

 

L to R: Valerie Cutko, Stephen Ashfield, Katie Kerr, Tim McArthur, Laura Armstrong
 

Photo by Dan Hall

 

Directed by Tim McArthur


Jermyn Street Theatre

 

26 July – 13 August 2011

 

Time Magazine wrote in September 1938 that Rodgers and Hart’s success ‘rests on a commercial instinct that most of their rivals have apparently ignored’. In 2011, this could apply equally to Tim McArthur’s sassy new show Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered….a celebration of the works of Rodgers & Hart at the Jermyn Street Theatre.

The love affair began in 1984: unable to get tickets for Cats, McArthur sawa revival of Rodgers and Hart’s On your Toes and‘that was the moment that I fell in love.’

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered has you toe-tapping and humming long after the final curtain. It is the complete package - sophisticated, spirited and unashamedly sentimental. It dips into the known and the not so well known work of Rodgers and Hart from the 1920s to the 1940s. Familiar songs such as ‘Falling in Love With Love’ ‘ My Funny Valentine’ and ‘Sing For Your Supper’ sit comfortably alongside ‘Cause We Got Cake’ ‘Ten Cents A Dance’ and ‘Little Girl Blue.’ Rodgers and Hart wanted to elevate the musical art form from the ‘eternal rhyming of June with moon.’ So, in The Boys from Syracuse they tackle Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors and in The Connecticut Yankee, Mark Twain, rounding things off with a couple of choreographed numbers by George Balanchine…..

The songs are left to ‘speak’ for themselves as each segues one to the other in a fluid effortlessness, no less bewitching than the show’s title. The company acknowledge each other, make eye contact or sipping drinks, giving the impression that we’ve gate-crashed a rather good party as they drape themselves over the piano, sit on chairs, group themselves in seemingly random set pieces, or drift on and off the suggestive art deco set as the occasion, or secret liaison, demands.

The staging adds clarity and lifts the piece from a casual revue format. We’ve got characters. We’ve got locations. We’ve got attitude. We encounter love, the problems with men, women, broken hearts, aspirations, the universe and just about anything else in between. So that the first act, as ebullience and élan pave the way for the more reflective, torch-song quality of the second half. Each song is theatrically enhanced by Phil Spencer Hunter’s clever lighting design, and Russell Fisher’s evocative set and costumes.

Clever use of white in feathers, picture mounts and the gentlemen’s waistcoats and collars allow light-states to suggest New York, The Roxy Music Hall and the endless stream of hotel and bar saloons, in various hues of reds, blues and yellow. There is another deft touch on the back wall - a photograph of Rodgers and Hart which presides over the action.

The lyrics of Lorenz Hart still sparkle and shine. Rodgers described him as ‘some kind of genius.’ Check out the wit and clever punning of: Sir Athelstance indulged in fratricide/he killed his dad and that was patricide/one night I stabbed him at my mattress side/to keep my love alive from ‘To Keep My Love Alive’ or the short, sharp not much buffalo/but a lot of bull/way out West/on West End Avenue fromWay Out Westto the overt pertness of ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ in the verse: vexed again/perplexed again/thank god I can’t be over-sexed again.

Hart, the master of the polysyllabic rhythm, is capable of deep emotion too. This is fully reflected in the vocal colouring and range of the ensemble: Valerie Cutko in ‘My Friend the Night’, the fizzing subtext of ‘There’s a Small Hotel’, presented by Cutko and Stephen Ashfield respectively or in the plaintive duet ‘A Ship Without A Sail’, sung by Laura Armstrong and Katie Kerr.  

The company of Tim McArthur, Valerie Cutko, Stephen Ashfield, Laura Armstrong and Katie Kerr, under the expert music direction of David Harvey are uniformly good. There’s much to admire and enjoy in the vocal qualities and dexterous harmonies of each - the smoky, jokey tones of Katie Kerr, the rich expansiveness of Laura Armstrong’s range, the overall artistry and musicality of Tim McArthur, the full, resonant tones of Valerie Cutko, and the languid, casualness of the versatile Stephen Ashfield who made everything he did look so effortless and easy. Each one complements the others in a dazzling display of harmony and dissonance. 

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered just dazzles and dazzles and dazzles…...

 

 
Jermyn Street Theatre
 16b Jermyn Street, London SW1
Box Office: 020 7287 2875
:
Tue-Sat 7.30pm; Sat & Sun matinees 3.30pm
Price: £18 (£16 concs)
 

 

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