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Let ‘em Eat Cake

by Gershwin/Kaufman/Ryskind

 

Conductor Wyn Davies

 

Director Caroline Gawn

 

Set designer Tim Hopkins

Costume Designer Gabrielle Dalton

Lighting Designer Wolfgang Gobbel

Choreographer Caroling Pope

 

 

 

I

 

1zens

A review by Marion Drew for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

Let 'em Eat Cake is George and Ira Gershwin’s sequel to Of Thee I Sing and one should probably see both shows to get the full impact of the political satire. Nevertheless the plot and humour in Let 'em Eat Cake with its ever-mounting escalation of political absurdities is very entertaining. Indeed for audiences that have recently watched the American political election machine roll into action, the jokes still seem entirely relevant, and the Gershwin’s take on American fiscal debt and economic recession, echoes uncannily down the years since this show was written.


It tells the story of John P. Wintergreen who having served a term in office as president, is voted out for failing to successfully tackle the depression. Undaunted, and supported by his resourceful and clever wife Mary, he leads a successful ‘blue-shirt’ revolution and establishes himself as America’s new dictator. Back in office, he tries to call in war debts, and the upshot is a 'double or nothing' baseball match in which the Supreme Court loses against the League of Nations. This sees all debts owed to America cancelled, Wintergreen's popularity rapidly declines once again, and he faces execution. The revolutionary Kruger declares himself dictator. Disaster for Wintergreen is however averted once again by the intervention of his lovely wife; he goes into the clothing business and Throttlebottom, heretofore vice-president, becomes President.
The music really carries this show; the score is full of that unmistakable magical Gershwin touch and the lyrics have that acid touch reminiscent of the work of Gilbert and Sullivan that the Gershwins so admired. The orchestra conducted by Wyn Davies did a fine job, and the cast on the whole did full justice to the music. William Dazeley was particularly outstanding, finding just the right tone and style for the role of Wintergreen. Jeni Bern as Trixie Flynn and Richard Suart as General Snookfield were perfect voices for their parts and made an excellent duo. Richard Burkhard really grew into his part as Kruger, and Martin Hyder played a delightful Uncle William, Francis X Gilhooley and tour guide. It was a pity that for me Rebecca Moon standing in for Bibi Heal in the role of Mary Turner, later Wintergreen, did not really match Dazeley either vocally or dramatically and came off as a rather faint figure in a role that could have been more feisty and robust. But Steven Beard as Alexander Throttlebottom really stole the show with his perfectly timed antics. I felt that director Caroline Gawn and choreographer Caroline Pope gave the cast too little to do on stage; there was much lining up and standing and quite stiff moving about in rows even when it didn’t seem called for, and there was a ‘sameness’ about the use of the chorus which came across as stilted and uncomfortable, and one wished that someone could have broken out and done something a little different and quirky perhaps, especially given the abundant humour offered up by the Gershwins.


One of the other highlights of this production for me were the sets by Tim Hopkins which were crisp, clean and bright and had a kind of ‘new worldly’ elegance and confidence about them. The colour combination of sets and very stylish costumes (Gabrielle Dalton) was striking, and lent a freshness to the show that was very appealing.


Since performances of this show are rare, if you are interested in music of this sort, this is definitely a show to put into your calendar (and do pick up a programme, it is packed with interesting information.)

 

Friday 20th and Saturday 21st February 2009
Performances at 7.30pm

Tickets: £
Ticket Office: 0844 412 4300 or www.sadlerswells.com

Sadler’s Wells
Rosebery Avenue
London EC1R 4TN

 

 

 

 

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