Musicals

 

 

A review by Pauline Flannery for EXTRA! EXTRA!

 

 

 

 

Jermyn Street Theatre presents

The Sunny Side of the Street

A Musical Tribute to Dorothy Fields


Left to right – Jane Milligan, Shona White, Helen Hobson, Leanne Jones, Rosemary Ashe

Photo credit: Polly Hancock

 

 

Devised by Tim McArthur and Sarah Travis

 

Directed by Tim McArthur

 

Musical Direction and arrangements by Sarah Travis

 

Musical Staging Phil Aiden

 

Jermyn Street Theatre

 

19 June – 7 July 2012

 

A pink/black hair-dressing salon, with curlicues, sparkles and wind chimes is the setting for tribute revue The Sunny Side of the Street, celebrating lyricist Dorothy Fields. Named Dotties, in an affectionate nod to Fields, contrasting characters ‘dreamy assistant’ (Leanne Jones), ‘hard-boiled owner’ (Helen Hobson), ‘baby-doll’ romantic (Shona White), ‘business exec’ (Jane Milligan) and ‘seen-it-all, done-it-all gal’ (Rosemary Ashe) meet to gossip, fall-out/fall-in and ruminate about life, love and men.

The songs do their own walking and talking as we go through a whirlwind of medleys, show-numbers, spotlights and musical mash-ups spanning Fields’ career from the mid-1920s to the mid-1970s. The cut-crystal harmonies and musical arrangements of Sarah Travis fit the wit and charm of Fields’ lyrics wonderfully. Each line a rich, narrative starting point – ‘turn off that charm I’m through with love for a while’ - offering Intimate conversations which shape songs such as ‘I’m in the Mood for Love’, ‘Am I Good Enough for Him?’ or ‘If My Friends Could See Me Now’. The set pieces devised by director, Tim McArthur, and choreographer, Phillip Aiden, are steeped in vaudevillian grease-paint, and the syncopated rhythm of pounded New York, Broadway beats.  

In a career spanning five decades, it’s a wonder why Fields has not been celebrated before. She has worked with Swartz and Kern on a range of signature musicals from Swing Time and Stars in Your Eyes to Sweet Charity and Seesaw with Cy Coleman, making her one of the most prolific and successful tin-pan alley/Hollywood female songwriters of all time. Yet The Sunny Side of the Street redresses this over-sight big time with big heart, as its 1930s’eponymous, lyrical thread runs throughout like a musical lodestar.  
The production is off-set by Phil Spencer Hunter’s subtle highlighting and the exuberant set and costume design of David Shields. Pink predominates but there are some wild, fun clashes of prints – animal, vegetable and mineral - in a riot of energy.

Dust sheets signal Dottie’s last day. Towards the end, in a neat circular, theatrical progression, ‘Baby Dream Your Dream’ is reintroduced, sung by the company. The mood of the second half has been more reflective, yet the message is clear: life is too short. Finally, the juxtaposition of ‘The Way You Look Tonight’ and ‘A Fine Romance’ with paper-thin, exquisite harmonies gives way to  the exuberant ‘It‘s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish’ and ‘Nobody Does It Like Me’...

Ain’t that the truth, Miss Dorothy Fields!

 
Jermyn Street Theatre
16b Jermyn Street, London SW1
020 7287 2875
http://www.jermynstreettheatre.co.uk/
Tuesday to Saturday 7.30pm, Saturday/Sunday matinees 3.30pm
Tickets £18, £15 concs
 

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