Mayflower Theatre, Southampton – until 26 August 2017. Reviewed by Karen Millington Burnet
What a lovely, balmy, late autumn evening to be out and about, but definitely an opening night of two halves. The Man of the Match was always going to be the charmingly demure Elizabeth Carter’s Laura who, amongst a cast still warming up for much of the early numbers, shone from the first with her nicely observed portrayal of the hesitant 15 year old finding her feet in the uncertain world of 1950s adolescent relationships. I was very uncertain about Alistair Higgins’ Bobby; in part we were put off by a pre-show announcement that it wasn’t to be him at all, but I was told by the lighting technicians after the show that it was! Well, whoever it was, the character of Bobby grew and eventually I came to the conclusion the player must be quite a talented performer with a naturally cheeky character; I’d like to think that in real life he has a streak of impishness in him and he’s probably quite a “cool” guy. By the end I warmed to him; he certainly warmed to the part – and I rather liked him, even though his portrayal was understated in a performance which asked for more.
My 17 year old niece who accompanied me fell for David Luke’s Ray and I have to admit that by the end I must agree…a really talented performer. The cast were lifted by the seasoned, steady hand on the tiller of Jimmy Johnston playing Phil and by Mike Lloyd’s wonderful stable of comic fellows who underpinned the performance. I was blown away by the range of musical talents amongst the whole company but just wished there was slightly more of the high octane energy the script demanded, especially between the musical numbers – body language counts for so much in a performance like this; characters can’t just walk around the stage. Nevertheless, it was very evident the musical score touched the sweet spot with this Southampton audience who needed little encouragement to get their feet; well done to Elizabeth Carter for making the first contact.
Huge strawberries to all the musicians – I loved the guitars and the brass, wood wind, keyboards and drums made for a great sound. Yet again – a perennial complaint of mine at the Mayflower – I think the sound technicians need to up their game. Some of the less strong voices get lost amongst the instruments and while the sound system was not pushed to the limits as it has been in other performances, it is still not as crystal clear as I would expect for this venue…come on Mayflower, you can do better!
For the remainder of the Tech crew, good effort all round: top marks. And the same goes for the choreography and costumes: slick changes and crisp moves around a good stage set gave me confidence the show can only get better as the run progresses. Not a great opening night, but not at all bad and with huge promise for the forthcoming week – a huge thank you