The Present Company celebrates its 30th Year with a Musical based on the play ‘The Philadelphia Story’ by Phillip Barry. In 1956, Cole Porter adapted the play to create a film ‘High Society’ with stars Grace Kelly, Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. This much-loved movie was adapted for the stage in 1998 and opened on Broadway, where it ran for 144 performances.
The play opens in the grounds of Lord Mansion with Tracy Lord (Rachael-Louisa Bray), Servants and Guests performing ‘High Society/Riding High’ which was a little muddled and showed the Company’s first night nerves! The direction seemed to confuse the Company and the choreography was a little clumsy. We learned that Socialite Tracy Lord (Bray) is to embark on her second marriage to George Kittredge and the Wedding is to be held the next day.
As the Lord household prepares for the Wedding, and the pre-Wedding Ball, Tracy’s sister Dinah (Madison Naylor) is planning to sabotage the Wedding in collusion with neighbour and ex-husband of Tracy, CK Dexter Haven (Jon Morris). Following a rendition of ‘Throwing a Ball Tonight’, Dexter and Dinah sing ‘Little One’ where Naylor showed off her skills as an up and coming singer and actress, capturing the mood perfectly.
As we move into the Lord’s sitting room, we learn that Tracy has forbidden her Father to attend the Wedding due to his affair with a night club dancer. ‘Spy Magazine’ have got wind of the story and Dexter has done a deal with the publisher to with-hold it if they can send a reporter and photographer to the Wedding. Enter, Liz Imrie (Alice Hands) and Mike Connor (Craig Arme) who impress us with the ever popular ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire’.
What a shame at this point that the set lets them down! The audience titters every time someone enters through the door as you know it will not stay shut! I have a mental picture of Larry Grayson shouting “shut that door”! The cast don’t let is faze them and thank goodness that part of the set is not used again!
As we move on through the Musical, there is a beautifully sung ‘True Love’ by Tracy (Bray) and Dexter (Morris), with the second Act providing a much more professional and confident performance from all the cast as the nerves appear to have dissipated. It becomes apparent that the lead actors are carrying the more Amateur performers, but as this is an Amateur production it is nice to see the whole of the cast enjoying the experience, seeming to have relaxed into their roles. The projection of some of the actors needs some work as there was some mumbling, which can mean some key points are missed.
The staging and lighting of the play was generally good, with the ‘Grounds of Lord Mansion’, well done, although some of the props used were poor which did hinder the actors a little. In contrast, the costumes (managed by Marion Fisher) were excellent and I was easily transported back to the year 1938.
I was pleased to hear a live orchestra who added to the whole experience under the stewardship of Morris Fisher as Musical Director.
‘A charming stage adaptation of a much-loved film’
Reviewer: Caroline Worswick
Reviewed: 23rd August 2018
North West End Rating: ★★★