High Society

Music and lyrics by Cole Porter, book by Arthur Kopit, additional lyrics by Susan Birkenhead
Theatre Royal, Newcastle, and touring

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This is the sort of musical which should be filed under the title 'sheer escapism'. Based on the 1939 comedy The Philadelphia Story, it's an unashamed champagne-fuelled cocktail of comedy, romance and music.

Throw in a few fizzing one-liners and a dash of farce and you're sure to leave on a high - and, like me, with the 'theme tune', Who Wants to be a Millionaire? buzzing around your head.

Everybody's gathered for the society wedding of the year at the Lords' Long Island mansion. Expectant husband George is hovering, bride-to-be Tracy is lording it, and ex-husband Dexter appears settled for the weekend.

With spies in the house, in the shape of a couple of Spy magazine journalists, and an all-singing, all-dancing serving staff - there's plenty to entertain.

Which is just as well, really, as there's plenty of story - and songs - to pack in to two-and-a-half hours. Infectious tunes featuring the likes of Swell Party, Let's Misbehave and True Love are a genuine delight.

Isla Carter is well cast as Tracy Lord - she's strong, funny, believably untouchable, with a knock-out voice. Mike Sterling as Dexter makes a fine support, his rich, deep singing voice filling the theatre. He's a man with a lot of stage presence.

Wayne Sleep is an absolute scream as the lecherous, bumbling Uncle Willie. And he's still pretty nifty on his feet - wowing the audience with a sprinkling of dance routines, his fancy footwork a reminder of his earlier fame. His American accent slips in parts but this just curiously adds to his charm - and nobody seems to mind.

Spy journalists Liz (Sophie-Louise Dann) and Mike (Paul Robinson) mark their arrival with a wonderful rendition of an understated Millionaire. The pair put in very strong performances overall and are supremely watchable and very believable.

The sets are elegant - topiary and white-painted garden benches and long dining table - setting the stylish scene.

It's all pretty harmless entertainment, if a little dated in parts. For me, there was no great wow factor or spark, but it's an enjoyable enough production.

Sheila Connor reviewed this production at Woking.

Reviewer: Katharine Capocci

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