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Matthew and Jean Spenser

Haydn Oakley as Matthew Spenser and Laura Pitt-Pulford as Jean

Smallest Show on Earth

Malvern Theatres

*****

A BRAND-new musical?  Well, a new concoction at least, or cocktail, of Irving Berlin songs and lyrics bringing to the stage a story that was first comically explored in a film of the same name more than half a century ago.

This is a wonderfully romantic, lively and colourful piece of very British entertainment that regular theatre audiences will love!

The story is of Matthew and Jean Spenser inheriting a small run-down cinema (or Kinema) in Sloughborough. They decide they will try and revive its fortunes despite the opposition of Albert and Ethel Hardcastle with their Grand Theatre dominating the film world in their town.

They gather the shambolic staff team together, Percy Quill the alcoholic projectionist, Mrs Fazackalee,  the one-time singer with her awkward son Tom and inject a sense of purpose and excitement as they introduce music hall style entertainment between the reels of film.

The romance between the shy Tom and the daughter of the rival Hardcastles, Marlene, develops a real charm of its own and all works out happily ever after.

This is a delightful feel-good story from the early 20th Century with many thoroughly entertaining features that will give audiences a romantic and feel-good evening of escapist fun.

The selection of Berlin songs chosen to create this musical provide variety and energy. The lively numbers like ‘They Love Me’ and ‘Shaking the Blues Away’ are balanced with romantic songs like ‘’In Our Hideaway’ and ‘Is He the Only Man in the World?’

The choreography is wonderfully energetic and colourfully varied. The design of the set and the lighting create the atmosphere of that era of cinema and music hall, and provide the context for some fine singing and acting.

Laura Pitt-Pulford (Jean Spenser) and Haydn Oakley (Matthew Spenser) are the newly-wed couple at the centre of this story. Laura has a fantastic and very strong, clear voice and their harmonies and their relationship are entirely convincing. The young and awkward Tom played by Sam O’Rourke is brilliantly acted, Christina Bennington as Marlene grows into the role and is likewise a brilliant actor and a fabulous dancer too.

Lisa Goddard as Mrs Fazackalee is another great singer and actress and, as the play develops, her relationship with Percy Quill (Brian Capron) has a certain charm and humour though Percy seemed a bit limited in the first half of the show.

This concept for a new musical here developed by Thom Southerland is clever and thoroughly successful, executed by a very strong team. The small audience last night was very responsive and enthusiastic. This excellent team and production merit good houses through the final week of their tour. To 28-11-15.

Tim Crow

23-11-15 

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