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An Out of This World evening which should make London



Review by David Munro

WHEN originally produced, in 1950, Out of This World was a failure, as it was said to have been over dressed, too much scenery and very smutty.

The current production, now previewing in Chichester, is simply dressed, minimum scenery – broken bits of classical columns, which can be made to represent anything from a bench to a cocktail bar, and has an amusing revised book by Greg MacKellan, embellished by Jeremy Sams – the man responsible for the book of the current Carl Rosa’s excellent production of The Merry Widow.

As this is the show’s premiere production, one has no yardstick to measure it by, but taken on its face value, and based on the performance I saw, I would say that Chichester has a hit on its hands.

I must point out, that it is still in the preview stage and what emerges on the opening night may differ considerably from what I saw but with one exception, I would hope not.

The exception is, I am afraid to say, that Anne Reid, good though she is, has not yet found the strength of personality required to dominate the stage that the prime role of Juno requires.

The plot is based on the Amphytrion legend, that of Jupiter coming to Earth, to seduce a mortal, by impersonating her husband.

In this instance, she is a newly-wedded film star, who has eloped to Greece not a warrior’s bride, but otherwise the plot is the same.

Juno tries to frustrate her husband’s plans, but is unsuccessful, as he is aided and abetted by her children, who fear their father more than her.

It is, in a word, a jolly musical romp embellished with a score which, if not Cole Porter’s best, is far better than most scores to be heard on the West End stage today.

His lyrics are witty and, at times, saucy, but his love songs still top my musical chart.

I am Loved, and Where Oh Where are still first-rate ballads and are sung here with great effect by Fiona Dunn – as Helen, the seduceee – and Alexis Owen–Hobbs, as Anthea, the second romantic interest, respectively.

The score has been strengthened by the replacement of From This Moment On and You Don’t Remind Me, both of which were dropped from the original production.

Nicolas Colicos is in fine voice as Jupiter and makes the most of his two big ballads, You Don’t Remind Me and Hark To The Song Of The Night.

Richard Dempsey is a lithe and amusing Mercury and delivers his point numbers to great effect. Simon Greiff, as the cuckolded husband, makes a good foil to Fiona Dunn’s Helen and they make the most of their sole number together – From This Moment On.

As Helen is a film star, she is followed to Greece by a woman columnist, Isadora St. John, who is seduced by Juno, believing she is Jupiter in disguise!

Darlene Johnson manages to make the character both believable and personable, submitting to her seduction with aplomb and apparent satisfaction.

The rest of the cast sing and dance well as Gods, shepherds and peasants - Steve Elias as Apollo, Chris Jarman as Mars and Sophie-Louise Dann, as Helen, making the most of their characters.

The direction, by Martin Duncan, achieves the right balance between fact and fantasy, and he skates over the less pleasant aspects of the plot with ease.

I have already commented on the sets and costumes, by Francis O’Connor, which emphasise the out of this worldliness of the proceedings which Mr Duncan so deftly directs.

I must stress again, that what I saw was a preview, and by the first night, Miss Reid may have found her feet and the oomph which, to me, she lacked.

I hope so, for apart from that, she is very funny and is almost worthy to join the pantheon of female comediennes of the Cicely Courtneidge and Beatrice Lillie rank.

I hope I may be able to catch the show again and to eat my words where she is concerned.

Apart from this whinge, the show is, as its title asserts, Out of This World and should not be brought to earth by a run restricted to Chichester, but ought to be seen in London and elsewhere which I hope it will be.

Out of This World, Book by Dwight Taylor & Reginald Lawrence; revised by Greg MacKellan; additional material by Jeremy Sams; Music and Lyrics by Cole Porter.
Director, Martin Duncan; Designer, Francis O’Connor; Choreographer, Vanessa Gray; Lighting, Peter Mumford; Sound, Ken Hampton; Music Director, Richard Balcombe.
CAST: Nicolas Colicos; Anne Reid; Richard Dempsey; Anna Lowe; Julie Atherton; Sophie–Louise Dann; Julie Barnes; Alexis Owen-Hobbs; Helen Goldwyn; Daniele Coombs; Steve Elias; Chris Jarman; Dean Hussain; Andrew Spillett; Ahmet Ahmet; George Couyas; Fiona Dunn; Darlene Johnson; Simon Greiff; Clare Foster.
Chichester Festival Theatre , Oaklands Park , Chichester , West Sussex, PO19 6AP.
In repertory: April 29 – Sept 25, 2004.
Evenings: Mon – Sat - 7.30pm. Mat: Wed , Thurs & Sat – 2pm. Box Office – 01243 781312.

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