As Book of Mormon draws record crowds for a musical, I have slipped more quietly into three wonderful small ‘chamber’ musicals that are currently running in London or Colchester. If you want to see them, you will have to rush as they are all very short runs. Sadly, Dear World comes off tonight!

DEAR WORLD was a big flop when it opened on Broadway in the 1960’s and it has not been revived since. It has never been to Europe. It came hot on the heels of Jerry Herman’s Hello Dolly and Mame, but was an even sillier –  more whimsical- piece based on Jean Giraodux’s The Mad Woman of  Chaillott. This little revival at the Charing Cross Theatre under the bridges at Charing Cross  (opposite Heaven) features the wondrous Betty Buckley ( in the part originally played by Angela Lansbury). It is about greedy capitalism, environmental damage, and love, poetics – and silliness! I loved it and thought it charming.

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THE TAILOR-MADE MAN is on at The Arts Theatre,  and  tells the tale of William ‘Billy’ Haines and his love story with Jimmy Shields. Haines was (unusually?) ‘out’ in Hollywood in the 1920’s and early 1930’s; eventually he got dismissed (caught at it at the YMCA!);  in the scandal that followed,  his films were ‘destroyed’ ( but later found !);  and he had to develop a new  a career in  interior ‘design’.   This is a delightful new musical set in the twenties with a lively score and and a well chosen company of performers.  I sneaked in for a matinee one snowy afternoon in March! It could perhaps eventually land on a bigger stage – there are some potential great large scale dance numbers squeezed on to this tiny stage. I hope it will not become as ‘lost’ as so many musicals like this are.

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THE HIRED MAN is seen as one of masterpieces of British musical theatre.  I first saw it during its London run at the Astoria Theatre in 1985 ( The  Astoria went on to become a gay disco and is now demolished). Based on Melyvn Bragg’s 1969 novel of   life  in Cumbria from the 1890’s to 1920’s, it was Howard Goodall’s first chance to write a musical ( he wrote lyrics and music). The Colchester production is a truly fine production – an ensemble piece where all the actors work together to a glorious show. It seems to me to be a tighter structure than it had twenty five years ago – and there are some new songs too (“Day Follows Day”). The musical inter-weavings lead to very strong finale. I loved it.

After an opening run at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre, it moves to the exciting Curve Theatre at Leicester on April 12th.

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About kenplummer

For over 40 years I worried about things sociological; now I have time to stand and stare.

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