★★★★ | Mrs Harris is a post-war charlady and widow, struggling with austerity and living a life of the mundane, until, that is, she stumbles across a Christian Dior dress in the wardrobe of a wealthy client she cleans for. Obsessed with owning such a thing of beauty, she works and saves for the dress, and finally journeys to Paris, where she realises what really makes her happy.Photo Credit – Johan Persson
The show is adapted from the novella by Paul Gallico and is presented, in the main, as a sing-through musical. The show is a muted affair, but benefits immensely from its style and presentation. The set is a sparse affair; a monotone of grey with scant scenery. There are no big production numbers or show stopping moments and there is a limited but talented cast. But what this provides in exchange is an abundance of intimacy and emotion; a heart-warming tale with characters you can emotionally invest in and a central character who is, quite frankly, nothing special, but actually, doesn’t need to be.
The story is one of investment of kindness in others; and of letting go. Mrs Harris’ determination to own the dress of her dreams, to bring glamour and beauty into her uneventful life, is laced with a poignancy which somehow manages to celebrate the ordinary. Written and composed by Richard Taylor and Rachel Wagstaff, the show carries with it a sense of tradition, having a real air of an old fashioned musical. Even the songs, which are all brand new, sound somehow familiar and there is warmth resonating from the production as a whole which adds to its seasoned feel.
Clare Burt’s portrayal of Mrs Harris is tender and down to earth, whilst it is Anna-Jane Casey as Vera, Mrs Harris’ best friend, who steals her scenes; and Lois Maskill is in fine voice throughout in the dual roles of Bob and Andre. Director, Daniel Evans, makes a low key finale to his tenure at Sheffield Theatres, and it is somewhat fitting that his swan song is about the impact of giving to others.
With gentle references to My Fair Lady and It’s A Wonderful Life; and just a hint of Pretty Woman; Flowers for Mrs Harris is unashamedly sentimental with an emotional ending to a story of love, loss, rebirth and finding out what really counts in life.
Flowers for Mrs Harris has just had its world première at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield and plays until 4th June 2016. Visit www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk for details or call the box office on 0114 249 6000.
In between visits to the theatre, watching films, photography, walking, scuba diving and singing (badly); Paul writes for TheGayUK.