★★★★ | High Society
High Society, the timeless musical once again graces the stage in this spirited revival of the classic play based on the MGM Musical.
It is 1938 and in Long Island, the socialite wedding of the year is about to take place. Tracy Lord is in the midst of preparing to marry in a lavish society wedding when her ex-husband, Dexter Haven, arrives to try to rekindle their romance. Understandably, this throws the plans into chaos, which is further confused by the arrival of an undercover reporter, Mike Conner, who is there to cover the society wedding of the year. Tracy and Mike instantly fall for one another, but with everyone vying for the bride’s attention, and a bride torn between three men, who will she end up walking down the aisle with?
This musical was a pleasure to watch, being very traditional in terms of its “will they, won’t they” storyline, its simple plot and its rapid succession of songs and the play overall provides a great piece of old fashioned, top notch entertainment.
The catchy songs were written by Cole Porter and provide a real feeling of the Thirties without ever feeling too dated. The popular score includes “Let’s Misbehave”, “High Society”, “True Love”, “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and “Well Did You Evah!” and strikes a good balance between spectacular upbeat numbers and romantic ballads. The up-tempo songs were catchy and the cast took on the musical numbers incredibly well, especially the opening scene of each act and the thoroughly enjoyable tap dancing set piece for “Well Did You Evah!”
Sophie Bould provided the best of the performances as Tracy Lord, with both her acting and singing being spot on. Daniel Boys did a good job as Mike Connor and displayed his incredible singing voice in spectacular fashion whereas Michael Praed proved he is more of an actor than a singer, as his performance was good, but his limited singing range was notable when surrounded by those around him who were much better vocal performers. Light comic relief was agreeably provided by Teddy Kempner as Uncle Willie and the entire ensemble were in fine voice and in perfect time.
The set design was intelligent and well thought out, whilst not being overcomplicated. It had some nice art deco overtones and the transformation of one set to another was incredibly slick and undertaken as part of the play itself. The costumes were in keeping with the thirties style and looked lovely and the lighting design was incredibly well done.
Having seen four different productions of this play over the years, I have to say that this was the best version I have seen. The pace was snappy and the cast were polished and professional. The natural performances never felt rushed and the cast were not shy of holding a long pause or taking their time with the slower songs.
If you are looking for a pleasant evening of entertainment, you appreciate a traditional, old fashioned musical and if you enjoy the slightly twee nature of the MGM classic musicals, then you will enjoy this very well rounded production.
High Society is currently playing at the Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield until 15th June 2013 before continuing on its national tour.
In between visits to the theatre, watching films, photography, walking, scuba diving and singing (badly); Paul writes for TheGayUK.